Larry Fink says BlackRock needs to do ‘much more’ to tackle diversity. Here’s how it’s trying to increase the number of female and Black employees in its 16,000-strong workforce.

  • BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said in a talk Thursday morning at Morningstar’s digital conference that he was overly optimistic in years past at “how fast” BlackRock could become more diverse.
  • The firm now set tangible targets for gender and racial diversity within the world’s largest asset manager.
  • “We need to do more, we need to do much more,” said Fink.
  • Birgit Boykin, the firm’s acting head of diversity, said that the firm “really didn’t understand well enough the experience of Black and Latinx employees” and explained how the firm is changing that at a separate event on Thursday.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink is not often shy about telling the companies his $7.3 trillion asset manager invests in what to do.

Before the pandemic made its way to the United States this January, Fink’s annual letter harped on climate change and how companies are ignoring a massive investment risk if they do not address it. 

In the eight months that have passed since the letter was sent out, the world has changed, as the novel coronavirus has killed millions globally and police killings of Black Americans sparked worldwide movements, which have pressured companies to increase diversity in their ranks. During a talk Thursday morning at Morningstar’s digital conference, Fink admitted his company still had a ways to go on diversity — and said he wouldn’t be pressing other companies on the matter before he could figure out how to address the issues within his own.

“BlackRock must be a mirror of the society where we work,” he said.

“My optimism was probably proven to be a little too optimistic for how fast we could change.”

The firm has since made tangible goals for diversity numbers, which Fink outlined in a LinkedIn post from June: women making up 30% of senior leadership by the end of the year; doubling the number of Black employees in senior leadership by 2024; and increasing the overall portion of Black employees by 30% by 2024. Black employees only make up 5% of its US workforce and 3% of senior leadership, he said in the post.

“We need to do more, we need to do much more,” Fink said, though he did note that more than 30% of the firm’s 16-person board is female. The firm currently has women making up 29% of senior leadership. 

As of December 31, 2019, the firm employed more than 16,000 people worldwide. 

See more: PIMCO wants to create its own version of BlackRock’s Aladdin. Read the memo the bond giant just sent laying out its approach.

Birgit Boykin, the firm’s acting head of diversity, said on a panel from the Council of Institutional Investors Thursday that the firm “really didn’t understand well enough the experience of Black and Latinx employees.” Boykin, who is originally from Germany and now lives in San Francisco, said she is still learning a lot about the United States and how engrained systemic racism is in the country.

One thing the Boykin is focused on is the pipeline of talent that will make up the next generation of BlackRock’s senior leadership team, which is made up of directors and managing directors. The last four years, Boykin said, intern classes and the asset manager’s analyst training program have been 50% female. Fink’s note from June said the firm’s incoming summer analysts and program trainees were the most diverse yet, with 38% of those coming for the summer identifying as Black or Latinx. 

The hope is to create a more diverse investing team, which will help close salary gaps by gender and race. Boykin said, “representation is one part we need to solve, but also what roles these employees are playing in the firm.” Women directors, she said, should not all be siloed in marketing and HR. 

“It’s a multi-year plan,” she said. 

In the meantime, don’t expect Fink to push the S&P 500’s biggest names on diversity issues until he believes he has solved them at BlackRock. 

“I’m not sure what I’m going to say to other firms because I’m going to make sure BlackRock is going to be doing it right first,” he said.

“When I get this right, maybe that’s a time when I can ask other companies to do it well too, but right now, we have to prove we can do it right.”

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