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Board of Pensions shares steps it’s taking on diversity, equity, inclusion – The Presbyterian Outlook


Guest commentary by Lea Sitton

PHILADELPHIA — Even as the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) received a 2020 NACD NXT award, its focus was on the road ahead. The national award recognized the agency for making diversity and inclusion a priority. Yet, it knew that there was more to be done.

“We all still have work to do,” said Philip Amoa, chair of the agency’s Board of Directors Development and Governance Committee, who accepted the award on the Board of Pensions’ behalf. “I am grateful for this recognition of the work the directors, management and staff have done so far.”

As a national agency of the PC(USA), the Board of Pensions shares the denomination’s Matthew 25 commitment to dismantling structural racism. Its board of directors, leadership and staff are identifying the effects of structural racism throughout the agency so they can eliminate them.

The agency statement on racial justice, released amid the cries for justice that followed the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, emphasizes the Board of Pensions’ role as an ally for change and its position “in support of racial equality, and against deeply ingrained prejudices against Black Americans and other people of color simply because of the color of their skin.”

The board of directors of the Board of Pensions is the most diverse it’s ever been — in gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity. And agency staff reflects the diversity of the greater Philadelphia community, exceeding the diversity goals of the General Assembly. Still, directors are hopeful they can further diversify their ranks, and agency leadership is determined to see greater diversity represented among managers.

Philip Amoa is chair of the Board of Pensions’ Board of Directors Development and Governance Committee.

Amoa leads the directors’ Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which is reviewing how the agency advances equity through its programs, policies and practices. Board of Pensions programs that are designed to nurture ministry have been adapted to better serve traditionally marginalized communities. Still, the Board of Directors and agency leadership believe more can be done. Do all potential Benefits Plan members and constituencies know about the opportunities it provides, for example? Could the Assistance Program be changed to better support diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the church?

While the task force considers those questions, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Council (DEILC) is creating a culture of inclusion inside the agency. The DEILC – 14 employees who broadly represent agency staff –serves as an advisory board to senior management. It’s developing a strategy for attracting, developing and retaining a high-performing workforce — and one that’s representative of the communities the Board of Pensions serves.

Both the task force and DEILC are examining the agency’s relationships with business partners. National and public companies help manage the large volume of funds and data involved in Board of Pensions business. The agency reviews their DEI practices and makes them aware of PC(USA) values. Investment managers also receive the denominational prohibited securities list.

The agency deliberately seeks diversity in its dealings with local suppliers and service contracts. It solicits three bids on contracts of $50,000 or more, with supplier diversity as a priority. The result is that 20 percent of what it spends on these contracts goes to minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs). That’s greater than what the General Assembly calls for. Still, as these contracts come open, the Board of Pensions is looking to do even more business with MWBEs.

The PC(USA) proclaims that the church body is to exhibit the Kingdom of God. As a member of that body, the Board of Pensions is committed to pursuing justice, equity, and inclusion so that its practices stand as a public witness to the lordship of Christ Jesus.

LEA SITTON is an agency writer at the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Philadelphia.

This content was originally published here.

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