The WFE's Women Leaders 2021 - Keisha Bell, Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement, DTCC

By: The WFE Focus Team Mar 2021

Nominee’s name: Keisha Bell

Member: The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC)

Nominee’s job title: Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement (DTMA)


1. - Brief description of nominee’s role/job:

As Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement (DTMA) at The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), Keisha reports directly to the CEO. She is accountable for DTCC’s Diversity and Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes focused on advancing talent, diversifying the workforce, strengthening an inclusive environment, driving the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programme and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and community support via giving and volunteering activities.

Keisha believes in changing mindsets, forging progressive practices, and views each employee as an agent of change. She partners with business leaders to identify diverse talent across all levels, focusing on their retention, development and mobility. She also works closely with human resources to ensure diversity and inclusion are fully integrated into working practices.

Before Keisha was appointed to her current role, she was a member of DTCC’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, and a founding leader of the LGBTQA Employee Resource Group (ERG).

2. - Short bio (career highlights, education, interests/hobbies):

After earning her B.S. in Organizational Behavior from New York University, Keisha has been working in the financial services industry for over 20 years, spanning broker/dealer operations, technology transformations, programme management and business analysis. The bulk of Keisha’s career has been at DTCC, where she has worked for 16 years. Before she was appointed Managing Director and Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement at DTCC in 2018, she was Managing Director of DTCC’s Risk Management Reporting, Governance, Analysis and Program Management group. She successfully led Board and Management Risk Committees, regulatory, audit and compliance reporting, management control testing, and programme management of the Financial and Technology Risk initiatives.

Late in 2018, Keisha was appointed Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement, a newly-created role, in support of DTCC’s continued organisational focus on promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment. Within this role, Keisha is responsible for overseeing and improving DTCC's ability to recruit, retain and promote diverse talent across the organisation, with a special focus on the senior officer and director levels.

Keisha’s identification and experiences as an African American, a woman, and an out lesbian have shaped her career and therefore her approach to D&I. Using a data-driven approach, Keisha recognized DTCC’s successes in hiring talent from diverse groups, but also identified an intersectional gender diversity gap, especially at the executive levels. This led Keisha to develop a strategy focused on bringing diverse talent to senior level positions across the organisation while building a strong pipeline for existing staff, including a focus on female employees of all backgrounds and addressing biases in hiring and promotion practices. Specific accomplishments include:

Advancing Women Leaders: With partnership from Learning & Talent Development, Keisha successfully implemented DTCC’s Advancing Women Leaders (AWL) programme, an initiative focused on leadership and individual skills development of high performing female directors, with sponsorship at senior levels of the firm. The programme included participation of a cohort of 16 employees, to accelerate their readiness for promotion to Executive Director (ED). To date, 38% have been promoted during the programme. In addition to managing the programme, Keisha also serves as an executive sponsor.

Men Advocating for Real Change: In December 2019, Keisha launched DTCC’s “Men Advocating for Real Change” initiative globally. The in-person workshops focused on empowering men to stand up for gender equity, engaging them in creating a gender-inclusive workplace by becoming strong advocates, sponsors and allies. Executive Directors and Managing Directors attended the workshops, which garnered an 89% satisfaction rate through February 2020. The effort also spawned smaller focus groups to maintain awareness and momentum created through the workshops.

Re-emerge: Keisha has also overseen the launch of DTCC’s 12-week Re-emerge Internship initiative, a programme focused on recruiting high-calibre talent seeking employment following a 2+ year career break,

McKinsey Black Leadership Academy: Keisha nominated the first cohort of DTCC employees to the 2020 McKinsey Black Leadership Academy, which is a developmental programme for career advancement for mid- and senior-level professionals.

Driving the Conversation: Keisha is a regular speaker on the topic of D&I at conferences and panels, and represented DTCC at The Alliance, an inaugural gathering of influential LGBTQ leaders held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2018.

As a result of these efforts, Keisha has been able to drive tangible change. The 2019-2020 promotion cycles marked the first time more women than men were promoted to the Managing Director level in one year. It also marked the second consecutive year in which the number of women promoted to Executive Director (ED) exceeded the number of men.

3. - What were your professional highlights and challenges of 2020?:

2020 was a challenging and remarkable year in many ways. The pandemic, incidents of racial injustice and the subsequent global protests led to unprecedented socio-economic and workplace crises, leaving several groups particularly vulnerable. It claimed disproportionate numbers of lives in communities of colour and led to a surge of anti-Asian sentiment in society. At the same time, employees are heavily stretched and undergoing prolonged mental and emotional toll. These crises created urgencies as well as opportunities.

In response, DTCC’s Diverse Talent Management & Advancement (DTMA) team broadened its scope to address the impact of the pandemic and incidents of societal racism. 2020’s theme as “Year of Allies and Sponsors” became extremely relevant and had a profound impact on influencing the organisation’s inclusive workplace while in a remote environment.

More specifically, in response to incidents of societal racism, statements on DTCC’s stance against racism, support for employees of colour and an acknowledgment of systemic issues were made by Keisha along with DTCC’s CEO and its Board of Directors. The DTMA team developed a response plan to offer support, provide a view into everyday minority experiences as well as to address the impacts of systemic racism on the lives of our Black and Brown colleagues. As DTMA continues the effort at the organisational level, leaders and people managers were provided with guidelines to openly have these conversations within their own teams.

Under Keisha’s leadership, DTCC was recognized by several external organisations:

Forbes listed DTCC on its independent rankings for Best Places for Diversity 2020;

HRC named DTCC the Best Place to Work for LGBT Employees for the ninth consecutive year;

Fairygodboss (FGB) named DTCC Best Finance Company for Women;

Diversity Best Practices named DTCC on its 2020 Inclusion Index; and

In Tampa, DTCC was honoured with the first-ever Helping Hands Award by Feeding Tampa Bay in support of local Covid-19 relief efforts.

4. - What and who inspires/has inspired you to achieve your professional success:

I didn’t have to look further than two strong women for leadership inspiration. My mother has always been my idol; raising three kids while working in a corporate America that did not appreciate her tenacity or intelligence because of her race and gender was not an easy feat. I appreciated her honesty about the challenges she faced in that environment and her instilling a sense of fortitude in me. She ensured I understood that people would judge me and underestimate me, but that I should have the confidence to prove them wrong. My other idol was my Mom’s sister — my Aunt Eloise. She was one of the smartest and proudest women I’ve ever known. She had a 3rd grade education because being the daughter of a sharecropper meant even the sub-standard education afforded to African American children in the south was a luxury. She was a domestic worker, cleaning homes for a living, and she taught me to have pride and honour in whatever work I did. She taught me to show up each day and give your best no matter how insignificant you think your contribution is.

5. - What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions:

Don’t try to be perfect. It’s a losing proposition and a setup for failure. Women try to be the perfect friend, boss, colleague, partner and parent. Over the course of my career, there have been numerous times I’ve obsessed about being perfect to the point of making myself physically and psychologically ill. In hindsight, those instances were inconsequential in my development and career progression. The amount of time and mental energy wasted is significant, and unnecessary. When you’re obsessing about being perfect, you miss the real value and insight that can be gained from your experiences; you lose sight of the bigger picture. Stop and focus on doing your best and be a bit easier on yourself— because most times, that’s good enough.