Author: Sapna Shah

In this week’s post, Sapna Shah, Executive Vice President, and Head of Corporate Responsibility, CFA, CAIA, guest authors on Inclusion and Diversity. She shares how PIMCO created objectives for their program, Inclusion, Diversity and Culture (IDC) @ PIMCO, organized a structure for employee resource groups, and developed methods of communication to bring inclusion and diversity to every aspect of PIMCO culture.

Fostering a Diverse Culture

PIMCO’s core mission is to deliver superior investment returns, solutions, and service to our clients; to accomplish this mission we strive to foster a high-performance culture – one in which we live our values, continuously develop our talent, responsibly manage our business and adeptly navigate change.

We know that to foster a high-performance culture, we must leverage the benefits of diverse skills and perspectives. As such, the mission of PIMCO’s Inclusion Diversity Culture effort is to heighten employees’ appreciation for diverse perspectives and skills, which in turn will facilitate increased collaboration and enhance our ability to attract, retain, develop, and engage top talent – all of which will lead to better outcomes for our clients.

Our philosophy acknowledges a wide range of identity dimensions such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and military status but also focuses on dimensions and concepts such as culture, business segments, geographical diversity, unconscious bias, cognitive diversity, and inclusive leadership.

Overall we seek to achieve our mission through the combined efforts of our dedicated volunteer teams, continued engagement from senior leadership, process enhancements that mitigate bias in our recruiting, development, and promotions processes, as well as sustained long-term commitment to our mission.

When we launched our IDC efforts, we were thoughtful about our objectives including:

  1. Deliberately placing “inclusion” ahead of “diversity” in the title of this initiative, partially as an acknowledgment that we may never have a perfect representation of society within our employee base, but we are still seeking to create an environment where there are equal opportunities for success, regardless of identity measure.
  2. Defining diversity around identity dimensions as well as cognitive dimensions. Annually we host speakers to address these topics prior to our year-end review process. Prior speakers have discussed diversity of communication and interaction styles (introverts vs. extroverts), the importance of collaboration, actions to mitigate unconscious biases.
  3. Third, we tried to be very mindful about making this an employee-led initiative (vs. a corporate push-out) that collaborates closely with multiple teams across the firm to ensure alignment and integration into our businesses processes

Employee Resource Groups

To create better cultural outcomes, we must each individually embody the behaviors we seek from others and collaborate across all groups within the firm.  In that spirit, we seek to empower colleagues to positively influence our environment.

To empower employees, we created ERGs that provide a platform for our employee population.  Each ERG developed organically, with individuals coming together around common causes with the aspirations of advancing our efforts around the attraction, development, engagement, and retention of top talent.

To the extent there is not the critical mass to develop a separate ERG, our goal is to try and accommodate the awareness that individual or individuals seek to bring to a specific cause as appropriate. This is why we supplement the efforts of individual ERGs with broader IDC communications, the purpose of which is to showcase the shared vision of our combined efforts.


How to Start an Employee Resource Group

Examples of Communications, Events, and Tools

Tools which transcend specific ERGs include:

  • Regular IDC newsletters, customized by region: These communications highlight efforts of each ERG in addition to ad hoc efforts that may not cleanly fall within any one specific group and take into account regional specific nuances.
  • IDC reflection notes: The purpose of these global distributions is to provide unique perspectives from across our employee base on IDC-related topics
    Speaker events: Although the importance of mitigating unconscious bias and role modeling inclusive leadership is embedded within the goals of each ERG, we often times conduct events that focus on considerations surrounding language, personality, and behavior – all of which transcend traditional identity dimensions.
  • Best Practice documents: Given the scope of factors that influence a healthy culture, it is important for us to institutionalize best practices whenever possible. Therefore, we memorialize learnings from most of our speakers, distribute them globally so those who are not able to attend the event have access, and embed them into firm-wide processes where appropriate (for example, learnings on unconscious bias are integrated into our promotion guidance).
  • Senior Engagement roundtables: This series of roundtables enables employees to engage with diverse leadership across business groups and regions, hear a multitude of perspectives on career progression and fosters opportunities for organic mentorship.

Importantly, although employees may choose to self-select within any of our ERGs, there are two messages we hope are clear to everyone: 1) regardless of the specific ERG one is a member of, we are also part of a global community and must contribute to each other’s success and 2) in that spirit, allyship is critically important. In other words, a member of PIMCO Women is only as influential as his or her willingness to be an ally to PIMCO Multicultural. Another example is PIMCO Families, which takes into account not just the experience of parents, but those caring for the elderly, single parents, etc…

The Importance of Action

Although awareness building through communication is important, we also seek to empower ERGs to support meaningful action.  By partnering with teams across the firm, we have been able to facilitate interconnectivity across relevant teams to initiate, enhance and institutionalize processes that are fundamental to progress.

Each ERG determines how they can best make an impact to improve the attraction, development, engagement, and retention of top talent.  We then partner with business groups, Human Resources, external partners and industry peers to execute upon shared objectives.   Success in any given year is whether we achieved our goals and over the medium and longer-term, success is whether our accumulative action has resulted in positive impact, which I’ll discuss in the next section.

Examples of ways ERGs have influenced positive momentum within the organization include:

  • Partnering with our recruiting team to actively engage and recruit diverse talent
  • Recommending policies to support the broader workforce – examples include breast milk shipment programs, flexible working and parental leave training for managers
  • Highlighting external partners with shared objectives with whom PIMCO can partner to advance our IDC goals – a few examples include Women in Capital Markets, Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, and OUT Leadership
  • Sourcing and executing local, regional and global speaker events that enable ERG members to not only raise awareness of critical topics and leadership skills within the firm but also take on visible leadership roles
  • Documenting critical insights from speaker events and sharing actionable takeaways broadly
  • Creating newsletters that create greater awareness of all ERG efforts
  • Engaging senior leadership to be visible role models who share their personal stories of why inclusion and diversity at PIMCO is personally important to them

Leveraging engaged employees has been the greatest opportunity within the IDC space, however, even with highly motivated and well-intentioned colleagues, we have not been able to accommodate every request in the context of resource constraints and varying priorities.  In all cases, we provide the rationalization in the context of our existing priorities and encourage a discussion alternative ways we can potentially accomplish the same objective.

Assessing Impact

Any individual’s experience and thoughts on Inclusion, Diversity & Culture often are colored by their individual experiences, whether personal or professional.  Ultimately, within PIMCO there are both qualitative and quantitative metrics we are assessing:

Qualitative Quantitative
  • Integration of IDC objectives into firm processes (e.g., new hire orientation, recruiting, training, performance reviews)
  • Provision of leadership opportunities to IDC volunteers through project work and global networking opportunities
  • Exposure of new ideas and concepts that expand perspectives through external speaker events and best practice documents
  • Engagement of employees in IDC-focused committees, partnerships, and events, internally and externally
  • Internal tracking of and external benchmarking related to the composition of workforce across identity-focused diversity measures and policy/program best practices
  • Establishing a strong pipeline of diverse talent by monitoring recruiting, retention, and performance trends
  • Engagement survey results

Overall, we recognize that creating an environment where people feel they can perform their best because they can be their best selves is dependent on the balance of a number of factors.  Ultimately, regardless of the challenges, our goal is continued progress and we look forward to doing our part in creating a workplace and industry where talented people of all backgrounds can find success and opportunity.

About the Author

Ms. Shah is an executive vice president in PIMCO’s Newport Beach office and a member of PIMCO’s executive office as the firm’s head of corporate responsibility. In this capacity, she oversees PIMCO’s global initiatives aimed at cultivating inclusion and diversity in the workplace as well as PIMCO’s philanthropy and community engagement platform. Ms. Shah is also a member of the core leadership team for PIMCO’s global sustainability initiative. She was previously a senior member of the U.S. corporate practice and has worked with many different institutional clients. Prior to joining PIMCO in 2007, she was with the equity research group of JPMorgan Asset Management as well as the finance department of SKS Microfinance. She has 16 years of investment experience and holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago.


PIMCO is one of the world’s premier fixed income investment managers.  With our launch in 1971 in Newport Beach, California, PIMCO introduced investors to a total return approach to fixed income investing. In the 45+ years since we have continued to bring innovation and expertise to our partnership with clients seeking the best investment solutions. Today we have offices across the globe and 2,600 professionals united by a single purpose: creating opportunities for investors in every environment.  PIMCO partners with a wide range of institutions, including corporations, central banks, universities, endowments and foundations, and public and private pension and retirement plans. In addition, we work with financial advisors and millions of individual investors pursuing personal financial goals, from preparing for retirement to funding higher education. Investing our clients’ assets is a tremendous responsibility, and for that reason, there can be no shortcuts. We work relentlessly to help these investors reach their goals.

 PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. ©2019, PIMCO.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!