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Bank of America's Kim Vu on the importance of showing up as your whole self at work

Bank of America's Kim Vu. Photo: Britney Sheehan

Kim Vu, SVP Seattle market executive at Bank of America, wants everyone at the company to feel they belong.

Vu works with the bank’s employee resource groups (ERGs) — which cover various identities of staff such as race, sexual orientation and gender – to make sure the members can bring their whole selves to work. Since joining four years ago, the company has increased the number of ERGs in Vu’s region to nine from five.

Her mission is to help colleagues tackle the challenging issues they face, from the gender pay gap to transgender inclusion, to ensure everyone gains a seat at the table.

Her work in the area has led Vu to be recognised on this year’s EMpower’s annual Top 50 Ethnic Minority Future Leaders list. The list acknowledges people of colour that are helping to create a more inclusive environment for ethnic minorities, but are not yet senior leaders.

“When I show up as my whole self at work I give permission to everybody else around me to do the same,” Vu told Yahoo Finance UK.

Of Vietnamese descent, Vu understands the issues ethnic minorities face in the workplace. She said the more she shares her story the more her teammates feel like they can do the same.

“I think there is a fear if we talk about things we will get pushed back,” Vu said. “That is a natural reaction to feel, but what has been surprising for me in particular is how many people actually want to join the conversation.”

‘It is not a one-person game’

And it is not only the employees that want to be part of the discussion, Vu added, clients also want to get involved.

“We are seeing a lot more from clients and investors, that are looking for that mission alignment,” Vu said. “It is not just about getting the best return. It is about getting the best return and … [aligning that] with their mission and goals.”

Vu said Bank of America is keen to have diversity and inclusion (D&I) high on its agenda because “it reflects the communities and clients that the bank is serving all around the world.”

Bank of America’s has been heavily investing in improving D&I in the organisation. More than 50% of the global workforce is female, over 40% of the management team are women, and over 30% of board of directors are women. Almost half (45%) of the domestic workforce are people of colour.

Vu has attributed her own success journey at the bank to her mentor who helped her showcase her skill sets to senior business leaders. Mentoring can open up pathways to different areas of the organisation and, once the mentees start to climb the ladder, they too can look for others that need a helping hand.

“It is not a one-person game,” Vu said. “It is really about bringing everybody along.”