Wade Davis' wellbeing gap keynote

Wade Davis' wellbeing gap keynote

Introducing our event write-up for, The global financial wellbeing forum, that will re-tell Wade Davis’ keynote on the wellbeing gap. The forum is a meet-up that’s designed to give HR, reward and employee benefit leaders across the world the opportunity to collaborate, discuss and take action on financial wellbeing. And for this particular segment, how, as leading organizations, we can eradicate exclusion through equal financial opportunities.

A global warning on financial exclusion

This forum will explore - ‘a global warning on financial exclusion’. Financial inclusion is absolutely at the bleeding edge of innovation in HR and is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding projects you'll ever deliver.

Why are we focused on diversity and inclusion today? And what does it have to do with financial wellbeing? Well, quite a lot actually. Over the last year, those with disabilities are seven times more likely to use food banks. Those from ethnic minorities have been hit hardest financially, nearly 80% of Hispanics in the US, reported financial difficulties, versus less than 30% of white people. And women have been disproportionately more likely to lose their jobs and on top of existing pay and retirement inequalities. 

Our mission, our challenge

Our mission at nudge, which is passionately shared by our clients, is to create brighter financial futures for everyone, everywhere. Which means we urgently need to address and resolve this diversity, inclusion and financial wellbeing challenge. How? By ensuring that financial literacy is a human right, not a birthright.

Today, we have Wade Davis delivering one of our keynotes. Wade is a former NFL player. He's a public speaker, thought leader, and is also VP of inclusion strategy for product at Netflix. Wade is moving the global needle on changing attitudes towards race, gender, and homophobia.

Wade Davis on the wellbeing gap, in his own words:

“I'm going to talk to you all about the intersection of inclusion and financial wellbeing. Firstly, there are some agreements that I want us to make to each other during this conversation. The first one is, if we're going to do this work, we’ve got to understand what it takes, and there are three rules that I want us to make a commitment to:

  • Can we agree to be disinterested in needing to be right? Rightness is not the goal of the work of diversity and inclusion.
  • Can we be disinterested in needing to think of ourselves as a good person? I know that many of you are thinking, well, I am a good person. Here's the issue, those who are under the boot of any form of systemic oppression. They do not care whether or not you think of yourself as a good person or not. The question is what are you doing to actively make the world better for yourself and themselves, and goodness is not a metric that matters. Instead, think how can I get better? What is the step that I can take every day to incrementally make sure that I understand the lived experiences of other people, so I can be more understanding of how to close ‘the wellbeing gap’.
  • Can we give individuals high levels of morale and self esteem? Not the idea that we’re here to change someone's heart and their mind. I want you all to imagine that I walked into your home and I said hey, I'm here to talk to you about the wellbeing of you and others, but I want to change your heart and your mind. Your first thought may be, well what's wrong with my heart? And what's wrong with my mind? But if we shift our frame of reference into thinking, how do we invest with greater levels of morale and self esteem? We're not thinking of ourselves as better. We have something to offer, as this other person does.

As we start to move forward, I want us to ground ourselves on this quote by James Baldwin.

People don't want to be helped. People want you to get the barriers out of their way, so they can help themselves.”

What this quote is really trying to get at is the root of any form of systemic oppression and Baldwin says, one cannot defend oneself against somebody who's determined to prove to himself, not to you, but to himself, that you are inferior. He wants you to’ corroborate it, one’s got a walk out of that nightmare.’ What I’m trying to say is anytime you are experiencing any form of an ‘ism’ or a phobia, and someone else is doing that, to you, that's their problem. They're trying to get you to participate in the further marginalization of yourself and we've got to no longer participate in that. Now, I want us to get clear on some terms as we move forward.

The first term is, what is inclusion?

Inclusion is the thoughtful and intentional behaviors that cultivate an environment where our unique individuals are valued and are full participants in the success of an organization. Now let's drill down a little more. Thoughtful and intentional behaviors, not your words, but your behaviors are much better indicators of who you are and what you actually believe, and we have to be much more thoughtful and intentional.

Secondly, what are valued participants?

Valued means that I need to see the other person as our equal. That person needs to be someone who I see as a competitor, because the people who we think that we need to compete against are people who we see as of equal value to us.

What is a full participant in the success of an organization?

That means that we must wrestle with power dynamics, the definition of power is the ability to control the destiny of yourself and others. You can't have a truly inclusive organization, if you're not wrestling with how power dynamics play out.

What do you all think of when you hear the word diversity?

Many of you may think of statistics. We think of stats on the hiring of black and brown folks, or women, or disabled folks, or veterans. Sometimes we think of the business case. We all know that companies who have at least a 30% minority of women in leadership positions are more profitable. We also know that the same data exists for folks of color. The truth is the business case has been made since 1970. We've had this data for over 50 years. Here's the problem with this data. I want you all to shift your thinking, away from the underrepresented, and start to think of the impact of the over represented, who is always in the room.

More CEO's are called John or James than there are women CEOs

In the US, of the Fortune 500 companies that currently exist, there are more CEOs named James than there are women. There are also more CEOs named John than there are women. There are more men with the first name James as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, then there are total women. The same thing goes for the, for the name of John.

Statues of women

There are 5913 statues in the US, of those 5913 statues 400 or less of them are of women and of those 400 of statues of less of women, the majority of them are ladies of liberties and goddesses. They're not even real. What do you think is the impact of women, young men, young boys and girls who grow up with an over representation of the individuals who they always see. Rebecca Traister said:

“When the over-represented have had such a disproportionate share of public, political, and social power, when they have been allowed and encouraged to be the leaders, the celebrities, the bosses, the voices that explain the news to us and make our movies and tell our stories, they have a disproportionate grip on our sympathies, imagination, and affection. Other kinds of people, people we don’t hear and see as often, who are not sent to us to comfort and explain and reassure and lead, people with less access to the kind of fame that breeds familiarity and a sense of humanity, are simply not as valued, or even acknowledged, in the same way.”

When we start to really wrestle with the stats that I gave you earlier, this is the actual impact of over-representation and that’s the wellbeing gap.

How does inclusion fit with financial wellbeing?

It creates a gap. There's a wellbeing gap in gender inequality. We know women make 48% less than men, for black women it’s 63%, Latinx it’s 55% and for Indigenous women it’s 51%. That means that women have to work 42 more days to earn the same thing as men and even more days, for women of color. This contributes to a wellbeing gap.

What's included in the wellbeing gap?

That means these folks live in the worst neighborhoods, they go to the worst schools, they have worse healthcare, they have the worst jobs, and they have the worst life expectancy. When we think about financial wellbeing - that there is a gap. When we think about this gap specific to black folks, here's a question - what is the percentage of wealth that the average black family has compared to the average white now? 1/20. That means for every nickel black people have, white people have a dollar.

We live in a segregated society, that means people with the nickels are constantly congregating with people with other nickels, but those with the dollars spent on people who have the other dollars and that contributes to the financial wellbeing gap.

That gulf is not static, it's dynamic, it's growing, as we speak the gulf is getting bigger, right now. What that means is that we need to unpack when we use the word diversity. What are we really talking about is:

  • the resistance of a monstrous incarceration of legions of black men
  • the resistance of the destruction of health providers for poor women
  • the resistance to deport parents
  • the resistance to a policing whose sole legitimacy is rooted in brute force
  • the resistance to a theory of education that preaches no excuses to black and brown children, even as excuses for profit for ambitious corporate executives who are too big to go to jail.

This is what we're talking about when we talk about the wealth, the wellbeing gap, we're talking about all of these systems that are actively getting bigger.

Now, the question is, what can you do?

If you're trying to be advocates, accomplices or allies to folks. When you're trying to partner with them, use language or partner with intention to improve their financial wellbeing. You've got to know them intimately. You've got to get much more proximate, but the first thing we have to do is look at ourselves. When we look at ourselves, we can start to understand we experience outgroup homogeneity effect. That means we surround ourselves with the same people.

If I'm trying to sit in conversation with someone and I'm trying to help them improve their financial wellbeing and I don't know them and I haven't engaged with them. I don't know their lived experience or anything about them. It is going to make helping them much, much harder.

We all know the impact of social reproduction. If you don't have experiences with people who don't look like you, who don't come from the same backgrounds as you, you actually don't have enough cultural competency that those folks will even trust you. Oftentimes you will have a bias, and one of those biases might tell you that I know what's best for you. That's not true. Those who sit under the boot, those who have a lack of financial wellbeing, often know what's best for them and they need you to partner with them. To show up really curious and ask the right type of questions.

The question I want to ask is, how might you be perpetuating the wellbeing gap?

What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about your own gap? To conclude I want to leave you to think about over representation.

“We just don't consider. We just don't see their loss. The loss of all the opportunities for them to have been more talented, or more brilliant, or comforting to us, on our airwaves or in our governing bodies, but whom we have never gotten the chance to know.”

Rebecca Traister

We've got to focus on those who are actively creating the gap, and educate them. Here's your path forward, you've got to assess your behavior, not just your words, your behaviors are a much greater indicator of who you really are. Be okay with who you are. You're not a good person. Who cares. You've got to find an accountability partner. Someone you can talk to openly and honestly about your power, your privilege, your in group dominance. You’ve got to start writing down your ‘aha’ moments. Make a connection with the function you're trying to actively partner with, to figure out how to close this wellbeing gap.

Figure out how these systemic forms of oppression impact you? If you're white, anti-blackness has a negative impact on your life. If you're a man, anything that is sexist or misogynistic hurts you too. If you're a heterosexual, homophobia hurts you too. We've got to understand how this oppression connects to each other. If you can do that, you'll be much better equipped to partner with folks.

“If you've come here to help me. You are wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is bound up with mine. Let's work together.”

Lilla Watson

People don't want to be helped, they want the barriers removed

People want you to get the barriers out of their way, so they can help themselves. But you have to first understand that your liberation is bound up together and you won't see them as needing help. You'll see them as needing partnership, you'll show up curious, you'll own all of your biases, your ‘isms’ and your phobias too. Then you can build trust so those folks will partner with you.”


Next we had insight from Victoria Mallinckrodt, who's the procurement development and financial wellbeing lead at the World Economic Forum, and she'll be focusing on gender, along with her work with the World Economic Forum. Read her story here.

Breakout sessions, the top 10 key takeaways

In this section of the forum we split-off into groups to answer: What is the employer’s role in resolving financial equality? How can you adapt your global financial wellbeing strategy to be

  1. Start with you. Understand your own bias before trying to understand how to support the needs of your people.
  2. Look at the current challenges before you start to problem solve.
  3. Provide tools and techniques for your people so they are empowered to make informed decisions.
  4. Make a shift from gender neutral policies, to gender positive policies.
  5. Improve all your people’s financial education skills. To help support them through any life moments.
  6. Ensure your people are taking advantage of their existing reward and employee benefits, from retirement plans to share options.
  7. Take the financial burden and stress off your people and allow them to do their life’s best work, at work.
  8. Capture feedback and data from your people to enable you to make better business decisions that will create an impact.
  9. It’s not a one-size fits all approach. Provide localized content and reward and employee benefit support to your people across the globe.
  10. Educate your CEO and make them accountable

Don’t miss out on our Q&A from the event, you can find that captured here.

We hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed hearing from Wade and Victoria. What’s your next step after reading this article:

  • Watch the recording on demand here
  • Check-out our key takeaways document from the event
  • Organize an exclusive walk-through of our imminent global financial wellbeing research report or discuss your strategy by emailing hello@nudge-global.com

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It’s about how and when you present options – delivering the right content to the right person at the right time – for all the right reasons.

So they can make the right decisions and improve their financial wellbeing.

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