Brown Advisory 2021 Sustainability Report

Diversity Equity and Inclusion

We aspire to create an environment at Brown Advisory that mirrors the fabric of the communities in which we work and live—one that supports colleagues in their effort to contribute at the highest level and reach their potential. We are committed to ensuring all colleagues feel empowered, valued, and supported.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are core priorities for our firm—we want to foster these principles in our workplace, in our communities and broadly in the world. We know that we have a lot more to learn about DEI, and a lot more to do, so we are committed to continuous listening and learning so that we can constantly improve and make progress.

Over the past year, broader conversations at our firm about DEI have intensified, in the wake of the U.S.’s nationwide outcry against racial injustice. We have seen the clear evidence of how the COVID pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on underrepresented minority (URM) groups and gained a better understanding of how these factors have affected our URM colleagues. We have supported open and active dialogue to specifically support our African American and Asian American colleagues. Our DEI efforts were underway long before the onset of the pandemic, but the events of the past year have clearly demonstrated the tangible risk and harm that results from systemic injustice and underlined the need for swift action.

As we discuss in this section, we have put in place a comprehensive program aimed at making diversity, equity and inclusion defined strengths of our firm. In 2020, our colleague David Hodnett assumed the role of Director of DEI at our firm, and in this role, he leads our efforts to deepen DEI values in all aspects of Brown Advisory’s work with clients, colleagues and its communities. David has been at Brown Advisory for nearly a decade supporting and advising clients and brings a wealth of experience in DEI; earlier in his career, he served as an advisor with PNC Wealth Management and led that firm’s diversity initiatives, and during his tenure at our firm he was a leader of the Black and Hispanic Colleague Resource Group and served on our Racial Justice Taskforce. His leadership provides additional momentum and support to a wide variety of ongoing initiatives at the firm, including our efforts to attract and retain diverse talent, promote our URM colleagues, elevate the work of our colleague resource groups, implement a vibrant education/shared learning program on DEI issues, administer colleague surveys and pay equity audits, and expand our justice-related work in our communities.

We have made a lot of progress, and we still have a lot of work to do. Here, we share our actions to date, our near-term goals and objectives, and areas we have targeted for future progress.

DEI Program: 2021 Goals

As noted in our 2020 report, our firmwide DEI effort consists of a broad range of programs and policies, organized under five primary initiatives, or “pillars”: Leadership, Assessment, Shared Learning, Hiring, and Retention.


We seek to create accountability for our DEI efforts and incentives for progress, create communities within the firm to connect people, establish foundations for education and advocacy and provide growth opportunities for colleagues. 

We believe that progress on DEI starts with strong leadership. That leadership can take several forms. Our senior executives and department heads have a responsibility to represent DEI principles and hold themselves and the firm to high standards. We also seek to provide opportunities for all of our colleagues to step up and play lead roles in our DEI initiatives.

  • Our principal and partner promotion process has always looked at considerations outside of a candidate’s job performance, including dedication to nonprofit service, colleague mentorship and other factors. In the past, our promotion committees would have viewed a colleague’s internal work on DEI matters positively; today, a colleague’s leadership on DEI issues is now formally included as a factor in the promotion process. 
  • More broadly, in our strategic planning process heading into 2021, we required each business line and group within Brown Advisory to include DEI and sustainability goals and actions in their strategic plans for the year.
  • Our Colleague Resource Groups continue to be a core element of our DEI efforts. They help to elevate the voices of our colleagues so that they feel a strong sense of belonging and have the support to grow and succeed. Our five CRGs (representing Black and Hispanic colleagues, LGBTQ+ colleagues, Asian and Pacific Islander colleagues, women colleagues, and military/first responders and their families) are open to all colleagues and are inclusive by nature.  They welcome not only colleagues who identify as members of the community, but also those who wish to be allies.  As key drivers of inclusion and engagement and catalysts for change at our firm they provide a path for many colleagues—especially colleagues that are earlier in their careers—to demonstrate leadership. Our CRG leaders also provide invaluable support to our leadership who have overarching responsibility for DEI advancement at our firm. 

Through our assessment work we seek to conduct anonymous colleague surveys and firmwide audits to measure our efficacy in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion at the firm.

  • In late 2020, we conducted our second colleague DEI survey, again enlisting the assistance of an outside expert in the field to ensure a comprehensive, objective and confidential survey, and to help us interpret the results honestly without bias. Our participation rate was similar for our second survey (88% of colleagues) vs. our first in 2018 (86% of colleagues). The survey encompassed many different topics related to how colleagues experience Brown Advisory. While the findings have many use cases, the primary objective is to listen to our colleagues and to understand what they need and how we can help them be successful.
  • We intend to complete a comprehensive pay equity audit this year, the latest in a series of these audits we have conducted over time.

These surveys and audits are only as valuable as our ability to identify areas of progress as well as shortcomings, and our commitment to take action to close the gaps we identify. Our colleague survey revealed that broadly, women and people of color report that their experience at the firm has improved since our first survey in 2018, while we also learned that we have an opportunity to better support and develop colleagues that identify as women of color. We are committed to focusing on DEI through a lens of intersectionality—the idea that people simultaneously face bias along multiple identity dimensions—and believe that increased focus on instances of intersectional bias will help us be more effective in making progress to combat injustice more broadly.

Shared Learning

Our Shared Learning pillar seeks to leverage microlearning, experiential exercises and other methods to help colleagues become aware of unconscious bias, and internalize diversity, equity and inclusion as essential elements of the firm’s culture.

This aspect of our program was previously labeled “Training,” and we have chosen to change this name to reflect the high value we place on collaboration, conversation and open expression as primary vehicles for learning about diversity, equity and inclusion.

  • Our CRGs (discussed earlier in this section) have done an exceptional job of proactively educating colleagues about the needs and experiences of underrepresented groups. This has been an additional task that the CRGs have taken upon themselves—we do not call on them or expect them to do this. We support their proactive efforts to engage the rest of the firm in conversation by providing ample space and time to do so.

  • We have conducted a series of sessions on unconscious bias; these trainings are made available to every colleague at the firm as a combination of in-person/virtual group sessions as well as online training. We ensure that all our colleagues who conduct hiring interviews participate in unconscious bias trainings. In 2020 we rolled out unconscious bias training developed specifically for those leaders who are responsible for promotions decisions.

  • We strive to create an environment that invites all colleagues to bring their full selves to work. We work to build spaces where colleagues feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and embracing views that may be different from their own. Our “Conversations on Race” speakers’ series helps to ignite conversation on our shared racial history in this country. Our cultural and heritage celebrations, which include Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Pride Month, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day and Juneteenth, invite us to share what makes each of us unique.

  • The momentum of our DEI work positioned us to respond to the needs of our Black and African American colleagues in the wake of the U.S.’s social justice movement and to support our Asian and Pacific Islander colleagues who have been experiencing a large and growing number of acts of hate and violence against their communities that many of us are just learning about. Our colleague-led Town Hall events on the troubling moments of the last year invited dialogue and sharing of colleagues’ experiences with injustice and bigotry. Hundreds of colleagues joined in these Town Halls; both sessions were eye-opening and heart-wrenching, but ultimately provided exactly the kind of experience we are trying to create at our firm—open dialogue, honest expression and a foundation for positive change. 


Through our recruiting work we seek to build a diverse colleague population, by focusing on DEI principles at each stage of the recruiting process, and by sourcing diverse candidates through our existing networks and partner organizations, as well as networks developed by our CRGs, and through partnership with historically black colleges and universities, mentoring programs, and diverse academic and professional organizations.

We are focused on building a proper foundation in which DEI considerations are baked into every step of the hiring process, from sourcing candidates, to the interview process and ultimately the hiring decision. We believe this is the best way to impact colleague diversity over the long term.

As shown in the following charts, our efforts in this area have produced solid results over the past five years. More of our colleagues today are women (44% today, vs. 38% in 2015) and come from URM communities (18% today, vs. 12% in 2015). This progress was spurred primarily through more DEI awareness in our hiring process, increasing the diversity of the hiring committees for various positions, and proactively seeking out more diverse candidate pools. We seek to build diverse teams that incorporate inclusive hiring practices while partnering closely with our leadership and hiring managers around the firm to advance these efforts.



We have made progress in increasing the diversity of our colleagues at different levels of the firm. Diverse colleagues serve in leadership positions in several departments including accounting and finance, information technology and investment research. At the other end of the hiring spectrum, we set a goal to notably increase the diversity of our summer analyst program, and we are happy to report that our incoming cohort is the most diverse in the program’s history—53% of analysts identify as women and 41% as an URM.



This year we rolled out an interactive reporting tool for viewing colleague headcount, hiring, turnover and status by race/ethnicity and gender identity and expression across offices and teams, to provide more information to our executive team about our progress on these metrics. 




Going forward:

  • Starting in 2021, for every open position we seek to fill, we intend to track and document efforts to consider candidates from underrepresented groups, and, to the extent we are able, we intend to track the mix of backgrounds in resume and interviewed-candidate pools. Our benchmark is to interview at least one diverse candidate for every open position.
  • We intend to increase representation of URM colleagues through our recruiting efforts to elevate the consideration of DEI within the hiring process.
  • Finally, we have established several formal partnerships with HBCUs and diverse professional networks as part of a broader effort to expand our network as we seek to attract diverse candidates; we plan to add additional partnerships and expand our efforts with each of our existing partners going forward. 

Our retention work seeks to create compelling and inclusive experiences for all colleagues that will encourage their desire to build a long-term career at Brown Advisory, and to find opportunities to enhance the colleague experience by maximizing the inclusivity and equity in our policies and benefits offerings.

Retention has always been a primary metric of success at our firm—we consider client retention to be one of the primary indicators that we are doing good work for our clients. Similarly, we view colleague retention as an indicator of our ability to create opportunity and fulfillment for our colleagues, regardless of the stage of their career.

Overall, we believe we are headed in the right direction but want to do more to ensure we continue to retain our Black and African American colleagues and our Asian American colleagues. To do that, we know we must ensure that these colleagues see a clear path to success at our firm. 

We believe that the long-term retention of our colleagues is the cumulative outcome from many different factors that add up to a rewarding experience at Brown Advisory. We are focused on creating that experience by expanding our mentorship to include reverse mentoring whereby we pair younger colleagues with executive team members to mentor them on topics that have strategic and cultural relevance. We continue to foster training opportunities for our younger, diverse colleagues, to invest in their career growth and help ensure that they can see a long-term path for themselves at our firm. Additionally, we are committed to the careful study and review of our exit interviews, taking action within our promotions process, implementing diversity hiring strategies (which impact the experience for existing colleagues as well as new ones), and holding managers even more accountable for DEI goals.