“When I was in college, there were only a very small number of Black financial professionals,” said Falesha Grasty
An accountant by training, Falesha hadn’t worked in banking until she started with Penn Community Bank in 2014. Today, as a Senior Staff Accountant she is responsible for financial reporting, budgeting, and regulatory documentation. In addition to her full time position, she was recently named the bank’s first ever Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Officer – heading up a team member DE&I committee and working hand in hand with an interdepartmental DE&I advisory committee of senior leaders to ensure the bank is on the right path to reach its diversity and talent goals, and fulfill its mission to be a leading area employer that emphasizes inclusion and equity.
“I am so happy and grateful that Penn Community Bank has been so open and willing to listen to different things, have conversations, and find ways to help our organization grow,” Falesha said. “I’m very proud to be working here and I appreciate our leaders who are making sure that everyone in the organization feels that they are part of this initiative. We want to create an understanding that everyone is different and that’s okay and to help people appreciate those differences as well as recognize our similarities.”
Whether formal or informal, the aim of diversity and inclusion initiatives should be the same: to build organizations and practices that reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, says Falesha. Though the financial industry has lagged behind some other industries, she is heartened by new commitments to action by leading companies across the country.
“I would love to see more people from different cultures in the industry, both at the executive level and all the way on down. I think a lot of organizations within the financial industry are still working towards that, as well as towards having more board members who look like someone like myself or another Brown person or indigenous person,” she said. “That’s the first step toward real change, building that representation. Then we work to make sure that everything we do in the financial industry benefits everyone, not just a select few. That’s our ultimate goal.”
Q&A with Falesha
What attracted you to a career in banking?
I have my bachelor’s degree in accounting, and I’ve been in the accounting profession for a long time, but I hadn’t worked in banking until I started with Penn Community Bank. I wanted a change in my career but wanted to stay in the financial industry, so I felt like banking was the perfect opportunity for me to see things from a different perspective and still use my accounting degree and my experience to help the organization grow.
What has been your experience as a Black professional in the financial industry?
The number of people of color in the industry is slowly increasing. When I was in college, there were only a very small number of Black financial professionals. Today, I think it also depends on the town or the city you work in. Some places are more diverse than others, so that makes a big difference as far as how many other Black professionals you see in this industry.
How have you adapted to working during the pandemic?
Overall, I have definitely learned a lot about adjusting to change. It took some time, though. In the beginning, when the pandemic started and we were told to work from home, my first response was, “I get to work from home, I don’t have to travel as much, and I can still get all this work done.” As days went on, I’m like, “I have no one to talk to.” I think everyone has gone through those stages this year. With work, and school, and the pandemic, it was so many different things happening all at once. You couldn’t really be slow about shifting gears. You almost had to embrace the change and go with it, and then make it your own as you figured out what “your own” is.
How did you get involved with Pearl S. Buck International?
I was introduced to Pearl S. Buck International by going to an event that the bank sponsored. As time went on, I was asked to serve on the board. That opportunity was very exciting for me because Pearl S. Buck is focused on things that are important to me, such as treating people equally, making sure that children are being taken care of and have opportunities to succeed. It has been a really great fit for me. The people at Pearl S. Buck, whether it’s the staff or the other board members, are always asking “What can we do different? What can we do better?” I enjoy participating in those conversations and working together to help our society evolve.