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There was one major reason Indhira Arrington joined Ares Management Corporation a year and a half ago to head up its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts: she knew she could make a difference. The managing director and global chief DEI officer says that there was a big opportunity to enhance DEI at the global alternative investment manager with over $310 billion in assets under management.
There was also a strong willingness from the leadership here that was committed to facing this challenge. I knew that together with the firm’s leadership team, I had the white space to really build something great.”
The executive says while there’s plenty left to do, her tenure so far proves what can be accomplished when an organization is truly committed to not just sourcing more diverse talent, but also creating the structure that will nurture and cultivate future leaders.
Arrington’s own life experiences—personal, professional, and some that combine the two—inform her work in the DEI space.
“I positioned myself for my first HR and diversity role by telling the business that they needed someone who had experienced every micro-inequality and micro-aggression that you can imagine,” she recalls. “And they needed someone who understands what will and won’t work within the context of the business.”
Arrington has two young sons and doesn’t want them to experience the inequality and resulting imposter syndrome her generation faced. Her efforts at Ares Management to transform the business landscape are ensuring that things will be a better for generations to come.
Creating the Pipeline
When Arrington talks about her accomplishments at Ares, she often refers to her collaborations with company leaders, including cofounder and CEO Michael Arougheti, Head of Human Resources Jessica Dosen, and Head of Philanthropy Michelle Armstrong, who have helped drive progress in DEI.
One person alone cannot tackle systemic inequity without the dedication of an entire organization. Keeping this in mind, Arrington joined forces, and as a result, managed to drive meaningful changes throughout the organization.
Take, for example, AltFinance, a collaboration between Ares and fellow investment management companies Apollo Global Management and Oaktree Capital. Over the course of 10 years, the trio will invest $90 million in a program to attract talent from historically Black colleges and universities. The effort helps students gain exposure, mentorship, and hands-on experience in the alternative investment management space.
“We wanted to start where we had the biggest gap,” Arrington explains. “We’re looking for students who we can sponsor, upskill, and open doors to internships and opportunities in the investment management industry.”
AltFinance also partners with Wharton University and Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) to create the curriculum and pedagogical scaffolding and coaching imperative for students with little to no experience in the space. It’s a landmark move, Arrington points out. This way does not just source diverse talent, but creates it.
More Than Good Intentions
Arrington also made significant headway within Ares, itself. The company’s DEI mission statement says it all: “Our DEI framework and approach harness the power of difference to be a force for good and help contribute to the long-term success of Ares, the companies in which we invest, and the communities in which we operate.”
Along with a DEI council in-house, Ares boasts seven employee resource groups providing programming and discussion spaces for diverse communities. The company also forged partnerships with numerous organizations focused on diversity, volunteerism, and internship opportunities.
Recently, Ares piloted a change in its interview process requiring more diverse candidates in the US last year, and that pilot is extending globally this year. It revamped its contracts with its search firms to mandate that diversity become a more significant part of the search process. The company also set supplier diversity goals for the year, which it will continue tracking.
Arrington knows it takes more than one person to undo decades of systemic inequity. Still, her team’s progress in such a short time is impressive—and they’re just getting started. Creating systems and processes to ensure diversity is embedded in everything Ares does is central to long-term success, Arrington explains.
“You can’t just leave it up to the heart and hope that people do the right thing,” she says. “Your heart may be in the right place, but if you’re interviewing three people and none of them are diverse, where does that land you?”
Paying It Forward
Indhira Arrington says she wouldn’t be where she is today had it not been for organizations like INROADS and the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (the Consortium), nonprofits that exposed her to the written and unwritten rules of corporate leadership, as well as providing her sponsorship and mentorship.
“No one makes it on their own. As an immigrant, these organizations took me in and helped harness my drive and hard work and showed me how to focus it in the right direction,” she says. “Latino mentors are imperative in helping change the numbers in terms of representation. I now feel a responsibility to find those that I can help and lift them up. As the saying goes, ‘To whom much is given, much will be required.’”
Mindr is a workforce development organization that builds belonging in the world’s leading workplaces. Mindr’s custom technology platform, powerful programs and strategic consulting services foster strong and impactful communities, including women’s initiatives, Black professional networks, working parent circles, Pride communities, and groups recognizing many other diversity dimensions and shared experiences.