"What it means for me is, if I could provide representation and hopefully inspire someone in the audience to say, 'Oh, people of color can rise to the positions of leadership' that's all I can ask for," she said in an interview.
The recognition strikes a chord with Ms. Trillo because she said that while growing up and watching people succeed in certain professions who didn't look like her, it seemed as if those jobs weren't meant for people like her.
DCIIA's third-annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards program, held in Charlotte, N.C., recognized 26 leaders and 38 rising stars during the March 7 event.
The awards spotlight those "advocating for or otherwise contributing to member organizations' diversity, equity and inclusiveness," according to DCIIA's website.
"We are thrilled once again to utilize the DCIIA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards to shine a spotlight on rising stars and leaders from among our member organizations," said Lew Minsky, DCIIA's president and CEO. "Their efforts around DEI initiatives are making a meaningful impact within their organizations and more broadly in the industry, and they are a crucial source of inspiration and insight for us all."
In pre-event interviews with five leaders who participated on a panel during the program, honorees said that the world of defined contribution is taking initiative when it comes to fostering a more inclusive workplace, though work still remains.
Kenneth Mouning, Hartford, Conn.-based director and client services specialist for real estate and private markets at UBS Realty Investors LLC, said that after the national reaction to George Floyd's murder in Minnesota in May 2020, the company re-examined its diversity efforts.
"Part of my work on the (firm's) diversity council is trying to find ways to help educate our employees and to have some very tough and honest conversations to help people understand better as to what's been our history and some of the challenges we've had even amongst employees," he said in an interview.
One way he said UBS has emphasized diversity was by having author Debby Irving, who describes her work as a racial justice educator, speak to UBS employees and encourage them to participate in a "21-day racial equity challenge," he said.
The challenge consisted of listening to podcasts, reading articles and other learning activities each Friday, with the next few work days containing discussions among employees on what they'd taken away.
"And it became some very helpful conversations where people are talking about things that they don't feel comfortable normally talking about, but we told them upfront that this was a safe space, a safe space to talk and to learn and to grow," Mr. Mouning said.
But in addition to fostering understanding of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, several winners noted that diversity is also playing a major role in the awarding of new investment mandates.
"It's even more important in the retirement channel specific to the public clients that I face off with," said Joy Booker, New York-based managing director and head of U.S. retirement client relations at PineBridge Investments LLC.
Requests for proposals issued by asset owners regularly ask for numerous facts from the asset managers hoping to win the client's business, Ms. Booker said, including performance, leadership, growth plans and returns, among other factors.
"Increasingly there is a complete section that addresses or that expect answers on diversity and inclusion," she said. "What do your statistics look like? What's your hiring plan? How do you give back to communities? What's the split of diverse employees that are front office vs. portfolio manager vs. administrative?"
She added that five years ago, such questions were not asked, but now they're almost a given, especially from public clients.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Booker said PineBridge undertook a self-assessment on its diversity and inclusion.
PineBridge considered a variety of consultants to help it complete its self-assessment, an 18-months long project that examined the company.
"We had listening tours with every person that identified as diverse as well as (non-diverse) employees. So we really got a good sense of what their lived experience was, what their expectation was, and seemingly where there may be any mismatches ... Right after that, you saw employees, realizing the firm was committed to this...putting forward grassroots efforts and establishing employee resource groups."