Women of Influence

Erika Irish Brown, B.S.’91

Advancing Diversity

By Jim Sciancalepore, M.A. ’93

“As a woman and as a person of color, the topic of diversity is near and dear to me,” explained Erika Irish Brown, a senior vice president with Bank of America.

Brown recruits diverse executives for the Fortune 50 banking giant. She helped to develop the position a few years ago – and that’s in addition to helming all of Bank of America’s executive-search efforts. In her view, fostering diverse hiring practices is key to success in today’s business world.

“There is a strong business case for diversity,” said Brown. “If you’re not diverse, you’re not getting the best and brightest talent.”

Noting shifting demographics nationwide and the general globalization of business, Brown believes that top companies now require a workforce with expansive cultural competence to meet the needs and expectations of clients and employees. She added that a diverse workforce offers other advantages, too, such as a broader, more innovative approach to problem solving.

The UAlbany graduate is particularly passionate about this subject because she was afforded a unique Wall Street internship opportunity at the start of her career. Brown then spent the next 15 years working in investment banking at such prestigious employers as Lehman Brothers, the U.S. Treasury and Morgan Stanley. When she shifted her focus to diversity initiatives in 2009, Brown found a way to “pay it forward.”

“I was fortunate to have opportunities made available to me,” said Brown. “I want to create opportunities for others.”

Brown credits her UAlbany experience with giving her a strong educational foundation. While earning her undergraduate degree, Brown was “really involved” – taking an active role in student associations and volunteer organizations.

“UAlbany helped me grow my leadership skills and confidence,” said Brown. “It prepared me to succeed in competitive environments.”