Because of the programs, some employees have received job offers across the company, and it has increased the number of promotion and advancement opportunities for people of color.
"Most positions in those higher levels are built basically on who you know and who knows you," Robinson said. "The reality is, if you look at our leaders, a lot of them, the only diversity they come in contact with is when they come to the workplace."
In 2015, GM Financial's program began with 65 mentees. In 2019, that number grew to 358. Of those participants, 70 mentees received promotions; just over half were women and more than 40 percent were people of color. About 700 employees participate in the program globally, with slightly more than 500 mentees and about 320 mentors.
Much of the program's inspiration came from Robinson's own experience.
"It was really leading more from a place of what was in my heart, and really thinking from a perspective of an African American female," she said. "In some of the circles that I'm in, I am the only African American female — only female, only African American — in the room. What is it that a company could do or say that would speak to me?"
Robinson believes more work is needed on hiring practices, which starts with how lenders craft job applications. Asking for aspirational qualifications or skills that could be learned on the job can scare off potential candidates, she said.
"The words that you were putting on a paper really matter," she said.
Next year, Robinson said the lender plans to initiate a "reverse mentoring" program that will pair millennial employees, which make up more than 50 percent of GM Financial's work force, with senior-level employees.
"We get so excited about a Mary Barra, and then progress stops," she said, referring to the GM CEO. "What I want to see is the consistency in what we're doing ... at the leadership level. For the lenders, I think that the piece that's missing is the lack of women, the lack of professionals of color in those influential leadership positions that are present at the table when decisions are made."
For Exeter Finance, this summer's protests widened the company's focus on diversity and inclusion efforts, said Charita Henderson, vice president of leadership development. A program to attract more diverse employees and foster unity is in its early stages, and the lender was in the process of establishing a women's network before the pandemic hit.
Exeter has two resource groups, one for Black employees and another for women. An LGBTQ+ group and a LatinX group, and a mentorship program, are in the works, Henderson said, with more likely to develop. The groups are open to all employees and are run by employees with executive sponsorship. Exeter has about 1,300 employees nationwide.
"We are not going to put so much structure around it where they are being told how it's going to work," she said. "It's really more about discovery and empowerment."
Thoughtful talent sourcing is another avenue Exeter's support networks are investigating, Henderson said, such as partnering with historically Black colleges and universities on job fairs.