Building a Community of Black Employees

Feb 22, 2023

Managing Directors Tanya Curry Hoffman and Alita Wingfield work to amplify the power of belonging as the new co-chairs of Morgan Stanley’s Black Employee Network.

Key Takeaways

  • Our Black Employee Network is one of more than 20 networking groups for diverse communities.
  • The group welcomes two new co-chairs, Managing Directors Alita Wingfield and Tanya Curry Hoffman. 
  • They will focus on advancing the careers of Black employees, bringing firmwide awareness to issues of race and promoting allyship in the greater community. 

Morgan Stanley’s Black Employee Network (BEN) has grown to more than 3,200 members since its founding in 2005. Its goals are to boost the power of networking within Morgan Stanley’s Black community, expand the impact of allyship throughout the firm, and promote diversity in the broader community. As Managing Directors Tanya Curry Hoffman and Alita Wingfield step into the roles of the committee’s co-chairs, they bring a wealth of experience and a vision for the group’s continued momentum.


Curry Hoffman, Head of the Institutional Wealth Coverage group within Strategic Client Management, has personally benefited from the power of networking. She recalls the announcement of her promotion to Managing Director in 2019. When she looked around the room at the leaders who were there to congratulate her, she realized that "every single person present, those in the BEN and other allies, had an impact on me getting to where I was at that moment in my career. For that I will be forever grateful."


Wingfield, a Managing Director in the Legal and Compliance Division and Head of the firm's Compliance training program, notes new opportunities for allyship in the ways that the understanding of race in the workplace began to evolve after the murder of George Floyd. Having a network of Black employees in place helped bring allies along to understand issues such as racial trauma, microaggressions, and implicit bias—topics that had not been a significant part of the conversation beforehand and that now offer a way forward.

Networking within our community gives us an opportunity to find mentors. It gives us an opportunity to find people who can help advocate for us.
Co-chair, Black Employee Network

Building Relationships Through Networking

As the BEN approaches its 20th anniversary, its mission continues to evolve. When the network was formed, Black employees at the firm were looking for a way to meet, network and find mentors who looked like them. They hoped to find a forum to share common experiences as Black employees and to provide each other with both inspiration and opportunity.


"Morgan Stanley is a place where relationship-building matters," says Wingfield. "Networking within our community gives us an opportunity to find mentors. It gives us an opportunity to find people who can help advocate for us and help us navigate tough issues."


Today, that vision holds, but the BEN has expanded its mandate. It continues to serve as a networking group for Black employees, and to recognize the achievements of Black employees at Morgan Stanley and support their recruitment and professional development. But it also partners with internal and external organizations in the community; hosts speaker series; sponsors events, conferences and activities; and promotes diversity and inclusion through various initiatives.  One major new pillar that Wingfield and Curry Hoffman plan to focus on is the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of its members. They hope to leverage the resources of the firm to better equip Black employees to do everything from preventing heart disease, which African-Americans age 18-49 are two times more likely to die from than whites1, to building generational wealth.


The BEN is one of more than 20 global employee networks at the firm focused on exchanging ideas and building relationships. Each group works to support its members and nurture a sense of community and belonging. Many people belong to multiple networks as part of their intersectional identity or to connect with people in different communities they might not meet otherwise.

The Black Employee Network is one of more than 20 global employee networking groups created for employees of diverse backgrounds to connect with peers and senior leaders.

Providing the Tools for Success

The BEN offers practical training, equipping less seasoned employees with the tools for a successful career trajectory, including coaching on how to network and how to be strategic in forming relationships with peers, colleagues and leaders.  


"When I joined the firm in 1992," says Curry Hoffman, "I was one of three Black employees in an office of approximately 100, and the only Black sales assistant. I didn't have the professional Rolodex that many of my other colleagues did of connectivity around the firm. So, it was a very intimidating environment for me as a young Black woman."


She adds, "Being from a blue-collar family and a first-generation college graduate, the mentality is, 'You go to work, put your head down, do a great job, and you'll be rewarded accordingly.' But I soon realized that relationship capital was also critically important." Curry Hoffman began to proactively build her network and leveraged the BEN community when it was formed over a decade later.  


Expanding the Vision 

The BEN also strives to make an impact in the greater Morgan Stanley community and beyond. It supports firmwide diversity initiatives and amplifies Morgan Stanley's core value to commit to diversity and inclusion. Aligning and coordinating efforts across the firm are critical, both for internal culture and bringing value to clients. 


One example is the Morgan Stanley HBCU Scholars Program, which Wingfield helps to oversee. The program, launched in 2021, offers scholarships and career training for students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). "We also want to be a part of helping expose the Black community to the great careers you can have at Morgan Stanley and the financial services industry overall," says Wingfield.


Looking Ahead

Curry Hoffman and Wingfield recognize that in a post-COVID world, a significant percentage of the firm's employees no longer congregate as often in person in the workplace and many have been impacted mentally, physically and financially. Therefore, bringing people together outside of work for BEN events and meetings and standing up programming focused on wellbeing in those three areas is at the top of their agenda. "If we can bring people together again and generate real conversations about wellbeing, I'd be extremely proud of that," says Wingfield. 


They are also looking to capitalize more on the firm's progress in hiring and promoting Black employees by tapping the experience of other Black Managing Directors. "Junior employees want to hear our stories," says Curry Hoffman. "We want to ensure that we're providing exposure and inspiration to the next generation of talent, and even recruits, as well as those at the firm who are already well along in their careers."


Over the past few years, Morgan Stanley has strengthened its commitment to diversity and inclusion, and groups like the BEN play a vital role in bringing those efforts to fruition in meaningful ways. As Curry Hoffman says, “It's so important for our community to know what's in the art of possible. 31 years ago, I never dreamed I would have a successful career on Wall Street, let alone as a Managing Director."


And for professionals just starting in their careers, whether at Morgan Stanley or not, Wingfield has essential advice. “Get involved,” she advises. “Get involved early. Get involved often. Be part of the solution.”

Interested in learning more about diversity at Morgan Stanley?

Read about our commitment to diversity and inclusion.