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Women of Leadership Profiles

Vanguard’s Chief Diversity Officer Succeeds By Putting Integrity First

Crystal Hardie Langston’s earliest models were her grandparents, who had a “servant leader” mentality of putting others first. In her long business career at Vanguard, Crystal has found that being at a firm focused on its clients’ financial well-being is ideally suited to her core values. In her current role as Vanguard’s Chief Diversity Officer, Crystal is making a positive impact within Vanguard by furthering an inclusive culture for the firm’s crew.  (At Vanguard, employees are known as crew members.)

Building a career one role at a time

How do you describe your current role?

I’ve been at Vanguard for 14 years and worked primarily in our Institutional and Financial Advisor Services businesses until I joined Human Resources (HR) in 2018.

After serving as the Chief Learning Officer for a year, I transitioned to the role of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) in January 2019. I’m now responsible for leading the advancement of an inclusive culture at Vanguard. I love that I get to touch every part of the organization and make an impact for all of our crew.  In my role, it’s important to be a strategic thinker; be able to cultivate a common vision; and have high EQ and communications skills to be successful.

You’ve been at Vanguard 14 years. Tell me about your career path.

My very first job was working in the linens department of a department store while in high school. I hated folding towels for many years after that! But I learned responsibility, and realized I enjoyed helping and satisfying customers.

My first job after college was as an analyst for an investment banking firm, and after getting an MBA at Duke, I started at Vanguard as a relationship manager, helping institutional clients with their 401(k) offer for their employees.

Later I moved into a chief of staff role and then decided to take my first leadership role. While leading this team of relationship managers, I decided I wanted leadership to be a permanent part of my path going forward.

Next I led an internal sales organization, a fantastic experience and a pivotal role for building business acumen and deepening my leadership experience.

After that, I moved to our corporate strategy team, an internal consultant to the business that helps solve specific challenges. My last role before I came to HR was leading my own business within Vanguard – our 401k offer for small businesses. I’ve enjoyed all of my roles at Vanguard, but with this role I was able to apply all of my prior learnings and experienced tremendous growth and development through the challenges the role offered.

My career has prospered, and I’ve stayed at Vanguard because of the firm’s intentional focus on developing its people. We have a rotational culture that encourages crew to learn through different experiences in various parts of the organization.  We also have development programming available to crew at every level.  Over the course of my career, my leaders have been thoughtful in helping me think through my path, and each experience has built on the previous one.

Adopting a “servant leader” philosophy and helping people build their financial legacies

What were your early years like, and what did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up in a very close-knit family in the south. My grandparents were “servant leaders” who believed their purpose was to help others. It influenced everything they did, and only in recent years have I realized the impact of that on me and my values.

When I was 6 or 7 years old, my father’s company came to do a feature about him in our home. I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, “I want to be in business like my daddy.” I loved that he got to dress up in great suits, travel to different places, and carry a briefcase!

In later years, I got interested in financial services when I realized how many communities and families (including my own) did not have as much access to the tools and resources that enable financial health and wealth building.  I was interested in being of service to that – which ultimately led me to Vanguard, a company focused on helping people with their financial wellness and legacy.

Leading with integrity

Why did you select Duke for an MBA, and what did you gain from the experience?

The culture at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business aligned with my values, and I found like-minded people who lived by Duke’s mantra to be collaborative leaders of consequence and integrity.  The culture at Duke had a significant impact on my career search, as I prioritized finding a place that had similar values.  Enter Vanguard. The Duke MBA program connected me with an incredible network of brilliant people – who contributed to my learning experience then, and still do now.

Most valuable advice: Don’t keep your head down 

What are the most important business lessons you have learned?

The importance of relationships cannot be overstated. Performance and results are prerequisites, but professionals also need sponsors who can help them develop and grow, but most importantly, proactively advocate for their advancement. The old playbook was “keep your head down and work hard,” but now, it’s critical to build strategic relationships as a key part of driving great results and getting access to the next growth opportunities.

What advice do you have for young women, in particular, who are early in their careers?

My advice for young women is to be selective about how they spend their time and get comfortable with not saying “yes” to everything.  Often, in our enthusiasm, and upon request, we can find ourselves with a long list of tasks and items we’ve taken on to be helpful to others.  But what we sacrifice is the time we should be dedicating to our own learning and acumen building – which will help us be even stronger leaders ultimately.

How do you support diversity and inclusion at Vanguard?

I co-founded Vanguard’s Black Professional Network (VBPN) in 2012 with a focus on engaging and retaining black crew members, and increasing black representation at leadership levels. VBPN is one of five crew resource groups (CRGs) at Vanguard.  I am proud and excited about how much our CRGs are woven into the fabric of our Vanguard community, and that we have such high levels of crew engagement in them – including members that don’t belong to the demographics our CRGs represent. They will continue to be a key part of our strategy to foster inclusion.  I am honored that my current role is focused on furthering an inclusive environment at Vanguard that values diversity.  At Vanguard, we believe D&I is a business imperative and that it’s critical to the outcomes we want to create for our clients.

Personal pursuits

What charitable organizations do you support?

I served as board chair of Urban Tree Connection.  I was inspired by its mission of working with residents in some of Philadelphia’s urban communities, to transform abandoned lots into safe and functional places for the families in the area.  Their focus on gardening and farm projects enabled spaces for communal growing, education, and community engagement – particularly in areas where it’s challenging to get access to healthy, affordable food.  I also support the Alzheimer’s Association and their efforts to find a cure. Both of my paternal grandparents succumbed to this disease, which robs people of the most precious things we have – our memories.

Is there anything on your bucket list you’ll share?

I would love to take my family on a trip to the African continent.  I’ve been fortunate to visit, and would treasure being able to share the experience with my husband, my son, my parents, my brother, my nieces, and two of my younger cousins (one of whom I promised I’d take when he started studying the continent at the age of 3).

Wherever Crystal goes next, it seems certain that she will keep her integrity close at hand.

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