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Home » Diversity & Inclusion » Fostering Inclusion by Understanding and Embracing Intersectionality

Vivian Abdelmessih

Executive Vice President & Chief Risk Officer of Canadian Banking, Wealth, & Insurance, TD Bank Group 

Geoff Bertram 

Managing Director of Investment Banking & Head of Financial Institutions, TD Securities 

TD’s inclusive culture enables colleagues to bring their whole selves to work — and it all starts with an understanding of intersectionality.

Diversity has historically been viewed through individual dimensions — such as race, gender, and sexual orientation — rather than through multiple or overlapping dimensions. As society learns more about shared experiences across dimensions and layers, the compounded impact is astounding. Intersectionality is increasingly becoming a focus for many, including organizations like TD. 

Understanding and advocating for intersectionality

“There’s a growing understanding that we don’t just fit into one box or category,” says Vivian Abdelmessih, Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer of Canadian Banking, Wealth, and Insurance at TD and Chair of TD’s Women in Leadership (WIL) Committee. “We don’t just identify as a woman or LGBTQ2+ or as a person of colour. Our identities are layered and complex.” 

Intersectionality is the understanding that there are overlapping, interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage, and it’s through this lens that we can understand the true depth of inequity and take meaningful action toward building greater inclusivity.  

As a prime example, Abdelmessih points to the “she-cession” — the term being used to describe how the pandemic is overly affecting women. “We’re seeing women and under-represented groups — minorities, immigrants, youth, low-income, and lower-skilled individuals — disproportionately impacted,” she says. “Through an awareness of intersectionality, we can see the greater impact on diverse women who are experiencing the pandemic across multiple dimensions.”  

This compounding effect is one of the reasons why understanding intersectionality is imperative to advancing gender equity. 

Allyship: why listening and understanding matter

“TD has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion for our colleagues, customers, and in the broader community,” says Abdelmessih. “It’s core to who we are. To nurture a culture of innovation and to deliver the best outcomes, we need to engage individuals across all backgrounds, all skill sets, and all mindsets.”  

Allyship is central to supporting diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality at TD, Abdelmessih notes. It’s essential in helping to remove barriers and addressing inequities.  

Geoff Bertram, Managing Director of Investment Banking and Head of Financial Institutions at TD Securities, and leader of the WIL Allies pillar for TD, agrees. “Allyship starts with being open to listening and understanding where people are coming from,” he says, noting the added imperative for people in leadership positions. “Individuals at all levels, especially those in positions of impact, need to take accountability and actively seek ways to help advance the interests of women and diverse groups.”  

“We have to encourage diversity of viewpoints and diversity of thought. If people know they’re going to be heard, they’ll be more confident to speak up,” Bertram adds. “Allyship is a daily action that results in a more inclusive workplace with a greater diversity of views, opinions, and people.”

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