Changing the face of leadership in any industry is a journey. At TD, maps are being redrawn and metrics quantified to help chart a clear and steady course.
From a societal perspective, diversity in leadership is a win unto itself. But, as organizations like TD recognize, explicitly supporting and encouraging that sea-change is also a business imperative. Canada’s talent pool is deep and varied, and those who are drawing from all of its reserves are equipping themselves best for the challenges of tomorrow.
Senior Executive Vice President & Chair of Women in Leadership, TD Bank Group
“At the heart of it, there is a very practical way in which diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential in terms of attracting and retaining talent as well as achieving business outcomes,” says Christine Morris, Senior Executive Vice President and Chair of Women in Leadership at TD Bank Group. “It brings the best outcome for the individual talent, both professionally and personally, as well as for TD.”
Morris has been with TD for 30 years now. She characterizes the organization as having always been open and forward-thinking, but also acknowledges that many systemic issues needed to be addressed, especially regarding women in leadership. As someone who respects numbers a great deal, she further believes that it is critical for progress to be measured and quantified, lest we pat ourselves on the back too early.
“At TD, we recognized that change was very much going to be a journey,” says Morris. “So we started by setting measurable targets for underrepresented groups with a formal, strategic and disciplined approach. We set a goal of 40% women in senior leadership roles, and we met that target in 2020. This year, we’re setting new goals to continue this progress while working towards true gender equity for women, including equity across differences of race and sexual orientation.”
At the heart of it, there is a very practical way in which diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential in terms of attracting and retaining talent as well as achieving business outcomes.
The snowball effect of incremental change
VP & Head of Treasury and Financial Modelling at TD
TD believes that in order to build capacity for innovation and drive results, diversity needs to be top-of-mind, engaging all backgrounds, skillsets and mindsets to create value in a unique and inclusive environment. “It’s much easier for someone to envision themselves in more senior or leadership positions if they see people who they feel represent them already in those positions,” explains Jennifer Page, VP and Head of Treasury and Financial Modelling at TD. “It’s a sort of self-perpetuating barrier that holds women back from putting their hand up. Early on, I was very much looking for women role models in my field and they just didn’t exist.”
Page recalls feeling alone early in her career, as a woman in the new and highly technical STEM field of quantitative finance at the intersection of economics, statistics, and computer programming. She recalls also how critical allyship and support from leaders at TD was in breaking through the invisible barriers in her path. “I was very fortunate in that, even though all my managers throughout my career have been men, save one, those male leaders always pushed me and encouraged me to find out what I was capable of,” says Page. “They gave me opportunities before I even asked for them, and that made a huge difference in my career.”
This is exactly the sort of internal support network that TD is working so hard to formalize, so that strong leadership and allyship can provide a clear ladder to diversity through all levels of the organization. “A really important part of our strategy is the Women –in Leadership Allies program,” says Morris. “This is an initiative designed to engage men and allies from across the organization on gender equity and diversity. I’ve been really impressed with the strong support we’ve had for this program.”
The fundamental lesson is that, when change is systematic, it is also lasting. And so, TD has created — and supports — formal initiatives focusing on many different points of friction in the transition towards greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. TD is sponsoring, for example, the Rotman School of Management Back to Work program, with a particular eye towards raising awareness of the challenges and implicit biases that affect women taking absences from work, what Page refers to as “the maternity gap.”
We need to be conscious that good leadership comes in a huge array of shapes and characters, that may not always match what we grew up in North America thinking a leader would look like, or talk like, or act like.
We are more than one thing
Page and Morris both emphasize that women in leadership is just one dimension in the complex equation of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And, in charting a strong course forward, these variables cannot be separated from one another. They must be considered as a whole. “People bring their whole selves to work,” says Morris. “I think intersectionality allows us to understand how different aspects of people’s identity contribute to their unique perspectives, how they show up with their teams, and how bias and discrimination can overlap. It’s all connected.”
Page, who is of Manitoba Métis heritage herself, points out that, for example, Indigenous representation remains almost non-existent at the leadership level in corporate Canada. What gives her hope, however, is a shift in the way TD thinks about leadership.
At the Bank, a new focus on intersectionality, she is confident, will help to strengthen the organization in the future. “We need to be conscious that good leadership comes in a huge array of shapes and characters, that may not always match what we grew up in North America thinking a leader would look like, or talk like, or act like,” says Page. “As we evolve and refine our approaches to diversity at TD, I look forward to emphasizing the importance of diversity in leadership styles, which can only come from having that diversity across intersectional groups.”
Leadership at TD today is working to reflect and celebrate Canadian diversity. And, while more work is required to dismantle existing barriers, there are currently several programs in place at TD focused on helping to methodically identify and help eliminate them in a formal, deliberate, and measurable way. Progress, after all, does not come by accident. And, with whole-hearted institutional support, it can be unstoppable.