TD is proud to support and celebrate Pan-Asian colleagues and customers across Canada. This Asian Heritage Month, we're sharing stories from TD colleagues like Diana Lee, Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion. Read on to hear about how she learned to embrace and celebrate her Korean identity.
My relationship with my Korean identity hasn't always been straightforward.
I'm a Korean Canadian who was born in Brampton, Ontario to immigrant parents. Growing up, I moved in between multiple cultures. Home was spicy stews and kimchi, VHS tapes of Korean dramas, and strong respect for elders. School was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, English literature, and academic debate.
Both cultures were part of me, but it wasn't always easy to reconcile them. Being different didn't always feel like something to celebrate outside my home. Sometimes I was made to feel "othered" and alone.
In the past, I've experienced some work contexts, like cocktail parties and even interviews, that could feel exclusionary. People who were more aligned to the majority culture could typically find common ground and work opportunities more easily, connecting with others about cottages, hockey, and winetasting. I witnessed how a number of my coworkers from different backgrounds, who were extremely capable and personable, had more difficulty building career-enhancing connections.
These experiences early in my career sparked my interest in diversity and inclusion. I realized how essential these core principles are to fostering healthy work cultures and fair opportunity for everyone.
I also came to recognize that my differences are sources of power. To me, Korean culture symbolizes strength. If you aren't familiar with Korean history, I encourage you to learn more about it – it's fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Korean people have persevered through longstanding subjugation and war, emerging with resilience, courage, and creativity. I'm so proud of my Korean identity.
Difference is strength. Because of my experiences, I can better empathize with others, adapt to different environments, and persevere through challenge. Teams that reflect difference and diversity are more innovative, provoking greater thought in each other and demonstrating stronger decision-making as a collective.
I'm grateful that over time, I learned to embrace all dimensions of my identity, and myself as an individual. If we invite difference and are open to learn from it, we will all be better for it. We're all individuals, and that's a wonderful thing.
A natural career progression
When I joined TD in 2015, I was drawn to its commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I) as well as its focus on innovation. My first role with TD was as legal counsel, focused on digital innovation and privacy. Over time, my mandate expanded to include customer experience and human rights. My team worked with others across TD to enable the use of innovative technology and create inclusive opportunities for our colleagues, customers, and communities.
During my time with this team, I was also involved in leadership committees for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), colleague-led groups usually organized around a shared identity. This work included initiatives to drive ally action at TD.
Just over a year ago, I took on my current role leading diversity and inclusion for TD. This move felt so natural, and the work is incredibly fulfilling. Every day, my team and I work to safeguard and strengthen our inclusive culture at TD, so all of us feel included and respected, and so that all of us have fair opportunities to succeed. I'm not sure there exists any other work that would give me a stronger feeling of purpose.
Everyone has the power to make a difference
One of my first introductions to D&I work was through an ERG within the Bank's legal department. ERGs not only help create community, but they are the heart of D&I work – our progress is propelled by the efforts of these fantastic ERG volunteers across TD. Through groups such as the Chinese Employee Network, the South Asian Employee Network and many more, we celebrate each other's cultures, learn more about each other's experiences, and how to support each other.
At TD, we often speak about how every one of us plays a role in shaping our inclusive culture. In every interaction with each other, every meeting, every conversation, we can contribute to inclusion by demonstrating respect for each other and making space for each other, particularly those who may be different from others. Every person can and does make a difference.
I'm proud of the progress we've made at TD, and our commitment to continue to do more. I'm often asked: "What motivates you at work?" To that, I say: I hope to make a positive difference, and leave a better environment for those who come next.
Here's to celebrating Asian heritage and all forms of diversity, this month and always.
Click here to learn more about how the TD Ready Commitment helps celebrate and support communities across Canada.