Over the past year and a half, horrific acts of racism have taken place against many communities that have sparked deeper conversations about race and racism in our communities, on social media, and at work. These conversations—largely beginning after the murder of George Floyd—have examined how racism is ingrained in nearly every aspect of our lives before shifting to focus on what individuals and organizations can do to create meaningful, societal change.
At TD, we have created opportunities for colleagues across the bank to have deeper conversations about racism and intolerance. During Black History Month, TD created a series of events and activities across the themes of Black Thought, Black Health, Black Wealth and Black Joy.
The month began with a fireside chat between some of the bank’s leadership and community leaders. These include Dr. Mark Campbell, Associate Chair of Music and Culture at the University of Toronto, President of Lincoln University, Brenda Allen, and leading medical experts, Dr. Ala Stanford, Founder of Black Doctors COVID Consortium, and Dr. Onye Nnorom, President of the Black Physicians Association of Ontario, whose work addresses the inequities that exist in the medical field.
We are now using what we have learned from these discussions to take tangible steps to improve our customer and colleague experiences and create a more equitable and inclusive community.
Two women at the forefront of TD's social impact teams in Canada and the U.S., Naki Osutei and Shelley Sylva, share their thoughts on strategic planning taking place at the bank, as well as the crucial work that lays ahead to make true progress.
Q: What are some of the actions that have come out of Black History Month last February, but also the wider discussions on racism that have taken place across the bank over the last year?
SHELLEY: Many big and small actions have taken place and are planned to help communities rebuild and recover post-pandemic more equitably. For example, in the U.S., we established a $100MM equity fund, and earmarked support for Black-and Latinx-owned small businesses. The fund will provide small business loans and technical assistance to help these businesses scale and adapt long-term.
In Canada, TD is contributing $10MM in funding to the Black Opportunity Fund to increase financial supports for Black Canadian entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organizations and is aimed at supporting organizations working toward bettering education, health care, social justice, immigration and technology supports that contribute to the quality of life for the Black community in Canada.
Our Black Customer Experience Segment Team recently kicked off a virtual ideation challenge that brought together more than 100 participants from across Canada to develop solutions that better meet the unique financial needs and aspirations of Black communities. Teams of colleagues spent three weeks working to develop impactful solutions to address the question: "How can we serve Black customers better?" We're excited to see the customer experience improvements that will be delivered as a result of this work.
Q: Do you think there is pressure for Black colleagues and community members to shoulder the responsibility to help create solutions to address racism?
SHELLEY: There is a big emotional toll placed on many people to educate their peers and colleagues about racism, and to lead the anti-racism charge in their organizations. It can be exhausting and stressful. Knowing this, we have been offering support to colleagues to be able to say, "I am not alright." Whether it is reaching out one-to-one, or being able to provide mental health support, or other specific resources and tools to help make their workloads more manageable.
Some colleagues expressed that they felt pressure to educate others after the murder of George Floyd. It was, and still is, crucial that we maintain our own health and support each other, regardless of what community a person is from, in dealing with the effects of discrimination and racism.
Q: What is your advice for people about how to be an anti-racism ally at work?
NAKI: If we are talking anti-Black racism, then I think every Black person must meet this moment in the way that makes sense for them. It might not make sense for you to be the one who actively protests or challenges statements made by your organization in a highly visible way, but you might be the right person to say, "Have we thought of a different vendor for this opportunity?" or "Have we considered another point of view before making this decision?"
People also need to educate themselves on the common biases that play out in the workplace or in society in general so they can check them at the door in any setting.
Q: How do we keep the momentum going on helping to end racism? A year from now, what do you hope to see changed?
NAKI: TD has a long history supporting Black communities and broader diversity and equity initiatives but there is more work that needs to be done.
One thing we need to keep up is our ongoing collaborations that support members of racialized communities. I envision meaningful change across various segments of society, including education, health care and economic inclusion that reverses some of the barriers and challenges that biases, even unconscious, have erected.
Our Social Impact teams in Canada and the United States have taken a North American view to help solve problems that are global in nature, but with a targeted, local response. For example, with the launch of the TD Community Resilience Initiative, we worked with non-profits to evolve existing programming and used insights from global institutions such as John Hopkins University and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to identify new areas where support was needed most.
Based on this research, we decided to focus our support on health care organizations that are working with Black communities and other groups disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 and with issues of equity, such as the National Association of Community Health Centres, the Frontline Fund, and the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. Our focus now is about being even more purposeful about the investments we're making to dismantle some of the entrenched factors related to discrimination, bias or racism in society. We want to help change the systems well beyond banking that effect our daily lives so that they can be more equitable and just for everyone.