Women's History Month is an important opportunity to look back to our past and recognize the ways in which society has progressed to open up more paths for women.
Every woman has her own unique path and story. This year, Women's History Month 2023 is focused around the theme: "Women who tell stories."
To mark the month at TD, five women from across the Bank sat down to share their stories: How they learned to bring their most authentic selves to work, how they grew in their careers, and how they worked to help make a difference for the next generation of leaders at the Bank.
Read their stories here:
My husband and I landed in Canada from Nigeria in the winter of 2015. We decided to apply for permanent residency because I was pregnant, and we wanted to give our child an opportunity to experience life differently from the way we knew it.
I had always worked in investment banking back home. Still, I wasn't sure if that was what I wanted to do in Canada. But I started looking for jobs and it was more of a struggle than I imagined. After a few months, I learned of a program called "Empowering Women" at an employment agency called ACCES Employment, an organization that I have since learned received a TD Ready Challenge grant in 2018.
Through workshops and mentorship, the program helps support newcomer women as they launch their careers in Canada. For me, it was amazing to see women leaders from the program give their time to help people they didn't know.
Based on what I learned in the program, I applied for, and landed a role at TD. I struggled my first year at TD. I had to navigate questions like: How do I ask for support? How do I start networking?
There was an adjustment period for me, too, especially in terms of work culture. In my country, I was accustomed to being seen and not heard. I was raised to be a mom and a wife, not to be a woman leader, not raised to be vocal.
In my first days at the Bank, I would sit and sweat at my desk because I had to pick up my son at 6 p.m. from daycare, but I didn't know how to tell my manager that I needed to get out of work to catch my 4 p.m. train to do so. I approached my manager, and I said, "I don't know how to say this, but my son is at daycare. I dropped him off at seven this morning and I need to be there before six to pick him up."
She replied, "So why didn't you say anything?" I didn't know I could say anything.
Eventually, I found my voice and began to bring my authentic self to work. I have an accent and that doesn't stop me from speaking up. I love to sing and dance sometimes when I'm at my desk and no one says, "Grace, you are crazy." These are the moments that make me realize that people accept my culture the way I know it and the way I present it.
As I settled into my role, I began to think about how I could help newcomer women like me feel more confident at work. I remember thinking to myself, if I was going through this, there may be others at the Bank going through the same thing.
I decided to start up an alumni network for the Empowering Women program. We now have 40 committed members, all of whom are newcomers who've moved into roles aligned with their skill sets.
I'm passionate about the visibility of newcomer women at TD. I'm making a legacy for others because if I didn’t do it, somebody else will just not think it's possible.
I've been with TD for 12 years in a variety of engineering and management roles within Information, Technology Services (ITS), and most recently I've been managing our Public Cloud Infrastructure team. It's an amazing space to be in as there are many innovation initiatives to better support our lines of business within the broader organization.
I came out as transgender among my friends and family before I came out at work. Even though I knew I worked in a supportive, accepting environment that valued diversity, I was nervous to come out at work. Would I be taken seriously? Would it affect my career in any way? I had not received support from some in my personal life and did not know what to expect from a professional standpoint.
Part of the reason it was so challenging to come out at work was because I hadn't seen someone in my situation. I hadn't necessarily seen someone grow into a leadership role and then halfway through their career come out as transgender.
I was very nervous. I was nervous to tell my colleagues, my team, my leadership. But I have to say, the outpouring of support that I received was absolutely incredible. The heartwarming messages of support and the positive reception I've received at all levels have made me feel extremely welcome at TD.
When you can be your authentic self at work, you bring more value to your team and to the organization as a whole. When we feel comfortable to be ourselves in the workplace, we're able to bring our best to work every day and feel confident in voicing our perspectives. The wealth of diversity that we have at TD makes us a stronger organization as our colleagues challenge us to think differently and develop new and better solutions to meet our objectives.
Having representation within our leadership teams, from all walks of life, helps to send a strong message of support for diversity and inclusion. I think that's very motivational for folks, to see someone in a role you aspire to that you can identify with – someone that's perhaps been in a similar situation – and to know they were very successful at TD. That's highly motivating and I hope my story can help reach someone who may be in a similar situation and facing the same doubts and fears that I did.
In my 11 years at TD, I've taken on various roles as I've progressed in my career. I started in a very junior position, but as I found my footing, and connected with those around me, I've since grown into a leadership role.
Along the way, I've been supported by many women leaders, leaders who've lifted me above themselves. For me, that's looked like everything from formal mentorship and career development to coffee chats, and sponsorship from women that I've known and worked with through different diversity and inclusion initiatives and charitable organizations.
As I've gained confidence in my skills and my own capabilities as a leader, I've also looked for ways to help give back to the next generation of women at the Bank.
To be honest, I joined TD to work as I saved up money to pursue my post-secondary education. I always had the intention to go back to school to get my post-secondary degree. Neither my parents nor my aunts and uncles graduated high school; some of them never completed elementary school.
But work got busy. I had a hand leading the TD Insurance Indigenous Internship program, which has since been expanded to other areas of the Bank. Now we have close to 50 Indigenous interns across TD. When I saw some of these young interns, many of them who were women, achieving their goals and being the first in their families to attend post-secondary school, it resonated with me.
As I moved up in my career, my educational goals were on the backburner. But the interns were my inspiration to keep going and I'm happy to say I've now achieved my goal.
One of the things I'm most proud to have had a hand in creating, along with many other colleagues as well as others, is the TD Scholarship for Indigenous Peoples, which launched in 2022. I can just envision scholarship recipients telling their communities what they've achieved, especially women and girls in the communities thinking to themselves, wow, if she can do it, I can do it.
I started my TD career in an interesting way: I walked into the branch to open an account, and I had such a great experience that I said, "I want to work here." The next day I returned with my resume, interviewed and got the job. I spent around five years working as a part-time teller while I was in school and when I graduated, I stayed, and TD became my full-time career.
Prior to becoming a leader in HR, I spent a number of years as a manager in the branch network, and without a doubt, there were very few women in leadership at the beginning. I've seen a lot of positive change since those days. From my position as an HR leader supporting businesses that used to be overwhelmingly staffed by men, like Capital Markets and Technology, it's amazing to see the rapid pace of change.
I love being a part of a group that helps to create programs to help our talent to thrive and that also helps to bring new talent into the bank. In my role, I try to help drive the effort to expand that table for women, and advance opportunities to have transparent conversations within the organization.
This year, I helped develop a series of Stronger Together sessions, allowing women to have honest conversations with each other about topics that might have once been taboo, like infertility, domestic violence and menopause. The goal is to learn from one another, and to realize that we're not alone in our experiences.
What we've realized is we need to support breaking those taboos because we know that what impacts women outside the workplace impacts the way that we work in the workplace and how we can create a more supportive and inclusive environment where women can thrive. Years ago, I would have hesitated to even suggest that we participate in something like that. And I'm not even sure that it would have been supported, but now feel very supported to suggest such programs
From my vantage point in HR, I'm seeing fewer assumptions being made about women's aspirations than I used to. I think we're giving more space for women to speak for themselves, to talk about their aspirations transparently. I'm also seeing many more women at the Bank feeling more confident to ask for what they need and to talk about things like compensation that they would have been more hesitant to discuss in interviews or while negotiating offers. It's something I hope will only continue.
When I finished university, it seemed like there were not a lot of women in tech. I was interested in the field and wanted to pursue career in it. I landed roles in the industry, and all my managers were men.
I came to Canada from Ukraine in early 2022 and was working for a Ukrainian company while I was based Toronto. When the war broke out, I realized I couldn't go back. I learned that TD was hiring refugees and displaced individuals impacted by the war, so I applied for a position at the Bank. I was hired one month later. I'm grateful to TD because of this program; it just made a difference for the entire community.
Now that I've begun my Canadian life – and career – in earnest, I'm learning more about myself and how I can grow as a woman leader at the Bank.
As I expand my professional community, I've attended a networking session and I've connected with a few women leaders at TD. I find these meetings with women leaders really inspiring because I see how passionate they are about what they do – and how they champion those coming up in the next generation at the Bank.
For the first time, I have a woman manager who is supportive of me, not only in the professional sense, but also in my personal life, especially as I navigate my new home. My idea of a tech leader has changed – I can now see myself stepping into such a position.