International Women's Day is a global holiday on March 8 that celebrates the achievements of women and gender equity. For Jasmine Surti, TD Bank Senior Manager, Risk Marketplace Lead, these are the same values she focuses on 365 days a year both inside and outside of the office.
This year's global campaign theme of #EmbraceEquity for the 2023 International Women's Day commemoration has a particular meaning for Jasmine.
"There's a saying I have heard - Equality is 'everybody gets a pair of shoes'; equity means everybody gets shoes that fit.' I would even take this a step further by saying that equity is everyone getting the kind of shoes that they need to excel and reach their fullest potential," she explained. "Embracing equity means facing the truth that in our society, all people don't really start from a level playing field. So, if we embrace and work towards equity, it means working towards each individual getting the support and resources that they need to succeed, which might be different than what someone else needs."
The fight for equity has been a life-long endeavor for Jasmine who primarily grew up in Mercer County, New Jersey as one of four children. Her mother's fulfilling career as a midwife and her father who worked for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection were strong examples of how people could achieve outward success and pursue their passions to make the world a better place. She also saw at a young age, the inequities throughout society that exist today and makes sure as a mother of two daughters that she does all she can in pursuit of equity.
The practical steps
Jasmine knows it's not enough to just talk about trying to achieve equity. She has prioritized taking specific actions throughout her career. Among the ways she considers most effective are:
- Requesting diverse slate of candidates when hiring for a role.
- Intentionally working to broaden her network to include people who don't look like her and have different backgrounds, and regularly sending them referrals for job openings that come across her desk.
- Doing whatever possible to ensure colleagues are paid fairly and equitably within the scope of her authority.
- Showing up and participating in activities and events set up by various Business Resource Groups such as the Black Employee Network, Forever Proud, Women at TD, Pan-Asian Leadership, and more. Also encouraging colleagues to attend these events.
- Using people's pronouns as they wish.
- Mentoring and talking to people about their career interests, reading and giving feedback on resumes, helping with job interview preparation, and more. She takes pride that many of her mentees have successfully landed the job or the promotion they were going for. Jasmine is grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward after she was helped by many mentors throughout her career.
- Speaking up – whether it's to ask a team member to share her thoughts in a meeting who didn't get a chance to speak before someone interrupted her, or passing along an article highlighting the effects of inequity in the workplace for women and people of color, and information for leaders on what to do about it.
Jasmine says it's vital to speak up for others when they are not in the "room," specifically for women and members of minority communities.
"The song from the musical Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda, "The Room Where It Happens," sums it up perfectly," she said. "That song and the emotion behind it gives me chills – how often are major decisions made behind closed doors where everyone looks and thinks the same? Inequity thrives on sameness and on silence, so if I am lucky enough to be in that room, I want to make sure I use my access and power to speak up for the people who didn't have access to being there. And I hope someone is doing the same for me when I am not in the room!"
In Jasmine's personal life, she also makes a strong effort to "actively and continuously work to unlearn behaviors that spring from unconscious bias." It has been a life-long journey that has included two book clubs in which the members read books by women of color, LGBTQ+ authors, and other under-represented writers. She also reads various books and takes classes about anti-racism.
She continues to seek ways to apply her learnings to her day-to-day life, and the lessons learned from mistakes. Jasmine remains optimistic despite the challenges in fully realizing the goal of embracing equity.
"I hope we're at the beginning of a phase where we are really walking the walk in diversity, equity and inclusion," she said. "It's not just a fun day or month. It's our commitment to equity across the board, across all levels, across all groups, at all times."