Our Leadership Team Still Wasn’t Diverse Enough. So We Changed Our Hiring Strategy
Plus, six challenges facing women at Wealthsimple, and what we’re doing about it.
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Back in June 2020, we published a list of commitments to make Wealthsimple more inclusive — to make our company better, of course, but also so that we can serve you, our clients, better. We know that a diverse and equitable workforce will help us be a more responsive, wiser company as we work to democratize wealth for all Canadians. Among our commitments were things like changing our hiring practices, and bringing in experts to help better educate our workforce. We also promised to share regular updates on our progress. Which is what we’re doing right now.
First, a Recap
In June 2021, we reported that we had increased the percentage of Wealthsimple employees who self-identify as racialized, changed our hiring processes to source candidates from outside our traditional networks, and improved gender representation within our tech teams. What’s more, we introduced new mental health and gender-affirmation benefits, and rolled out pay transparency guidelines.
Some Recent Encouraging Stuff
Since our last update, we’ve continued to make progress toward our commitments. A few highlights:
Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh joined the team as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Her job is to deepen our DEI practices; to develop strategies to bring about systemic, sustainable change; and to ensure that we develop clear metrics to help hold us accountable in our progress.
Nearly 31% of employees on our Engineering, Data Science, and Portfolio Management teams are women, up from 18% in August 2020. On our Engineering team alone, the number of women, non-binary, transgender, intersex, two-spirit, or gender-non-conforming employees rose from 20.5% to 30% in the past year. In leadership roles, that number rose from 5% to 24%.
In 2021, Wealthsimple Magazine met its goal of having at least 20% of our assigned writers and artists be racialized.
Our Employee Resource Group program has continued to grow and bring about positive change. Rainbow, which represents Wealthsimple’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community, worked with our People team to introduce gender-affirming language in the workplace, and raised thousands of dollars for community organizations. Meanwhile, our BIPOC employee-resource group has held events on Indigenous allyship and on raising awareness about Islamophobia.
We hosted a session where Lori Campbell, Associate President of Indigenous Engagement at the University of Regina. A proud, two-spirit Indigiqueer woman, and a member of the Montreal Lake First Nation, Campbell shared her story as an intergenerational survivor of the residential school system and as a child of the Sixties Scoop generation.
We expanded , a peer-mentoring program that enables women from across the company to share experiences and receive sponsorship from senior company leaders, to help them grow both personally and professionally.
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Where We’re Still Falling Short
All those things are great, but there’s still work to be done at Wealthsimple. One crucial area where we hope to see improvement is in the representation of racialized folks at the director, VP, and executive-team levels — senior leadership, as we call it. As of January 2022, 33% of our 77-person senior-leadership team was racialized, with 8% of those folks belonging to Indigenous, Black, Latin American, Middle Eastern, North African, or West Asian communities. Our goal is to get that first number up to 38% by mid-2023 and for two-thirds of racialized candidates to come from the low-representation ethnicities listed above. We also aim to increase gender diversity among senior leadership from 42% to 45% by mid-2023.
What We’re Doing About It
Ensuring our leadership team is diverse can’t be left to good intentions. That’s why we created a new senior-leadership hiring strategy, which includes practices to encourage equitable and diverse hiring and to mitigate bias. Every candidate on the shortlist for a senior-leadership role, for one, will go through a DEI-specific interview to ensure that we’re hiring folks who are invested in building diverse, inclusive teams and in fostering equitability. We also plan on collecting dynamic demographic data throughout the company to better understand who among our team members is thriving, being promoted, and sticking around, as well as who’s leaving the company. We look forward to sharing more details in our next update.
We Audited Women’s Experiences at Wealthsimple
Aligned with our diversity-in-leadership efforts, we’re in the process of conducting a company-wide audit to identify and address areas where bias exists, especially concerning marginalized communities. As part of that effort, we partnered with the consultancy group Feminuity, to help us better understand women’s experiences at Wealthsimple. Previous diversity and inclusion surveys showed us that women tended to have disparate — that is, worse — employee experiences than men. Feminuity wrote a qualitative report on why that was happening and identified ways we can improve.
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Here are six main barriers to inclusion that women, especially racialized women, have encountered within our organization, according to Feminuity’s research:
Lack of representation in leadership
Poor work-life balance
Inclusive mindset (i.e., too much gatekeeping by white colleagues)
Not enough psychological safety
Lack of recognition
Too much “glue work”
The Feminuity report drove home that Wealthsimple needs to go further, beyond performative acts of allyship, to improve working conditions and to hold leadership accountable for ensuring that women feel empowered and supported. In response to these findings, leadership teams are in the process of drafting action plans to address the differences in employee experiences at Wealthsimple. Doing so will give company leaders time to reflect on the Feminuity report, create commitments to address problem areas, and establish accountability metrics that they will share with their teams to ensure that everyone’s feedback is taken into consideration. We don’t want this to be a top-down effort.
We Won’t Settle for Just Good
Ultimately, our north star is redefining what “good” looks like when it comes to the success of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Wealthsimple, and in the financial-tech space more broadly. Because we believe good isn’t enough, we want to be great. We don’t have all the answers yet, and we still have a long way to go, but we’re bent on meeting our commitments. We want to build the world’s most human financial company, and we know that having a workforce that reflects the diversity of our clients is key to how we'll get there.
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