Employee Engagement, Gender Equality, Talent Acquisition

John Hancock’s Sofia Teixeira on Why “Attracting Diverse Talent Should Be a Top Priority”

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When you think of diverse workplaces, a financial institution founded in 1862 probably wouldn’t be the first company to come to your mind. Sofia Teixeira, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at John Hancock, acknowledges as much. But despite their 19th-century roots, John Hancock is anything but stuck in the past. With a rapidly diversifying U.S. population and increasing awareness around gender and racial inequality, John Hancock knows that diversity and inclusion (D&I) need to be top business priorities if they want to stay ahead.

Already, the company is making some impressive progress, particularly when it comes to women’s representation in senior leadership roles — John Hancock’s CEO, CMO, Head of HR, Head of Corporate Communications and, as of Teixeira’s hiring this past March, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, are all women. But the company isn’t resting on their laurels. John Hancock has many ambitious D&I goals for the future, including a target of having women fill 30 percent of board and executive positions by the end of 2020.

“John Hancock is making great strides in terms of women in leadership roles in recent years, but we still have work to do. We recognize that,” Texeira shared in an interview with Glassdoor. Still, “these women are fearlessly helping a centuries-old company kick things into gear in 2018,” she added.

We caught up with Teixeira to learn more about how to create a work environment in which women thrive, best practices for diversity and inclusion and why attracting diverse talent should be a top priority for all businesses — here’s what she had to say.

Glassdoor: There are a lot of different definitions for D&I. What exactly do those terms mean at John Hancock?

Sofia Teixeira: John Hancock and Manulife define diversity as, “all the ways in which we are unique, both visible and invisible, innate and external.” Inclusion is defined as, “an environment where everyone can bring their authentic selves to work and achieve their full potential.” As we grow and transform across our business, we see diversity and inclusion as essential to driving the customer-centric innovation we strive for.

I personally believe that diversity cannot thrive without inclusion. We must focus on the intentional creation of an environment where everyone is treated fairly, is valued for their unique skills, experiences and perspectives, and has equal access to resources and opportunities, allowing them to fully contribute to the organization’s success.

[Related: Struggling to Kick Off Diversity & Inclusion Efforts? Start With This Checklist]

Glassdoor: As Head of Diversity and Inclusion at John Hancock, what does your job involve? Any exciting initiatives in the works that you can preview to us?

Sofia Teixeira: I am responsible for the development and implementation of our diversity and inclusion priorities, programs and reporting processes. This includes recommending and leading the development of key programs that help achieve measurable results; integrating and optimizing best practices; and establishing performance measures, metrics and analytics relative to diversity initiatives and their impact on John Hancock.

From a global standpoint, having a diversity and inclusion strategy is new for the Company and it will be my responsibility to localize that strategy to our U.S. workforce.

Glassdoor: John Hancock has a pretty impressive track record for women in leadership positions. How have you created an environment in which women can thrive?

Sofia Teixeira: John Hancock is making great strides in terms of women in leadership roles in recent years, but we still have work to do. We recognize that. We are taking steps to get there and making steady progress toward creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace — starting with a group of strong women in leadership.

Marianne Harrison joined John Hancock as the first female CEO in the company’s history, and is joined by a group of female leaders at John Hancock who are helping to transform a 156-year old financial services company in a male-dominated industry. These women are fearlessly helping a centuries-old company kick things into gear in 2018.

One of the many aspects of John Hancock that I find so refreshing and inspiring is the Company’s commitment to empowering women across the organization. We offer leadership and skill-building programs both internally and through partnerships with organizations such as Women in Capital Markets and Catalyst. John Hancock is also a proud member the 30% Club, publicly sharing the aspiration to reach 30 percent women on boards and in executive positions by the end of 2020.

In addition, our Global Women’s Alliance (GWA) supports the recruitment, development and advancement of women at Manulife/John Hancock by providing a network and opportunities for women to be mentored, share experiences and have fulfilling careers. The goal is to elevate the profile of women across our organization, inspiring and enabling each to reach her full potential.

[Related: How to Recruit and Retain Phenomenal Women in 2018]

Glassdoor: It seems like there are more and more studies about the concrete benefits of diversity, like increased financial performance and the ability to come up with new and innovative ideas. What are some of the ways in which you’ve seen diversity benefit companies firsthand — any interesting stats or anecdotes you can share?

Sofia Teixeira: Absolutely, I believe that companies with diverse leadership teams outperform on profitability, and those with diverse workforces in general have higher engagement. This is likely why diversity has been catapulted onto the list of CEO priorities in the last few years. Although this is difficult work, I think all companies focused on increasing diversity within their workforces will see benefits.

PwC has done tremendous work with D&I. I am so inspired when I learn about the leaps they are taking and the progress they are making as an organization. I have heard Tim Ryan speak a few times and his passion truly moves me. I also love Accenture’s “Inclusion Starts With I” video, which does a perfect job communicating the importance of inclusion in the workplace.

Here at John Hancock, I’ve quickly learned about the impact that our ERGs have and it’s tremendous! In my first few weeks, I already witnessed a member of our PROUD ERG identify an opportunity to update language on one of the electronic forms used for administrative purposes. An eloquently crafted email with recommended changes was sent to our AskHR mailbox, it was then funneled to the appropriate team, and immediately acted upon. This is incredibly important in terms of fostering a workplace that’s truly inclusive — the fact that she felt like she both had a voice and that her voice is valued, led to a team working together to drive results and make change.

Glassdoor: Companies often talk about how hard it is to hire diverse candidates, citing pipeline issues, a lack of budget for diversity initiatives, etc. In your experience, what are some of the biggest reasons companies have a hard time attracting diverse candidates, and how can they overcome those challenges?

Sofia Teixeira: I feel that there are two main challenges to hiring diverse candidates, but they are solvable:

  • Having diverse candidate pools and slates: Companies must be deliberate about making and nurturing connections with a diverse candidate pool and ensuring they have diverse slates for open positions, especially at the top, where decisions are made.
  • Diverse interview panels: Companies should also have a diverse interview panel when meeting with potential candidates. This ensures that the panel is having a productive debrief with diverse opinions about the candidacy of an individual. This helps to break down bias that may exist in the interview process. For candidates, it’s important for them to see that there is diversity within the organization, as well.

Learn More & Download:

Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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