TD Bank is outpacing its peers in promoting women. Here's how.

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TD Bank has always had a companywide focus on the development of its female employees, but Karen Buck and Kelley Cornish are among the women who helped the Canadian-owned bank pick it up a notch in recent years.

With a new mentoring program established in 2016, and Cornish’s hiring last year as its first head of diversity, TD Bank has managed to do a major overhaul of how it fosters women’s career development.

“We really want to be the bank of choice for women, as both employees and as customers,” said Buck, head of commercial, retail and payment operations.

Buck helped to cheerlead for a program called Take the L.E.A.D. — leadership, engagement, achievement, development — which was built from the foundation of an earlier mentoring program that she had created.

In Take the L.E.A.D., TD Bank selects a half-dozen women each year for a 12-month development program. It targets employees who, through their work, have shown the potential to handle expanded job responsibilities. Each one is paired with a female executive, who serves as a mentor, and participants are given a comprehensive battery of subjects to explore and assess their own strengths.

The program, which pulls women from varying groups throughout the bank’s commercial division, includes one-on-one sessions between mentors and mentees, as well as group and cohort sessions.

“They meet with their respective groups and talk about things like emotional intelligence, executive presence and leadership skills,” Buck said. “This really takes it to the next level.”

The program was developed by three women at TD Bank — Molly Abair, Emily Stoddard and Rachel Wilner — and is sponsored by Chris Giamo, who leads commercial banking, and Pauline Ashworth, who leads human resources for commercial banking.

TD Bank has been working on improving diversity for more than a decade. But after Cornish was hired last year as U.S. head of diversity and inclusion, the bank moved to the next phase.

In her year-plus on the job, Cornish has created the Diversity 2.0 program, which is designed “to take a hard look at representation” among various communities within TD Bank, including women, minorities and LGBTQ, “and see how we can get there faster and do better,” she said.

“The higher up you go, the less you see those communities represented,” she said.

Cornish shifted the leadership of diversity programs from business group heads to the top executives and their direct reports.

“The most senior people in our organization, including our CEO, are really the ones with accountability and the ones who can influence change,” Cornish said.

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The efforts are starting to generate results. Last year about 53% of all TD managers who were promoted were women, according to DiversityInc. That was better than the rate of about 48% among the top 10 institutions in DiversityInc’s survey.

Additionally, about 61% of all TD Bank employees who were promoted into management positions were women, compared with 51% for peer banks, DiversityInc found.

TD Bank doesn’t plan to stop there. It will continue to monitor the data to see that it is meeting internal goals, Buck and Cornish said.

They aren’t the only women in high-ranking roles at TD Bank who are changing its approach to diversity and inclusion. Beth Webster, the head of human resources, for example, sponsored and led the redevelopment of TD Bank’s parental leave program, which offers 16 weeks of paid leave to all eligible employees. And Janice Withers, chief information officer, restructured the technology team with one of her goals being to empower employees to explore more interesting career paths.

It’s all part of the effort to make TD Bank the place where women want to take their banking business and develop a fulfilling banking career, Buck said.

“In banking, at the senior leadership level, the representation of women is low and we want to increase that,” Buck said.

Headquarters: Mount Laurel, N.J.

Assets at June 30: $312 billion
Return on equity: 7.12%
Return on assets: 0.9%

Female representation among corporate officers: 21%
Female representation on operating committee: 21%

The team: Molly Abair, Karen Buck, Kelly Cornish, Lynne Courchaine, Aleida Frederico, Ellen Glaessner, Deborah Gravinese, Anne Kline, Montresa McMillan, Celia Moncholi, Anita O'Dell, Ellen Patterson, Julie Pukas, Jane Russell, Lindsay Sacknoff, Emily Stoddard, Beth Webster, Rachel Wilner, Janice Withers

TD Bank's Linda Verba won a Lifetime Achievement award as part of the Most Powerful Women program last year.

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