Head of Solutions & Service Delivery & LGBTQ2+ Executive Lead, Falmouth, ME
Stephanie lives in Yarmouth, Maine with her wife Lynn and their two sons, Ethan and Noah, as well as the family’s dog, Rocky. Lynn and Stephanie recently celebrated their 28th anniversary. Ethan joined TD in July 2020 as a Campus Analyst, and Noah is at Carleton College where he’s a Classics major. Stephanie has always been “out” at TD and feels support and assurance from her peers and from TD management. “If I can, in any small or large way provide that security to anyone in the LGBTQ2+ TD community, I am happy and honored to do so.” Stephanie is proud to elevate awareness, conversations, cohesion, and to bring the needed inclusivity to her fellow LGBTQ2+ community at work (and outside of work), as well as to provide the access, comfort, and inclusivity to those who might not be “out” yet.
Stephanie’s held five very different roles with TD over the last 16 years with progressive roles in Technology, Control Processes Group, Dodd-Frank, Enterprise Real Estate, and Shared Services. Each of these positions, including the most recent role as the LGBTQ2+ Business Executive for TD Bank, came from mentoring engagements and networking. Stephanie advises people searching for a mentor to “look for someone you enjoy working with whose work you admire and respect. When you tell someone, you value their work and want to learn from them, most people will be honored to help you.” Stephanie recommends first figure out how your passions and skills connect and the direction you’d like to take in your career. “Truly knowing yourself and your passions, and how these values intersect with your skills and what drives you, is critical to finding the right role and growing your career. Equally important is developing your confidence because as a minority, sometimes it takes longer to find our true voice. And take every opportunity to participate in our LGBTQ2+ Buddy and Mentee/Mentor programs and our Business Resource Groups – this is where lasting friendships are made!”
As a mentor, Stephanie’s reiterates how important it is to feel comfortable expressing a negative experience and challenging others in a positive way. “To grow, we need to share progress and the changes we’ve seen and what we hope to see more of. Recognizing that we all have biases, and that opportunity is not always evenly distributed in the workforce, it’s not only vital for us to listen for bias, but also important to hold ourselves and others accountable. And as we improve our walk, we need to be genuine, authentic and transparent about who we are and where we are from. At the end of the day, welcoming different approaches and respecting differing views helps us to respect one another and to be better together.” As the LGBTQ2+ Executive Lead for TD, Stephanie can combine her passion for diversity and inclusivity, mentoring, and developing talent. She considers leading the highly successful World Pride Program in 2019 that included an engaging Diversity & Inclusion Summit for TD as one of the most rewarding times in her career. “The connections and networks that were created during the World Pride 2019 Program are dearest to me and my goal is to use this as a foundation for improving our TD Bank LGBTQ2+ experience for our colleagues, community, and customers!”
Quality Assurance Analyst, Mt Laurel, NJ
When Kara looks back on her transgender journey, she sadly recalls that her previous employer didn’t allow her to be herself at work. Feeling dejected, she sought employment in a new industry trying to find a welcoming employer. In 2006 when Kara received a job offer from TD, she asked her Human Resources Representative if she could be her true self at work and she happily advised, “Yes, be yourself, it’s no big deal.” As Kara’s friends and family were not understanding of her transgender journey, she felt relief to find an accepting employer. Grateful for an inclusive culture, Kara dedicated herself to her job and within six months, she earned a prestigious WOW! Award for her work performance. “When you work for an inclusive organization, it’s a very positive environment where it feels more fun than actual work.”
When Kara joined the bank, she was accepted but there were no LGBTQ2+ Business Resource Groups to offer any support. Kara frequently felt like the only trans person at work, so she learned to advocate and promote her journey. She spoke about how to treat trans people and answered lots of questions. Kara found colleagues receptive and welcoming to her message. While blazing a trail to promote transgender initiatives and education, Kara felt she could use her voice to advocate for those who will benefit from her story.
Kara’s proud that she’s no longer “a solo island” and has many transgender peers at work. As part of her work supporting Transgender colleagues on various diversity committees, Kara enjoys connecting people and planning future activities. As Kara thinks about what creates a welcoming culture for transgender employees, she advises to look for signs of acceptance. “It’s astounding to me how progressive TD is; I’m lucky to work for a company that cares about all employees.”
Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Houston, TX
It took John Patton seven years after he initially came out to friends to finally tell his mother in 1996. “Mothers always know,” said John, who is TD Bank’s U.S. Diversity & Inclusion Lead. “She was very accepting, but it was never discussed with the rest of our family, it never came up.” As a Black man, John knows how deep racism extends its ugly claws, even among communities that would seemingly not be as susceptible to discrimination, based on their own experiences. However, the first time John was called the “n-word,” was in a LGBTQ2+ social setting when he was in his mid-20s. It still has an impact after all these years. “Just because someone is gay, doesn’t mean they don’t have that entitlement about race instilled in them,” he explained. “It’s the same entitlement and access they had before they realized or discovered they were gay. Gay society is a subculture of the larger society and the same issues of racism exist.”
John grew up in Indianapolis in a primarily Black neighborhood where he didn’t see the depth of racism in society. He was teased as a youngster for “acting like a girl” at times but didn’t quite understand what that meant in terms of his own identity. He learned quickly how to hide his differences by the time he reached high school. The neighborhood he grew up in wasn’t one of privilege, and it wasn’t uncommon to have hardships like not having enough food, so you eat at your grandmother’s, or having to catch a ride home after basketball practice because mom had to work her second job. But he attended a Catholic Elementary and Junior High School where everyone wore uniforms so the differences in economic status weren’t obvious.
“I vaguely remembered a sixth-grade teacher saying you will have to work twice as hard to get half as far, but I didn’t really understand the implications of that at the time,” he said. But when he attended Purdue University, reality sank in. He realized the disparity of economic classes when he met others who came from wealthier households. Yet he succeeded, both academically and personally. He found a group of friends he fit in with and became a parent when his daughter was born during those years. However, through the help of friends, he soon realized he was gay. Though this was a major realization, he found acceptance and support from those same friends who helped him realize his truth. He became more aware of racism as the HIV/AIDs epidemic devastated his two communities: Black and LGBTQ2+. “The help to treat HIV/AIDS was not getting to the Black community, the disparity in healthcare access, prevention and treatment, are the same reasons we’ve seen Black communities being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” he said.
After college, John continued to thrive professionally, as he rose the corporate ladder. But once again, his life and whole world was completely changed following his sister’s death, and John did what any loving brother would do and became a father to his niece and two nephews. While John was able to step up and support his new family, the hardest part was not being able to shield them from the world. He would have to endure the fear and pain so many Black parents live with today. In an incident he’ll never forget, one of his children had an encounter during a traffic stop that escalated to traumatic heights. When John arrived at the scene, he saw his child face-down on the pavement. When John verified his identity, the situation de-escalated. But it has been seared in his memory forever. “He was so traumatized, he was only 16,” John said. “I was so infuriated, sad and angry. I’ll never forget it. It was horrible seeing him there. I wish I could take away that pain.”
There have been many cases in recent years where Blacks have been killed, but not a widespread, united response until George Floyd’s death shocked the nation. The world watched in horror as we saw his life end on video. “It feels different this time, it’s a perfect storm with a pandemic and the death of George Floyd,” John said. “The pandemic put a lot of us on the same playing field, and everybody is now feeling a similar sense of powerlessness.” But John remains hopeful. He feels privileged to work towards Diversity & Inclusion to help more move forward and support the changes so desperately needed for society to be a truly equal and inclusive place for all.
And he sees a unique opportunity for all of us to be a part of it, as well. “We all have the opportunity to make a legacy for your family with your choice. Here it is active or stay silent, and be on the wrong side of history,” he said. “This is the time to learn things, to turn a corner or pivot. This is it. Do it now.”
Eugenia wasn’t out when she joined TD as a Part Time Teller; she did her job and kept to herself. Not knowing any LGBTQ2+ team members, she didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything about her personal life at work. When she was promoted and moved to a new office location, Eugenia quickly noticed six colleagues were out and proud. For the first time in her career, Eugenia saw people go about their workday and share their passion and pride for their LGBTQ2+ community.
Encouraged by her colleague’s transparency, she came out to a close co-worker. To this day her colleague continues to be touched that she chose him to share such important information about her life. When Eugenia was transferred to another location, she had to start over with making friends at work and figuring out how to share her story. Gradually, colleagues who knew her truth told her it was ok to be open and she became more comfortable being out at work. “Once I came fully out, I felt at ease and so comfortable. TD made it easier for me to meet other LGBTQ2+ professionals and continue to be active in my community on a much larger scale.” In her current role, Eugenia is a Financial Service Associate Floater who frequently travels between 25 different stores, where she can be herself in all of them. “It’s a relief to bring your true self to work and eliminate fear and anxiety.”
Eugenia has the distinct honor of being one of the first TD employees to participate in the NYC Pride March in 2015. As twenty enthusiastic colleagues piled into a van with TD merchandise to share with the crowd, they were awed by the amazing celebration. While recent NYC Pride celebrations at TD involve 200+ employees marching and celebrating along with vans and two floats, the same electric passion and gratitude is as evident now as it was at the very first Pride celebration.
Solutions Analyst IV, West Columbia, SC
During his four years as a busy Lockbox, Item Processing Specialist for South Financial Group, Justin was not familiar with TD Bank. When TD acquired his employer, his job was eliminated, and Justin had to quickly figure out the best next step for his career. He researched roles that matched his experience and interviewed for new opportunities within the bank. Impressed with his experience, TD hired Justin for an Automated Clearing House (ACH) Specialist opportunity in 2014.
As a new TD employee, Justin noticed multiple articles and announcements about Pride events across the organization. He was impressed that in addition to colleagues participating in Pride activities, TD is also a sponsor of Pride events throughout our business footprint. While Justin wasn’t out with his prior employer, he felt TD was a safe and welcoming environment where he could be his authentic self while confidently growing his career. The supportive and inclusive environment helped Justin feel comfortable to come out to TD colleagues.
Since joining TD, Justin has worked in progressive roles on project teams supporting Payment Operations and Technology. Maximizing all the skills and experience he’s gained on his career journey; Justin now manages a team that supports the business line doing the work he did before he joined TD. Justin believes he would not have the full circle experience of being the manager of one of his first roles without TD’s inclusive culture of supporting diversity. “TD’s inclusive culture empowers and supports people to achieve their unique goals.”
Justin treasures the wonderful people in TD’s global LGBTQ2+ community throughout the organization. “You can always reach out with questions, advice, whatever’s needed; our LGBTQ2+ community at TD is full of real people who treat each other like family!”
Director of Operations, Retail Banking, Wethersfield, CT
Tim is active in TD’s Diversity & Inclusion initiatives and work within Southern New England to advocate for diverse colleagues and growing as an ally every day. Tim enjoys his work as both a group and informal mentor to LGBTQ2+ colleagues. Tim identifies as a gay cisgender man and as a member of the queer community. At home in Hartford, CT he’s a proud uncle, partner of 14 years and a pug dad.
Tim had five years of experience in the banking industry when he joined TD as an Assistant Store Manager in Brooklyn, NY. Tim was instrumental in working to build TD’s brand in NYC in the early 2000s. (Fun fact: Tim got to watch Julia Louis-Dreyfus film a TD commercial in the Bensonhurst store!) Tim credits TD’s warm, accepting and encouraging culture as the motivator to grow his career with the retail bank over the last 18 years.
Tim’s enjoyed watching TD’s world view become more all-encompassing to diversity over the years and feels the bank now leads with an inclusive mindset. As a people manager, Tim had an employee on his team who transitioned and appreciated that TD provided easy access to tangible resources for both the employee and the manager. When Tim realized his transgender employee had an exemplary performance trophy (prior to their transition) he requested a new trophy to include their new name. Tim was delighted that no one questioned his gesture, and a new trophy was quickly delivered to the deserving employee.
Tim’s advice to job seekers is to learn more about an organization’s culture is to understand all you can about company groups and communities that interest you. “Beyond TD’s sponsorship of Pride events and marketing campaigns endorsing our commitment to the LGBTQ2+ community, the colleagues and non-profit groups we support are strong because of the passion and commitment across all of our footprint.”
Senior Recruiter, West Palm Beach, FL
Senior Recruiter, Frank Romano considers Jan. 1, 2007, a day of rebirth. On New Year’s Day, in 2007, Frank found the strength and courage to come out of the closet to his mom and sister. As a 13-year-old boy, Frank felt awkward and different from his peers. He didn’t understand why his friend’s liked girls and he did not. This is when the act began, of forcing himself to be like his friends. While he did not understand that he was gay, the psychological toll of hiding would take a huge toll in the coming years.
From feeling the need to overcompensate when meeting new people, including family that he had not seen in a while, to fearing the question of, “do you have any girls that you like,” Frank developed severe anxiety and a stutter. The stutter was so bad that Frank was unable to say “hello” when answering the phone. The anxiety caused him to keep to himself and become a loner. Frank’s high school guidance counselor told him to find a profession that does not require him to talk too much. Despite a deep desire to put himself out there and enjoy his friends, Frank grew deeper into his shell.
Frank joined TD Bank in 2002 as an Assistant Head Teller. In late 2006 Frank desperately wanted to come out of the closet; he met someone that he really liked but was afraid to act on his feelings. He’s extremely close to his mom and sister and was living home at the time and could not continue living a lie. When a friend wanted to fix Frank up on a blind date on New Year’s Eve of 2006, he realized he couldn’t take the pressure anymore. On New Year’s Day 2007, Frank came out of the closet and the gift of speech returned. The stuttering stopped. Looking back on the conversation with his family, Frank recalls his mom crying, not because he was gay, but because he lived in misery for so many years and she felt she failed him. The irony is not lost on Frank that he believed his family wanted him to be a certain way, but they just wanted him to be happy.
In 2009, Frank came out at work when he noticed National Coming Out Day on the TD Team WOW! intranet site. While a former colleague told him to “stay in the closet at work in fear that it would harm him professionally,” he chalked that advice up not to malice, but rather little education on being out in the workplace. Once he came out at work everything came full circle; colleagues embraced Frank and it made their relationships closer. Little by little, Frank got involved in LGBTQ2+ events and finally went to his first Pride celebration in NYC in 2011. Because Frank had the confidence to bring his true self to work his career flourished and he’s achieved many goals. In 2017, he became the LGBTQ2+ Business Resource Group Lead in NYC and now co-leads the South Florida initiative.
As a Senior Recruiter, Frank has deep expertise in interviewing and growing one’s career. When trying to learn about an organization’s culture during interviews, Frank suggests, “First research the organization and make sure the work culture aligns with your values. Speak to your recruiter about initiatives that you are passionate about and learn how the company supports them.” Frank feels to grow your career, you should have a mentor. “Having a mentor is key to growing within an organization. Partner up with someone who is in the position you want to pursue and have regular touchpoints to gain insight. Look for opportunities to shadow when time allows.” Frank sponsors the LGBTQ2+ Internal Mobility Fair which brings together hiring managers and recruiters to talk about new roles and offer the LGBTQ2+ audience a chance to meet hiring leaders, learn more about open roles and team culture and hear directly from recruiters to understand the skills and experience needed for each opportunity.
Senior Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, Toronto ON
Born in Hong Kong, Alvin and his mother moved to Toronto, Canada when he was in junior high school. With a perspective that finance is the language and foundation of business, Alvin studied accounting in college, took the Chartered Accountant Exam, and articled with a public accounting firm. Alvin’s passion for learning led him to pursue night school classes in public relations and marketing while he was working full time in accounting. A casual networking conversation impressed a leader with a communications firm, and he offered Alvin a job combining his finance experience with media relations expertise.
Realizing the value of his wide-ranging experience, TD hired Alvin 13 years ago to work in Investor Relations in a role designed to tell the bank’s financial story. To develop a holistic perspective and experience across different areas of the bank, Alvin moved into subsequent roles in Branch Banking, Personal Banking Products and Brand Marketing. In his current role as Senior Manager in Diversity & Inclusion, Alvin partners together with TD leaders, business and functions teams, employee volunteers, and external partners, to help develop TD’s strategy to support LGBTQ2+ colleagues, customers and communities. Alvin is proud of the long-standing and authentic commitment of senior leaders at TD, to support the LGBTQ2+ community, including being the first bank in North America to announce same-sex spousal benefits for employees more than 25 years ago. While progress has been made, both at TD and as a society, Alvin is dedicated to the work that still lies ahead. For example, he is working together with TD teammates and external partners to help increase understanding and experiences of underrepresented LGBTQ2+ communities, including transgender, non-binary, bisexual, queer, and racialized LGBTQ2+ community members.
Reflecting on his career journey, Alvin’s grateful for the chance to grow professionally and personally in each role. After he joined TD, Alvin noticed TD’s prominent external and internal communications supporting the LGBTQ2+ community and was impressed with the CEO’s commitment to support the LGBTQ2+ community in addition to multiple executives throughout the organization expressing their sponsorship as members and allies. TD’s inclusive culture helped Alvin feel comfortable and proud to come out at work!
His passion for learning and hope to help make a difference led Alvin to exciting opportunities. “Through joining TD’s LGBTQ2+ Business Resource Groups and volunteer opportunities, everyone can get involved and make important contributions to support their community. These forums help shape progress, connect you with other allies and strengthen the LGBTQ2+ community. Through active involvement supporting these initiatives, your professional skills will sharpen, and your network will grow beyond what you thought possible.”
For Alvin, TD has a unique culture, one that combines strong commitment to excellence by colleagues together with an environment that cares deeply for all employees, customers and communities. Having worked for TD for over a decade, Alvin feels it’s easy to take the inclusive culture for granted. Chatting with friends from other organizations that are less welcoming or colleagues who left TD only to return because they missed the sense of belonging, reminds Alvin to cherish how comfortable TD makes you feel.
VP, LGBTQ2+ Business Development, New York, NY
Steven has the unique distinction as the first (and only) person at TD in the United States to hold the job of Vice President, LGBTQ2+ Business Development. This groundbreaking role was created to identify business opportunities to support the needs and interests of LGBTQ2+ customers. Steven tirelessly cultivates relationships in the community to discover ways to enhance current and potential business relationships through TD’s Commercial, Wealth and Consumer banking programs. Like any new opportunity, Steven had to build the role while doing the work. Leveraging his expertise to create programs and resources to benefit the LGBTQ2+ community, Steven combined his banking knowledge with his many contacts in the LGBTQ2+ community to seamlessly transition into his role.
An active volunteer, Steven enjoys meeting new people from all areas of the bank. “TD’s inclusive culture flows throughout the organization, so you’ll always find people who are passionate and engaged. It’s great to learn from other people and collaborate on new ideas. It’s interesting to meld skills and experiences for worthy causes!” As Co-Chair of TD’s Metro New York Diversity Council, Steven is an influencer who leads a team in the commercial bank to develop plans to better connect with diverse business owners.
Steven is excited to take part in this year’s Proud to Lead, TD’s cross-border program to develop inclusion forward LGBTQ2+ leaders. Working with a facilitator to focus on their individual management style and uncover methods to strengthen performance as a leader, the program offers endless opportunities to develop skills, collaborate and learn from peers. Joining Proud to Lead allows Steven to reinforce connections with friends and colleagues and form bonds with new people. “TD offers wonderful opportunities; be curious, learn what’s out there and experience everything that interests you.”
When asked for advice on growing your career, Steven advises “be clear on your goals, ask for what you want and get involved through volunteering in areas that support your passions. You won’t build your career in four walls; you need to meet new people and be open to learning. Consider your career a latus not a ladder.”
Head of Mortgage Operations, Single Point of Contact, Washington DC
As Sterling Higgins describes her accomplishments with TD, you’d think she’s been part of the organization for years rather than someone who joined the bank in October 2020. Hired as a Vice President of Mortgage Loan Operations, Sterling worked hard to manage a busy team during the pandemic. Four months into her new role, Sterling was tapped to be the Head of Mortgage Operations, Single Point of Contact program. Extensive experience combined with a highly energetic, positive personality and willingness to embrace change helped Sterling build a team supporting a new concept in mortgage operations.
While working through the crazy busy experience of building a new team, Sterling was pleasantly surprised by her new employer. As she checked in with leaders to discuss progress on the new team, the consistent message was not to just get through the work but to pause and evaluate how we can improve ourselves, meet business goals and do better going forward.
Despite always being “proud to be out” at work, Sterling frequently didn’t discuss details about her private life with former colleagues. “With some previous employers, it was probably a disadvantage to be out at work because it wasn’t the norm.” Sterling describes her manager, colleagues and mentors with TD as “staunch allies of the LGBTQ2+ community who don’t miss a beat in their support. There’s no negative impact. Colleagues and managers ask about my wife. It’s normal. I’ve never had a work culture that’s so open and encouraging for you to be yourself.”
During recent turbulent times ranging from social injustice, riots, shootings or natural disasters, TD employees receive a prompt message from CEO, Greg Braca expressing TD’s support. “The CEO’s immediate response to social issues is impactful and makes me feel connected and proud to be part of the organization.”
Sterling was eager to join a recent one-hour meeting educating 300+ people managers on the benefits of hiring Autistic talent. Learning more about Autism including interview techniques and hearing success stories from leaders who’ve hired Autistic talent was enlightening. Sterling appreciated the stories shared from colleagues with Autistic children or family members who felt comfortable sharing insight into their experience with a loved one with Autism. “TD’s an employer who really values and promotes an inclusive culture.”
Looking back on her career, Sterling was the person to spearhead change both on the job and within the LGBTQ2+ community. Working for organizations that had no LGBTQ2+ Business Resource Groups, she built business cases to launch these programs. “I’ve had to present research stating the benefit of an LGBTQ2+ resource group to the CEO of a previous employer. I had to go through training to introduce these programs to employees. To join TD and become the LGBTQ2+ Co-Chair for DC/Metro South is exciting.” Rather than work to defend the need for a platform for the LGBTQ2+ community at work, Sterling now joins forces with likeminded colleagues across the organization to help shape programs that will benefit LGBTQ2+ colleagues, customers and communities.