How Tangerine is Levelling the Playing Field
Written by Annastasia Liu

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

While 2020 proved to be a challenging year for many, it also demonstrated how when times are tough, it's how we respond and rebuild that makes the difference. In light of the tragic death of George Floyd and the overwhelming call to denounce anti-Black racism on an international scale, Tangerine responded by coming together and actively working towards change.

Level, Tangerine's anti-Black racism employee task force, is designed to create an environment that empowers the organization to create an equitable space for all employees.

The Level task force committee established three pillars to achieve their goals: education, conversation and action. Ayanna Augustine, Level program leader and Director of Client Experience Strategy for Tangerine, says: "We chose the name 'Level' because our objective was to level the playing field for Black people. It's not about making special allowances for Black people, but more so making sure we're not excluded from opportunities because of our race."

Support from Leadership to Combat Anti-Black Racism

In addition to creating Level, Tangerine President & CEO Gillian Riley signed the Black North Initiative pledge, which focuses on eradicating anti-Black racism in Canada by reshaping corporate structures that uphold anti-Black systemic racism.

"When Gillian signed the Black North Pledge, we had already set up Level, and we realized that the goals in the pledge laddered up so well to our goals for Level," Augustine says. "But we didn't want to just reach goals. We wanted to exceed them and build a dedicated program that truly focuses on the Black community."

Educating and Engaging on Topics of Racism

With a new theme each quarter, the education pillar provides employees with resources on topics related to racism and prejudice and prepare them for conversations about the subject.

"We hope to meet people where they are and then go from there. One thing I learned is that everyone is coming to this from an individual place," says Robyn Grassby, co-lead of the education pillar and Manager of Client Experience at Tangerine. "Some people may have never talked about topics like racism, whereas others have lived it and experienced it their whole lives."

Initiating Change Through Conversation

By focusing on guided conversations with small groups of employees, Tangerine is able to promote a safe environment for sharing. Tangerine Change Manager and co-lead of the conversation pillar Donna Thek, says: "In certain teams and groups, these conversations may have been happening but not across the whole organization. The conversations have been met with openness and welcome-ness and that's what gives us hope that people will continue to have the hard discussions, ask the questions and engage."

Creating space for open and honest conversation has been an important aspect of Level, but it has also come with unique challenges. "These are very delicate and sensitive conversations, more so for some folks than others," Thek says. "That emotional connection means we need to allow for time. People will move at different speeds on this particular topic."

Stepping Up and Taking Action

Level aims to take action in ways that directly support the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) community outside Tangerine. Tangerine's Community Partners provide services and resources for the BIPOC community. Through Level, they hope to support the Black community even further and reach these goals by 2025:

  • At least 3% of corporate donations and sponsorships to promote investment and create economic opportunities in the Black community
  • At least 5% of Tangerine's student workforce from the Black community
  • At least 3.5% of Tangerine's executive roles to be held by Black leaders

Encouraging the BIPOC Community and Allies

Tangerine is taking action to encourage and support BIPOC employees.

"A lot of people in the organization didn't know that some of our front-line staff in the Call Centre have to deal with racist calls and found out through Level conversations," says Tracy Austin, Director of Retail Banking for Tangerine.

This is one of the hard truths that Level helped uncover. With unwavering managerial support, BIPOC employees and allies are being empowered to speak in these challenging situations.

Celebrating Black Canadian History

Team Tangerine is recognizing Black History Month this February. As Senior Manager and 20-year Tangerine employee, Alesha Barrett says: "This is the first year we're officially doing something organization-wide for Black History Month and I'm very excited!"

Tangerine is getting employees and Clients involved and engaged through different internal channels and on social media.

"Tangerine is a very diverse company, and we've always embraced diversity," Barrett says. "But we know that with diversity there are different levels of awareness. We're looking at how we can educate people in an engaging and informative way on different facts of Black Canadians and the history."

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