“Own Your Career”: John Hancock’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion on Her #1 Piece of Advice for Women in the Workplace

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 her advice for women interested in leadership positions, the benefits of D&I and her own meteoric rise to the top — 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.

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: You started out in branding and marketing. How did you transition from that to diversity and inclusion, and how did that prepare you for your current role?

Sofia Teixeira: While getting my MBA at Penn State, I had a summer internship at a large organization focused on personal and healthcare products. This company offered me a full-time job once my internship was complete, which required me to move to a new city. When I started my job with them, I needed a way to quickly acclimate to the company and to learn about my new city, so I joined the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

I was asked to lead the recruitment committee of one of the ERGs, where I worked very closely with the company’s global D&I and talent acquisition teams. When a D&I role opened three years later, I was tapped to fill it. The role was a perfect combination of my business background and my passion for working with people.

As far as how that role prepared me for my current position at John Hancock, I had to learn a lot and I had to do it quickly when I entered the D&I space. In my former organization, our team was very small — only four people were responsible for D&I efforts across a 40,000-person workforce. So once in the role, I took on a lot of responsibility early on and was immediately engrossed in the work. It helped me to focus my efforts and learn all I possibly could about D&I best practices and how to successfully engage all levels of the organization in those efforts.

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? What’s your advice for women who are interested in pursuing leadership positions?

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.

When it comes to women who are interested in leadership positions, my advice is to own your career and be open to all opportunities. I thought that I was always going to be a marketer working in brand. But then the opportunity to move into a D&I role at my previous employer arose and I jumped at it. Definitely explore all opportunities that come your way; you never know where they might lead!

Also, I always encourage women to seek opportunities to mentor other women. Peer mentoring is hugely important in helping strong women succeed. It’s not always about looking up, but also about looking around you to see what relationships you can foster to help one another along the path to success.

Glassdoor: Tell me a little bit about the employee experience at John Hancock. What’s it like working there, and what made you so excited to join?

Sofia Teixeira: It’s fantastic! From my first phone screen to my first month here, I’ve had such a wonderful experience and received the warmest welcome. I firmly believe that the competitive advantage of any company is its people, and the people at John Hancock have been amazing.

Cultural fit at an organization is critically important to me, because I believe that you do your best work when the culture aligns with your core values, and John Hancock’s certainly does with mine. The Company does so much for the local community and we are a good corporate neighbor. It’s something I am really proud of!

In addition, when I learned about Marianne Harrison’s appointment as President & CEO, I was thrilled and knew I wanted to work for this iconic company that is clearly committed to creating a diverse workforce and providing leadership opportunities to all. When you see a company that is walking the walk, it is truly inspiring.

Glassdoor: Let’s close with a few fun questions. What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

I worked in beauty PR in New York. I learned that I am results-oriented and that I do my best work when I see the positive impact it has on people and on the world.

Glassdoor: What’s a fun fact about you that not many people know?

I’m bi-lingual and am currently learning how to speak Italian.

Glassdoor: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?

Be bold.

Want to join an exciting company on the cutting edge of diversity and inclusion? Check out John Hancock’s open jobs here!

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