Celebrating Women’s Equality Day


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In recognition of Women’s Equality Day, hear from Kavita Mahtani, CFO for the Americas, and co-executive sponsor for the Balance Employee Resource Group (ERG) and Cara Fitzgerald, Vice President, Inclusion & Culture, as they share their experiences at HSBC with us.

Thursday, August 26, 2021


Kavita Mahtani, CFO for the Americas, and Cara Fitzgerald, Vice President, Inclusion & Culture

August 26 marks Women's Equality Day, a day dedicated to commemorating the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. It's been more than 100 years since the amendment became a law, and great strides have been made in women's equality since then. There is, however, still work to be done. In recognition of Women's Equality Day, we spoke with two women who are deeply committed to helping HSBC USA advance its diversity and inclusion agenda and asked them to share their experiences with us. Kavita Mahtani, CFO for the Americas, is a co-executive sponsor for the Balance Employee Resource Group (ERG) and Cara Fitzgerald, Vice President of the Inclusion and Culture team, is a member of the group.

A Focus on Creating Balance

HSBC's 12 ERGs are designed to bring employees with common interests, heritages or backgrounds together to effect change. "I think the depth and breadth of the ERGs at HSBC is pretty incredible," says Kavita, who joined the bank in October 2019.

I’ve been in the financial services industry for over 25 years, and the seriousness and passion with which employees here get engaged is just stronger than I’ve seen elsewhere.

KAVITA MAHTANI, CFO FOR THE AMERICAS

Participation in any ERG is done solely on a volunteer basis.

Balance, the bank's largest ERG, began initially as a women's network, explains Cara. "The group remains focused on gender equality and has evolved to focus more broadly on equality and diversity – or creating balance – across the entire workforce."

Responding to Challenges

Cara has been with HSBC for just over three years, starting as a program manager for the Global Banking and Markets Graduate Program. "Not long after that, I was asked to lead all of the North American graduate programs," she says. In this role, she began working on the bank's talent and diversity strategy, which is when she first got involved in Balance. "I participated in these types of network groups at my previous employers, and it's something that's always been near and dear to my heart." That's why Cara was thrilled to have the opportunity to join the bank's US Inclusion and Culture team.

"One of the things I like most about HSBC is that change happens constantly, and opportunities arise in real-time more than I have seen in some of my other work environments," says Cara. The Inclusion and Culture team, for example, didn't exist when Cara first joined the bank. "The team was created in 2020 to help HSBC expand its diversity and inclusion efforts and make quicker progress on advancing inclusion both internally and externally," she says. With that, Cara and her colleagues support the strategy driving six areas of focus that HSBC leadership identified as critical for becoming a more equal and inclusive company - accountability, representation, recruitment and retention, advancing the conversation, strategic giving and vendor diversity.

"So I was really able to take that passion and make it a job" she says.

Being involved in Balance has made my HSBC experience so much richer. It’s really amazing to see how much passion and effort my colleagues at HSBC dedicate to making a difference.

CARA FITZGERALD, VICE PRESIDENT, INCLUSION & CULTURE

Building a Culture of Diversity

Kavita agrees with Cara that the strength of HSBC is its people. She realized this pretty quickly even though, after joining the bank in October 2019, she had only five months in the office with her team and colleagues before the pandemic sent everyone home to work. The Balance ERG is a perfect example. "As an executive sponsor of Balance, I work with a Board of other senior leaders to provide oversight and guidance to our members," she explains. "It's the members, however, who carry all the weight and do amazing work – not just in the US but globally as well."

For instance, Balance in the US was the starting ground for a unique program called Coaching Circles. Each coaching circle is made up of eight to ten employees and led by a senior executive. The goal is to give employees and leadership the opportunity to interact and connect with people from other areas of the bank they might not have otherwise. The program was such a success in the US that it's now been rolled out globally. "We also host a lot of conversations around career objectives and paths," says Kavita. "One of our goals, for instance, is to provide women with a safe space to come and talk."

One of the reasons Kavita thinks Balance is so effective is because the group has formalized processes and objectives. "It's run kind of like a business," she says. "Our members know they have a mission and that they've got to deliver." At the same time, the employees involved are passionate about the cause and the mission. "No one has to do it," she says. "Yet everybody shows up at the meetings bubbling with ideas."

Kavita feels that this grass roots passion and commitment is critical for bringing about change. Of course, she adds, that's only part of the story. You need the most senior members in the organization and managers at every level talking about the importance of diversity and sharing in that passion. "When that happens, when bottom-up and top-down meet, that's when the DNA of the organization really begins to shift."

Looking Ahead

What attracted Kavita to HSBC from the start was its diversity – of its people, of its lines of business, of its global reach and of its customer base. "Very few organizations have the scale and scope that we do," she says. "Do we have more work to do? Yes, we all do. But we're certainly moving in the right direction, the conversations are taking place, the passions are building – and change is starting to happen, one step at a time."

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