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Passionate and Intense, A Networking Event Organized by TD Bank and SFBW Addressed Issues of Diversity and Inclusion

Gilda’s Club in Fort Lauderdale was the venue for a spirited discussion.

Last night, Editor-in-Chief Drew Limsky and Managing Director Kim Sarni joined Jennifer Starkey to lead an animated discussion focusing on TD Bank’s impressive diversity efforts—and diversity, equity and inclusion in the corporate world in general. Starkey is a senior vice president and regional vice president at TD Bank, serving Broward, Southern Palm Beach, Lee and Collier Counties in South Florida.

When Limsky pointed out that several studies show that companies with strong diversity policies are more successful than their competition (McKinsey reports that more diverse companies add 36% to their bottom line compared to their less diverse peers), Starkey had a quick and unambiguous response: “I don’t care. It’s the right thing to do,” she said, regardless of profitability.

The topical conversation elicited enthusiastic and, at times, vigorous participation from the 40 or so attendees (many of whom were honorees at SFBW’s D&I Awards held in June at the Venue in Wilton Manors). Dawn Watts (DW Consulting), Sheryl Woods (CEO of YMCA South Florida), Kerry-Ann Royes (CEO of YWCA South Florida) and community advocate Marc Matarano all offered potent remarks.

Several guests spoke of wanting to feel supported at work during the George Floyd protests. The subject of working from home—and how it particularly benefits women and people of color—was a hot topic. The self-consciousness of being the only black person, or the sole black woman, “in the room” at the office was mentioned.

Frank Romano, senior recruiter at TD Bank, spoke not just of sourcing talent who appreciate his employers’ values, but he also shared his own experiences at TD Bank, saying that working for the bank actually aided his coming out process as a gay man. Michell Morgan, a business process manager at TD Bank (and a member of TD’s Black Employee Network), stressed how the bank not only talks the talk, but walks the walk, and how that makes her feel as a black woman. TD’s message is clear: You are not only welcome, but encouraged, to bring your whole self to work—even if that environment elicits awkward but ultimately valuable discussions.

“Silence is part of the problem,” one attendee said, an echo of “Silence is complicity,” the often-used antiracism saying, and “Silence=Death,” which became the catchphrase of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP.

When the highly fraught subject of convention cancellations and people leaving the state came up—in the wake of laws coming down from Tallahassee—Starkey noted that whether to stay or go (if you feel fearful for yourself or your family) is a “personal decision,” and there was broad agreement in the audience that where you work is a major part of that decision. The point underscored the sense of belonging that TD Bank fosters. “This what TD Bank has been about for 200 years,” Starkey noted. Several attendees voiced their commitment to “stay and fight”—a sentiment that Starkey echoed and one that received a rousing and seemingly unanimous show of support in the room. A few attendees emphasized that gatherings like this were important to demonstrate that people in vulnerable communities “are not alone.”

TD Bank’s online D&I section, which carries the slogan, “Come as you are,” reflects a wealth of diversity efforts, some of which are highly specific, illustrative of an uncommon commitment to the subject. There are articles such as “The Silent Housing Crisis for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Community” and “Helping LGBTQ2+ Refugees Start Over Through the Power of Mentorship.” The site also highlights the story of Shiloh Jimenez, who came out as non-binary and transgender to their TD Bank team.

TD Bank’s investment and intentionality is playing out against a backdrop of controversy and flux around the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. As Bloomberg reports, “US companies increased their use of some keywords related to diversity initiatives in job posts this year, in a sign firms are withstanding pressure to pare back on their diversity, equity and inclusion programs,” adding, “Some 12% of US job posts contained the word ‘equity’ in the first six months of 2023, compared with 10.1% last year, according to an analysis by Textio, a firm looking to help businesses created unbiased job ads. Mentions of ‘diversity’ rose 1 percentage point to 31.6%.”

Gilda’s Club in Fort Lauderdale, the hosting venue, is part of the nationwide nonprofit community organization for people with cancer, their families and friends. The club was named in honor of the original Saturday Night Live cast member Gilda Radner, who died at 42 of ovarian cancer in 1989.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.