Wendy E. John

Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion,

Fidelity Investments

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Moves Mentor”?  

A Moves Mentor is someone who has committed their time, talent and sometimes treasure to helping  others navigate not only their careers, but the spaces that we inhabit. Moves Mentors use their political  capital, networks, prior knowledge and experience to help others succeed. They truly see individuals for  their value and their worth. They are excellent listeners with a knack for hearing beyond what is being  said and artfully probe to get at the sometimes more challenging unsaid items. 

How does mentoring benefit the mentor? Career-wise? Intellectually? Spiritually? Socially? Any other  “-allys”?  

Often as a mentor, you go into the relationship with the expectation to give, not to receive. Looking at  my own experiences, there have been times where I as the mentor have gained just as much as my  mentee. In professional mentor – mentee relationships, you can learn a great deal about other areas of  a business, as well as new products or services outside of your domain.  

As leaders, we always want insights into the emerging trends or things that we might be missing. So, for  me, I have enjoyed mentoring employees who are on the front lines of connecting with customers or  developing new solutions.  

Finally, you can also gain meaningful friendships. On more than one occasion, my relationship with my  mentee over time has transcended beyond the workplace.  

Should mentorship be a company requirement or a personal give-back?  

I think both. Mentorship should be a requirement for all leaders in a company, but it doesn’t need to be  formal. As a leader, working to grow a company, creating inclusive environments and preparing for the  future, should include mentoring those that are coming up behind you. Leaders are also informal culture carriers, so as new people join a company, mentorship becomes a way  to share the history, unique attributes and norms of a business. Also, mentorship doesn’t have to take a top-down approach. Having a reverse-mentor relationship with  an associate who is newer to the workforce or junior to you is extremely valuable, especially now as we  see significant shifts in workforce dynamics. 

What is your mentorship method? Do you prefer a more hands-on or laidback approach?  

I adapt my mentorship method based on the individual I’m mentoring. There are certain aspects of  mentorship that are core to a successful relationship like establishing clear roles and responsibilities,  developing a regular cadence of connection points and setting goals for the time that you’ll spend together. The beauty of these relationships is to get to know the individual and adapt to different  working, learning and engagement styles. In today’s virtual environment, while we may not be meeting face-to-face in a coffee shop or conference  room in the office, we still need to be just as intentional (if not more so) in connecting and planning for  the time together.  

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time 15 years?  

Fifteen years ago, while I have always been a connector, I recall being hesitant about reaching out and  building relationships with those more senior or more experienced than I was. I would tell myself, ‘Get  out of your head and stop overthinking things. Reach out to the leader that you admire and ask for time  to connect. Don’t assume that you’ll get a no, but it’s still okay if you do.’ 

The other thing I would tell myself would be, ‘take more risks.’ Be just as fearless in the workplace as  you are in your personal life with things like travel, sports and food. 

Given the evidence that successful mentoring increases the bottom line, should any responsible five  year corporate strategy include a detailed plan and budget for mentoring complete with an official  position for a mentoring director and regular progress reports to the board.  

Mentoring and mentorship is everyone’s responsibility. It doesn’t need to be one person’s job. We take  a similar approach to our sponsorship efforts at Fidelity with our senior leaders. All of us should be  actively and intentionally sponsoring an upcoming leader. You want people to choose to be a mentor  because they believe that mentorship is core to being a leader, and key to the future of the firm, not  solely because it is part of a company’s scorecard or metric. Using the carrot or stick analogy,  encouraging and recognizing individuals who are putting forth the effort to mentor others is a more  successful strategy in the long term.  

“In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was  the battle against totalitarianism… in the 21st is century the paramount moral challenge will be the  struggle for fairness and gender equality around the world.” * Why is gender equality even a  challenge, especially in the ‘enlightened’ western world?  

Many of us forget that the voting rights act of 1965, which expanded the right to vote in this country,  was less than 60 years ago. It would then take another decade before some of those changes were put into practice for many underrepresented groups. All long-term transformational change takes time to become embedded into our practices. It requires an ongoing commitment and persistence over time to  change existing structures. We can and should look back to see that we have made progress. We can  also look ahead and see how much further we have to go. I believe Dr. King had it right when he said,  ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ To get to a better place requires the collective  engagement of everyone, whether it directly affects you or not, it should still matter to you.  

“Legislators, priests, philosophers, writers, and scientists have striven to show that the subordinate  position of woman is willed in heaven and advantageous on earth.” Simone de Beauvoir. Is this still a  major stumbling block on the 21st century road to equality? Do you think discrimination against  women comes from the bottom or the top?  

My favorite Simone de Beauvoir quote is actually “Each of us is responsible for everything and to every  human being.” In terms of the question though, while I believe there is value in understanding the past to learn from it, I would rather focus on the opportunities in front of us and the strides that we have  made as women – across the globe and throughout time. Today, there are more college-educated  women in the workforce than college-educated men; more female entrepreneurs, and more women  leaders in elected office than at any other time. Although the accomplishments of women may have  been diminished or dismissed throughout history, I choose to celebrate and reflect on the unique ways  women have – and continue to – contribute to global culture, history and society. That makes me hopeful. 

What do you want the next generation of power women to know?  

You are enough. Your mere presence in the room is enough, so take up the space that you deserve. And  don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t be afraid to try things, even if you’ve never done it before.  Remember that perfection is neither the beginning nor the goal.  

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What  was it?  

In a hallway at my all-girls high school, many years ago, I had a conversation with my math teacher Ms.  Prince that set me on a trajectory that changed my life. She simply asked me a question, ‘Wendy, what is  your plan after high school?’ This was not the first time that I had been asked this question. I’d been  contemplating this question for quite some time, and honestly many people had already planned out my  future for me. What was different with this conversation was not what Ms. Prince said, but what she  saw. She looked beyond my talents as a student to see me as a whole person when she introduced me  to the field of actuarial science. That one brief conversation was so critical because instead of others  telling me what they saw for me, someone was asking me what I wanted to do with my life. I felt seen in  a way very different from before. It led me to attend an all-male school for two years to pursue the  mathematical program needed to start my actuarial career and the rest, as they say, is history! 

How does diversity play into mentorship?  

What a fantastic question. There are no limits on who you mentor. Personally, I have mentored people  across many dimensions of diversity: including age, race, gender, ethnicity, place of origin, religion and  more. Mentorship is about engaging authentically and intentionally with others. By staying open to  connecting with many different people I learned a lot about myself. It is why I anchor on the belief that  connection is not about what you look like or what title you have. Connections are about what are you  willing to do to listen to another person, learn more about their lived experience and contribute to  making things better. So, I seek out diversity when establishing mentor/mentee relationships.  

This diversity of mentorship relationships benefits me every day in the work that I do as Head of Global  Diversity and Inclusion. Having diverse perspectives helps as I lead and do the work. 

What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take for women’s power and  equality? (e.g. affirmative action?) .  

Society must engage us in the realm of possibility, not impossibility. This is the so called “abundance  mindset” vs. the “scarcity mindset”. In other words, stop telling us what we can and cannot do. Saying what “nice girls” do and imposing mental models that reinforce antiquated concepts limits our agency.  Growing up, my father dwelt in the art and realm of possibility; he reinforced daily that my potential  was only as limited as my imagination. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?  

I can still remember being a young, eager employee in the first few years of my career and wanting to do  everything I could all at once. A senior leader, in fact the head of the small consulting firm I was at,  pulled me aside one day to chat. His advice was: Don’t underestimate the importance of building  endurance, remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is value to be found in the journey, not just in  crossing the finish line. That stuck with me, so much so that I even completed a marathon for the “real”  experience! 

If it is true that whenever women are involved in any one aspect of life – domestic, business,  recreation – the empirical evidence shows that activity is enhanced in a real and tangible way, why is  there such fierce resistance to this female influence?  

As human beings, I think we all appreciate sameness. We gravitate to what is comfortable and familiar,  and we can be initially fearful of what we don’t know or understand. That can show up in some  instances, as resistance. Whether it’s women or People of Color or individuals with different  backgrounds, despite the resistance, we must continue to move forward. There is value in creating  diverse spaces and we should always seek to engage the widest, broadest set of perspectives. At the same time, as the product of an all-girls high school, I know first-hand the power of creating  spaces for women, where gender isn’t the main differentiator, to cultivate our voices and to build  confidence and esteem, which is necessary to succeed in today’s still male-centered environments. 

Who do you most admire? Why? 

I most admire my mother because of her tenacity. Decisions that were made for her early in life limited  her ability to complete her formal education, yet she was unwavering in her commitment to pursue a  nursing career as an adult. I think about the courage it took for her as a young woman to board a ship  from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom, alone, leaving all she knew behind. And then after arriving in  the UK, the challenges she faced finding work – from caring for other people’s children to taking care of  the sick – she was undaunted. Her story reminds me that success should not be narrowly defined. As the  eldest female in her family, she helped raise her own siblings before marrying my father and moving to  Trinidad where she has lived for the last 50 years. She is as well-read as an ivy league graduate, spending  her mornings reading the newspaper and Merck manuals and yet she didn’t get to have a high school  education. She treats everyone with dignity and respect. She is the matriarch of our extended family,  and she has a lot to be proud of. Her favorite saying is “Common sense is not so common”. Love it and her!

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