A few months back, in March, I wrote about an unpleasant interaction between American Atheists and TD Bank when a notary at the Toronto Dominion Bank in Cranford, New Jersey had refused to notarize documents for American Atheists when she learned what American Atheists does. The notary informed them that she could not sign the documents because of “personal reasons” and then asked a colleague to take over for her.
This story is of particular interest to me for two main reasons:
- I am an atheist who writes about topics that I think other atheists will find interesting and I interact with atheists and believers on social media. I am lucky to live in a society that embraces diversity and has laws against discrimination. However, that does not mean that this society is free of bigotry and atheism is a stance that draws ire from the religious and irreligious alike. As I embark on a career change, I have been told that political and religious topics are polarizing and that speaking about them on social media is taboo if I want to land a new job. Yikes! Sometimes I write about both in the same post!
- TD is a Canadian bank that I hope promotes Canadian values that I am proud of: diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance. I was embarrassed, as a Canadian, when the New Jersey Incident happened.
I was somewhat relieved when I read a speech by Ed Clark, Group President and Chief Executive Officer, TD Bank Group, entitled Somewhere over the rainbow: a CEO’s perspective on building an inclusive company. Mr. Clark delivered this speech on June 25, 2014 at the Economic Club of Canada to coincide with the World Pride Human Right’s Conference in Toronto. In it, Mr. Clark talks about how TD offered same sex benefits to TD employees as early as 1994 ahead of many other companies and governments. That’s pretty impressive for a bank, where the work environment is typically conservative.
Mr. Clark talks about how TD has embedded the principle of inclusiveness into their corporate mission and takes this seriously, for TD monitors “progress through bi-annual surveys” and makes “clear to leaders this is part of their jobs”. TD even “introduced mandatory diversity training for people managers and executives in Canada and the US”. In creating this environment of inclusiveness, TD has learned that “different groups have different issues” so it is clear that TD is dedicated to ensure inclusiveness, monitors for progress and has learned a lot along the way. That’s impressive! Well done, TD!
But Mr. Clark continues to look forward; he acknowledges that, “we should be proud of what we have accomplished, but not complacent” and explains that a gathering like World Pride would “be outlawed…in almost 80 countries”. I dare say, the figures for atheist gatherings would be the same and like LGBT members, atheists would be put to death in many countries as I’ve mentioned before and of course, atheists, like LGBT, still face discrimination even in Western countries.
I applaud TD for being steadfastly inclusive of LGBT and for knowing that their “employee brand actually grows — people are attracted to our values and want to work for us”. However, given what happened with American Atheists, is Mr. Clark sure TD includes people like David Silverman, American Atheists’ president or indeed, someone like me? Would Mr. Clark hire me to work at TD? I really hope so because I agree with Mr. Clark when he says:
…this issue is about the kind of society in which we want to live. Be a good corporate citizen but don’t just be a good corporate citizen…be a great personal citizen. People believe you when you are invested personally.
As I embark on a career change, I have been told that political and religious topics are polarizing and that speaking about them on social media is taboo if I want to land a new job.
This “taboo” is surely one of the most pernicious things about the emerging brave new world of social media. Whatever noises governments might make about free speech, people are going to feel awfully constrained from speaking freely on important topics if doing so damages their chances of finding employment. It’s one of many ways in which the actions of “job creators” are undermining the whole premise of liberal democracy, and it should be resisted.
However, I see Ed Clark’s corporate gobbledegook about “mandatory diversity training” in much the same terms. This is pretty close to telling employees that they’d better not say anything remotely controversial about homosexuality, or else.