Wendy John is the head of global diversity and inclusion for Fidelity Investments, where she oversees the enterprise-wide strategy to make Fidelity a more diverse and inclusive workplace. In this capacity, she taps into the power of individual differences to develop and retain talent, create a culture of inclusion, and showcase Fidelity’s reputation and brand as an inclusive employer and service provider. Wendy has achieved multiple milestones, including the release of Fidelity’s very first Diversity and Inclusion report and helping establish multiple affinity groups with more than 28,000 global members.. A 25-year Fidelity veteran, Wendy has held a variety of key leadership positions across relationship management, client services, operations, workforce strategy, program management, implementation and benefits consulting. She previously served as the Chief Administrative Officer of Fidelity Charitable, where she was responsible for overall risk, compliance, external communications, legislative policy, government relations, and associate engagement.
“My leadership style is a bit of a hybrid. I strive for equal parts servant, leader, and player-coach. I have a sincere desire to help people achieve more than they ever thought they could. So, when I see potential in my colleagues and team members, it’s my nature to do my best to nurture it. Along the way, that manifests into this player-coach relationship where I engage in the work alongside them, while leading and demonstrating by example. At the same time, I hold my team accountable for delivering high quality results.”
This intentionally thoughtful leader believes in the concept of ‘better’ rather than ‘perfect’ and strives to help those around her embrace a similar approach on a daily basis. “I always explore the possibilities—in myself and others—and I live by an ‘even-better-if’ mantra that is never singularly focused on achieving the destination but enjoys the journey and the learning that comes from the pursuit of improvement. I apply that thinking to most everything—people, processes, experiences—you name it. And that’s not because I think things or people are always in need of improvement. It is because constant curiosity begets creativity, and creativity inspires solutions.”
John also embraces living a life of wonder, a concept she learned as a child growing up in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. During those formative years, her father would drive the family around the island on Sunday afternoon ‘adventures’ with the goal of surprising his children with something new to see or do. That anticipation and excitement gave John an unshakable appreciation for pursuing things that piqued her interest and challenged her to grow beyond the things she knew. “Living a life of wonder is about embracing how much you can learn and grow when you look at the world through a lens of genuine curiosity.”
John continues to use that sense of curiosity and is excited to inspire and uplift others as she furthers diversity and inclusion initiatives at Fidelity Investments. She is currently focused on broadening inclusion efforts to drive awareness about the powerful ways embracing neurodiversity can elevate solutioning and create an even more inclusive workplace.
1. How do you define your personal leadership style?
My leadership style is a bit of a hybrid. I strive for equal parts servant, leader, and player-coach. I have a sincere desire to help people achieve more than they ever thought they could. So, when I see potential in my colleagues and team members, it’s my nature to do my best to nurture it. Along the way, that manifests into this player-coach relationship where I engage in the work alongside them, while leading and demonstrating by example. At the same time, I hold my team accountable for delivering high quality results.
The innate challenge of focusing on potential is that sometimes, you’re disappointed. In the past, I’ve found myself occasionally wanting more for others than they want for themselves. Reconciling that feeling can be tough when a person chooses to stay where they are or stop just before they reach whatever pinnacle is within reach.
In my head, I’m cheering them on, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!” But an important part of being an effective coach is knowing that you’re there to plant seeds. They may blossom and flourish in your presence, and sometimes, they won’t. Therefore, I try to measure success, not by the daily harvest, but by the seeds that I’ve planted. Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady of the United States, once said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” I’ll add, people always get to choose their own path. My hope is that they do go beyond their comfort zone, in part because, in some way, I helped them unlock their full potential.
2. What does “living a life of wonder” mean to you? When was this missing in your life and how did you go about finding it?
Living a life of wonder is about embracing how much you can learn and grow when you look at the world through a lens of genuine curiosity.
I suppose it is the social scientist in me, but I’ve always been curious. I learned at an early age to forego the presumption that I know the answer to any one particular question or circumstance. Instead, I try to always look for and listen to a variety of perspectives and uncover the common thread whispering through the ecosystem of people in the moment. Then I pursue that.
It is an intuitive skill; one I’ve honed over the years and credit my father for first cultivating. When I was growing up in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, every weekend, my dad would take the family on a Sunday driving adventure around the island with the goal of surprising us with something new to see or do. That anticipation and excitement gave me an unshakable appreciation for pursuing things that piqued my interest and challenged me to grow beyond the things I know.
And earlier in my career, I had the courage to step away from the more traditional actuarial path I was on to pursue that same wonder I knew so well as a seven or eight-year-old child.
I took a few months off for an unpaid leave of absence and traveled around Brazil, including a trip to the Amazon jungle, where I could create a safe, quiet space for myself and reconnect to my wonder. During that time, I recommitted to honoring that child-like voice in my heart that has always given me permission to follow the road less traveled and abandon the expectations life can project on you. At that time, I also recognized that sometimes, the most well-intentioned people in our lives can’t see where you want to go because they can only see where they’ve been. Living a life of wonder can be scary and lonely at times, but you have to find your way, and I’m grateful that my father gave me the gift of courage and confidence to do just that.
3. What are some actionable steps professional women can take today to start living a life of wonder?
Don’t be afraid to ask yourself and others: Why? What if? How? Then truly consider the answers. Sometimes, we fill our head with the questions and never fully explore the answers. After you do that, take the first step. And if you don’t get what you’re looking for, keep seeking it and take another step. If it inspires you and/or speaks to your natural curiosity and inclinations, pursue it further. You can define your career and life path and are only as obligated to following the “expected” path as you allow.
4. What role does diversity, equity, and inclusion play in the future of female leadership?
The last two and a half years have shone a light on the unpaid emotional labor women and primary caregivers exert on a daily basis as part of their lived experience. That emotional labor includes the hidden work of managing the feelings and expressions required to perform effectively in the workplace and care for others at home and beyond. The diversity and inclusion space is largely led by women, ripe with emotionally charged topics, and typically, navigating those topics is complex.
Creating a more equitable experience for female leaders means first acknowledging the “who” of this work and inviting more diverse, balanced representation into the space. We need men and those who identify as such to have the courage to lean into allyship.
As allies, they can share the burden of the sometimes thankless but very necessary work that is increasingly more important as companies settle into dynamic work environments. Being able to balance emotional intelligence—the sensitivity to recognize subtle shifts in behavior or tone; the empathy to demonstrate understanding; and the intuition to intercept and thoughtfully acknowledge conflict—with high levels of performance are all critical to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture.
5. You believe diversity helps ensure relevant, differentiated experiences for your customers. Can you elaborate on this?
I wholeheartedly believe diversity helps ensure a relevant customer experience. I have spent much of my career at Fidelity in client-facing roles and have engaged directly with customers as they considered their financial and retirement plans.
We support a diverse customer base, who reflects all dimensions of diversity and lived experiences. Just as we want Fidelity associates to feel seen, heard, and appreciated for who they are as individuals, we also want to create experiences that demonstrate the same for our customers.
As such, at Fidelity, we created our Customer Inclusion Team, which partners across the enterprise to meet individuals in underrepresented communities at the intersection of their values, identities, and needs. The team’s multi-year strategy is helping ensure all customers have access to inclusive end-to-end experiences while doing business with Fidelity Investments. This includes working with our Women and Young Investor teams to ensure Fidelity addresses the needs of our fastest-growing customer segments.
In addition, our Office of Customer Accessibility is focused on making all Fidelity platforms more accessible for our customers. Through these collaborative efforts, our goal is to be the financial services partner of choice for an increasingly diverse customer base and those who are historically underserved by the industry. So, we’ve aligned the work of our Customer Inclusion team to three engagement pillars that encourage appropriate cultural representation in customer experiences and engagement: data collection and insight to build customer trust through proactive learning and offering financial education through inclusive products that help close the wealth gap. It certainly helps if our workforce is more diverse and inclusive to start—and that’s my current area of focus.
6. What advice do you wish someone would have told you that you believe is essential for women to get to the top?
If getting to the top is your goal, I’d say a few things. First, though it sounds cliché, you are enough. Your presence in the places and spaces you occupy is enough, but you have to be active versus passive. Use your seat at the table to speak the truths that come from your lived experiences and relay how those experiences can help or hurt business outcomes if not addressed.
Secondly, the work and level of effort does not decrease as you inch up the corporate ladder. You need to be personally committed and wholeheartedly invested in reaching your goal, because it requires endurance and a stick-to-itiveness that you won’t be able to fake. Some people have started calling that “grit.” Whatever you choose to call it, you will need to stay committed and focused on your “why.”
My third piece of advice, though potentially unpopular, is to pick your partner and circle of trust wisely. These select few are needed to help you sustain your drive and focus, and it helps if they provide some comic relief as well. You will need folks you can hold close and can trust for the peaks and valleys of your journey, so that when the waves come, they’re there to help you rise above the crest. And as your needs change—because they will—their support won’t. They’ll also be there to ground you and remind you of how far you’ve come.
7. In a recent post on LinkedIn, you talked about redefining your priorities after the passing of your father. Could you share more about that experience?
My father always encouraged me to try anything at least once and told me that I’d be exceptional at whatever I chose to do, if I put my mind to it. I didn’t realize it until later in life that he was serving as both a player and a coach. And I got to see many of his “athletes” at his funeral—this included people I didn’t know who’d sat at his feet and learned from his example of tough love and measured risk.
He showed up for many people in an intentional way. As I listened to them recount stories of how he invested in them, encouraged them, and pushed them beyond their comfort zone—the way he was unafraid to take a chance on someone because he saw their potential, or stood by the courage of his convictions—those things helped cement in my mind the importance of how you live your life, and they reinforced the significance of living in service to others.
Though my father did receive accolades when alive, I know he would have appreciated hearing some of these recollections too. They reaffirmed a few priorities for me: (1) Give people their flowers while they can still smell them, (2) Know who you are without the title and the job, and (3) Give the best version of yourself to the people who really matter. Work is work. Relationships live beyond life.
8. Do you think that other female leadership should redefine their relationship with work and client commitments to focus on their purpose and work-life balance as well? If so, why?
I don’t think it’s appropriate or fair for me to opine on anyone else’s life in quite that way. We only know what we know. That said, I recently saw a TikTok video of Shonda Rhimes speaking at a university commencement, and she essentially said that work-life balance is a myth. I couldn’t agree more. As she said, at any given point in time, if you see me doing exceptionally well in one space, it likely means I’m falling short in another aspect of my life, but the two are rarely, if ever, balanced.
And I think the question itself creates an expectation that women must balance it all. I don’t believe it is realistic to think you can have it all at the same time—that’s too much pressure on a person and it’s how that “superwoman” complex grows. What I do know is that each of us gets to choose what we are willing to do with the time we are given. That choice is exclusively yours. The goal is not to balance work and life, but to have a healthy relationship with work. When you realize that your identity is not in your work but instead is aligned to your purpose, you can more unapologetically make choices with confidence. So, I’d encourage women to consciously go through life and make intentional choices that give you peace and a sense of satisfaction that aligns with your purpose.
9. Recommend one book OR tool and briefly describe how it helped you!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of my favorite books of all time. I recently saw the touring Broadway play, and the story came to life for me very differently now that I sit in a leadership role within diversity and inclusion.
Growing up and reading the book, I matched all the main characters in the story to people in my life. I was Scott and my brother was Jem, our father was Atticus, and in some weird way, our mother was Calpurnia. I recalled being fascinated by Boo Radley—this elusive character—for whom I wondered what life was like and why he had become such a recluse. The trial at the core of the book rocked my world. From my seat on a small island in the Caribbean, the injustice of the situation, the poise of the main character, Tom Robinson, and the tenacity of Atticus seeded my early understanding that life isn’t always fair, and even when we do have the courage of our convictions, it may not result in the desired outcome.
That said, there are lessons to be learned on this life journey, and we can do and be better than our circumstances dictate. While this is considered a sad and hard story, for me, I felt hope. Sometimes, it is those we know the least about, and or malign, that show up to save the day. It is a story filled with wonder, especially from a child’s perspective, which I loved!
10. What project are you currently working on or will be working on in the near future that makes you excited, and why?
There’s so much we don’t yet know about how the brain works, and the study of neurodiversity is a really exciting body of work. I can recall several times in my life when I was told to slow down my thinking in order to bring others along, and it made me feel like I was the problem.
But neurodiversity would say, ‘no, maybe your brain is wired differently. Maybe the way you think is a unique and powerful asset to the work we’re doing.’ It’s a concept that if appropriately acknowledged, can be used to elevate solutioning and create an even more inclusive workplace—one that harnesses the power of neurodivergent thinking instead of tempering it or labeling it as “too” this or that.
If we can flip our thinking to say, ‘hmm, that person is approaching this problem differently. I need to engage them,’ – how much more might we be able to accomplish? It is a subtlety that can be easily overlooked or dismissed in conversation, especially if you aren’t sensitive to both the verbal and nonverbal cues. But when neurodiversity is acknowledged, it can be a tremendously powerful experience for the individual and the business. I’m looking forward to learning more and I wonder what hidden gems we will all uncover.Wendy has achieved multiple milestones, including the release of Fidelity’s very first Diversity and Inclusion report and helping establish multiple affinity groups with more than 28,000 global members.