Building bridges through meaningful conversation

August 12, 2022 Chelsey Sleator
See why Zara Gerald believes we shouldn’t shy away from meaningful conversations at work.

Zara Gerald has a lot of important responsibilities as Schwab’s chief counsel for the Technology, Digital and Innovation Legal Group. But outside of the demands of her job, Zara also has another responsibility that she takes very seriously: Playing a part in influencing and shaping Schwab’s culture. 

One way she’s doing this is by fostering conversations that create connections and a sense of inclusion for employees. 

“Our country feels very divided right now,” explains Zara. “There’s a lot of temptation to shrink away from meaningful conversations. But it’s these conversations that actually serve to build bridges.”

Refocusing on what’s important

Despite her professional accomplishments, Zara hasn’t always felt fulfilled. To figure out why, she worked with an executive coach to identify what was most important to her. Zara learned that it wasn’t a title or a specific industry, but a great company culture she was ultimately seeking, and this realization was the impetus to her joining Schwab in 2020.

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When I met with Schwab’s executive council, I was really impressed with how they spoke about culture. Everyone I met talked about the culture in consistent ways. I identified with their messages around diversity and ensuring that we’re hearing different points of view through inclusion.

- Zara Gerald, Charles Schwab

A special conversation

One meaningful conversation Zara had recently was with Ms. Opal Lee, a legendary activist who made it her mission to ensure that June 19th (Juneteenth) was recognized as a national holiday. The Black Professionals at Charles Schwab (BPACS) employee resource group sponsored a virtual discussion with Ms. Opal Lee as part of Schwab’s Juneteenth celebrations, and Zara was asked to moderate. 

“Ms. Opal talked about the importance of leadership, encouraging each of us to be a ‘committee of one’ for important issues. She also spoke about the responsibility the United States has as a prominent world leader,” explains Zara. “I recognized these concepts in myself and in Schwab too. Especially now, as the firm continues to expand and grow, so does our responsibility. And we need to ensure that we continuously evaluate how we’re showing up for each other and our clients.”

The impact of dialogue

While she’s successfully fostered an inclusive culture for her team, Zara feels that none of us should be complacent. She challenges herself and others to be intentional about forming relationships with people who are unlike us. “My many professional and personal relationships across generational, cultural and racial lines give me perspective. They make me more aware, more compassionate, and smarter.”

(0822-2PET)