Building More Equitable Communities: An HR Leader’s Journey

Feb 26, 2024
Photo of Fatoumata wearing a striped top with a red background.

Meet Fatoumata Camara, a standout Mentor at Accelerate Her Future (AHF) who has been a mentor in the Fellowship Circle since 2021. Recipient of multiple awards including Canada’s Top 100 Black Women of 2022 to Watch, Fatoumata is a leader in the spaces of inclusion, equity and belonging.

As the founder of the Young Athletes of Montreal (JAMYAM), she’s passionate about nurturing talent and fostering community. Currently, Fatoumata serves as a senior HR and Inclusion leader at IG Wealth Management (part of IGM Financial family of companies and an AHF corporate partner), leads the onboarding segment of IGM’s Black BRG, supports corporate DEI initiatives to the IG advisor network, and has facilitated French sessions for the financial advisory network. Fatoumata also sits on Concordia University’s board of directors. In all her endeavors, Fatoumata prioritizes connecting and empowering communities to build a more equitable society through an intersectional lens.

As an AHF Fellowship Circle Mentor for four years running, Fatoumata brought forth numerous insights to share with the AHF community. When asked why she continues to volunteer her time, Fatoumata reflected, “curiosity is what attracted me to become an AHF mentor and the wealth of knowledge shared during the 10-week program is what makes me a returning member.”

Fatoumata appreciates AHF’s unique approach to the Fellowship Circle and reciprocal mentoring model which allows for bidirectional learning.

“AHF has created a space where Indigenous, Black, and women of color can authentically share their stories and confidently progress in the career of their choice.”


A Journey of Taking Risks and Promoting Inclusion

Fatoumata’s career journey began as a receptionist at IG Wealth Management in 2014, where she advanced through the years to her current role as Senior HR Manager. Reflecting on her progression, Fatoumata attributes her success to her “ability to identify opportunities and take risks.”

“Learning how to navigate the workplace, listening to and observing internal movements and taking interest in senior leaders’ professional agenda is what made me stay at IG,” she recalls. “I’ve been fortunate to have great sponsors at different levels of the organization. These connections have helped broaden my professional horizon and help me navigate the various challenges that come with the so-called ‘climbing the corporate ladder’.”

Discovering the potential for HR professionals to act as strategic business partners and influence organizational culture was a turning point for Fatoumata. Recognizing this opportunity, she aspires to leave a positive impact through her role in HR.

“HR professionals are often seen as compliance reinforcers with highly bureaucratic processes,” she notes. “What I aspire to do is to change the narrative around the profession through my actions.”

Fatoumata aims to challenge this perception by prioritizing people. She explains, “Putting humans before resources is how I operate, and I achieve this by building strong, meaningful relationships with all my business partners.” She adds that human resources is a profession where empathy must be a guiding principle and a skill she has honed over the years.

When asked about her approach to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as an HR professional, Fatoumata emphasizes how inclusion and fostering a sense of belonging among employees should be integral to the mandate of human resources. Drawing from her own experiences as a member of an underrepresented group, Fatoumata ensures she adopts an inclusive and intersectional approach in every task she undertakes.

“Black women find themselves in a unique position in this world. We have the empathy that comes from struggle and the brilliance that comes from necessity.” This quote motivates Fatoumata to “do and be better,” in her efforts towards promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Looking back at her career, Fatoumata fondly recalls her greatest achievement: receiving the 2017 IG President’s Development Achievement Award. This recognition, bestowed for the completion of graduate studies and a professional designation while fulfilling her responsibilities as a full-time employee, holds significant meaning for her.

However, Fatoumata emphasizes that the true source of pride lies not solely in the award itself but in her ability to juggle many life events at once. In 2017, she also found herself restructuring and leading JAMYAM’s mission, navigating a separation. Fatoumata acknowledges the invaluable support she received from those around her, expressing gratitude for their kindness and understanding.

A Pro-Athlete Mindset to Create Impact

In 2015, Fatoumata founded Young Athletes of Montreal (JAMYAM), an organization aimed to be a catalyst for young Black youth. The organization seeks to build athlete mindset in youth by expanding their range of experiences and stimulating their ambition through financial literacy, employability and self-awareness.

“I founded this organization based on my previous volunteering activities and as a response to my own search for identity and belonging,” Fatoumata explains. “As a former basketball player, I had to make a choice in college to ‘hang up my shoes’ and pursue my academic goals.”

Upon joining IG Wealth Management, Fatoumata noticed that many of her peers, like her, were former pro-athletes and through conversations, she realized that successful professionals and pro-athletes shared traits like self-awareness, discipline, and perseverance.

“With the help of a few friends, I decided to build a ‘cheat code’ for Black and racialized youths that may experience what I’ve been through,” Fatoumata recalls. “The goal was not to pave the way smoothly for the next generation (there is value in overcoming obstacles), but it was to address barriers or inequitable wealth distribution that prevent individuals from achieving their full potential.”

Fatoumata added that while such complex societal issues can’t be solved overnight, she is hopeful that she can have an impact. And make an impact, she did! To date, the organization has impacted hundreds of youths aged 15 to 17 through various activities and initiatives.

“We’re now expanding our service offering to youths and young adults aged 15 to 25 and exploring international development opportunities,” Fatoumata exclaims. “I firmly believe that Africa is the future so we’re seeking to learn from Africans and Afro Descendants all over the world in pursuing JAMYAM’s mission.”

“I celebrate my ability to connect with individuals from various ethnic backgrounds, age groups and professional status. I do my best to lead with empathy and accept everyone as they are.”

Advice for Becoming an Equitable Leader

When asked about how leaders can become more equitable in their approach, Fatoumata reflected on the complexity of this question to answer as this type of advice has to be adapted to an individual or group’s context. There is no one size-fits all response.

Becoming an anti-racist leader who challenges the status quo is a difficult and demanding feat. Fatoumata offers valuable advice for leaders in the workplace, urging them to “start where you are; reflect on the reasons you want to be an anti-racist and equitable leader.”

She goes on to explain, “anti-racist leadership in a society that recognizes the necessity to address racism but fails to take action on behaviors or policies perpetuating racism can be demoralizing. By reflecting on your motivation and returning to them when needed will be instrumental in your progression to challenge the status quo.”

Fatoumata emphasizes the importance of examining our preconceived racioethnic beliefs and actively engaging in unlearning some of those beliefs. She stresses that “unexamined biases can be more harmful than we can imagine,” and how accountability—both individual and organizational—must be at the core of our actions.

Her advice to fellow human resources professionals who wish to do things differently is to start with yourself. “Do some introspection, unlearn some of the biases or preconceived notions you have of the profession, organization, industry, etc.,” Fatoumata recommends, “live and make decisions based on your values.”

“By embodying the changes you want to see, you’ll become a force to be reckoned with,” she emphasizes. “Ensure that the source of your aspirations comes from within and NO ONE will take that away from you and trust me, many will try.”

A special thank-you to Fatoumata for her unwavering dedication and commitment to the AHF community – you are an impact leader!