Kyra Wong, crusader for egalitarianism, is turning the financial space on its head.
The Vancouver-based Manulife district VP began her career 25 years ago at a time when the industry had few women, and while Manulife takes precedent, she’s found another calling in the Magical Unicorn Project, which seeks to help women and minorities overcome barriers and realize their hitherto untapped potential.
“Given that I’m in a highly male-dominated industry, I created the project with an original focus on women to tackle three specific glass ceilings I felt contributed to keeping women down: Corporate, social and emotional glass ceilings,” she said. “I’ve experienced all three of them and if we don’t talk about them openly and thoughtfully, how we will ever push the needle forward and make progress? Gender inequality, sexist behavior, which often manifests as sexual harassment, limitations created in our own minds—something for which we must personally take responsibility—are all important issues I’m addressing through the project because I want to propel women forward towards success.”
The unicorn—“uni” being Latin for “one”—symbolizes humanity unified and the proliferation of social mores that celebrate, rather than disparage, differences. Founded in 2017, Magical Unicorn Project will this year begin advocating for sexual minorities—a testament to how truly inclusive Wong’s project is.
“I have deliberately, intentionally and purposely set out to challenge everyone in the financial space by going out into the world with a unicorn alter-ego,” said Wong. “I knew I’d get judged, criticized and even made fun of for doing this, but I also knew that it would start conversations and provoke curiosity and give me the opportunity to address the bigger picture. In a world that preaches conformity and suspicion of variance, what other reaction could I expect? Unorthodoxy is how to disrupt the status quo and influence the world. You have to be a unicorn in a field of horses.”
Given that so many within the mortgage space are erstwhile banking professionals, Wong has spoken to countless women who have told her that they left the industry because of how hostile it could be to women.
“Many women I’ve spoken and interviewed for my project actually came from banking backgrounds, but left because of their experiences with corporate glass ceilings or sexual harassment,” said Wong. “As mortgage brokers, women are largely free from those barriers and they see opportunities to create better environments for themselves and to have additional success. When you see women going out there and successfully becoming independent, it encourages other women to try and do the same because they see what’s possible. Women bring different attributes to the table than men do, and blending the two creates better balance and outcomes.”