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The Scotiabank Women Initiative is expanding to empower more women to take their careers and businesses to the next level

When The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ first launched in 2018, its primary focus was to support women-owned, women-led businesses through three key pillars: Access to Capital, Mentorship and Education. One year later, Scotiabank is expanding this bespoke program. Scotiabank’s Loretta Marcoccia, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Global Banking and Markets, explains how adding a customized banking and capital markets initiative will help increase the number of women and those who support an inclusion agenda in the industry.

 

by Shelley White

 
 

The fact that diversity in business leadership brings fresh perspectives that help companies innovate and grow is now commonly discussed by corporate leaders. Acting on the changes required in our workforces and setting women up for success remains a challenge that Scotiabank chose to tackle head-on. Last year, with the understanding that there are fewer women-owned enterprises in Canada and that their business performance often lagged male-owned enterprises, Scotiabank launched The Scotiabank Women Initiative to help women entrepreneurs succeed. One year later, the bank is targeting another gender challenge, the under-representation of women in corporate C-suites and boards of directors.

 

The idea to empower women entrepreneurs:

In December 2018, Scotiabank took a bold step to help women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. The bank launched The Scotiabank Women Initiative, an innovative program that provides equal access to capital, mentorship and education to women entrepreneurs in Canada to address the social and economic challenges that limit their ability to grow their businesses.  

The program’s first year was a great success, prompting Scotiabank to commit $3-billion in capital over three years to support women-led businesses in Canada.  On the one-year anniversary of the initiative, Scotiabank is expanding the program to women in another business sphere, Global Banking and Markets (GBM). This new arm of the program is designed to provide women clients, and leaders who stand behind an inclusion agenda, in the banking and capital markets space with resources to build both their careers and businesses.

“We asked women business leaders about the challenges they encountered during their career progression and they described obstacles such as lack of investment in their career development and difficulty sourcing relevant professional or technical training,” says Loretta Marcoccia, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Global Banking and Markets at Scotiabank. As the executive sponsor of The Scotiabank Women Initiative for GBM, she adds that many company leaders say they also would welcome advice on ways to advance the diversity and inclusion agenda within their corporations.

Loretta explains that the GBM-focused program was designed to help women business leaders to advance their careers and to address, head on, the lack of women in corporate leadership in Canada. “We are cognizant of the imbalance in Canada’s senior leadership ranks and we wanted to leverage The Scotiabank Women Initiative and GBM’s internal capabilities to impact the change that needs to take place,” says Loretta. She points to recent data from Statistics Canada that reveals that less than 20 percent of board directorships in Canada are held by women. She also highlights a 2018 report by BNN Bloomberg, which found that, among the 100 most influential companies in the S&P/TSX composite, only one was led by a female CEO.

 

Poised to drive change in Corporate Canada:

With these client and market insights, Loretta and her working committee of GBM executives developed a roster of initiatives, grouped in the key pillars of Advisory, Education and Innovation.  

“We’ve customized our efforts to reach two distinct demographic groups of women,” details Loretta. “First, we are focused on supporting senior women in corporations, to help them get to the next level, whether that be a C-suite position or joining a board.  We are also concentrating on emerging women leaders, by providing the technical expertise and resources to support their career advancement.”

 

“When we work with clients, we are often asked for recommendations about quality candidates for a board seat. With our Advisory Pillar, we are working to guide women on their path to board participation, connect them with interested corporates, and support them in honing important boardroom skills.”

 

Scotiabank GBM is applying its unique strengths to the cause. For example, within the Advisory pillar, Scotiabank will provide senior women leaders with access to board effectiveness programs. 

“When we work with clients, we are often asked for recommendations about quality candidates for a board seat,” says Loretta. “With our Advisory Pillar, we are working to guide women on their path to board participation, connect them with interested corporates, and support them in honing important boardroom skills.”

Loretta adds that, similarly, under the Education pillar, “Scotiabank will share our internal experience with business, industry and operational issues to help women gain knowledge on issues such as risk management, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.”  The Innovation Pillar involves GBM partnering with clients to develop products and solutions that will “move the dial” when it comes to social, environmental, and governance issues including diversity and inclusion. 

“By enabling more women to reach leadership positions, we are helping Canadian business become more diverse,” explains Loretta. “We know this will benefit these organizations because increased internal diversity contributes to more balanced decision-making, better innovation and governance and, ultimately, stronger financial performance.”

 

A cause that resonates with Scotiabankers: 

Loretta notes that the idea of bringing The Scotiabank Women Initiative to GBM clients really “hit home” for her, as a woman who carved her career in a typically male-dominated industry: “Being the only woman in a meeting can make it difficult for some women to speak up, and to be recognized and promoted through an organization. It’s invaluable for women to gain both the tools and support to level the field.” 

Fortunately, Loretta recalls that during her career she had colleagues, both men and women, who supported her and helped her reach her potential. Beginning her career in Human Resources at Merrill Lynch — first as a co-op student and later as Co-Head of HR for Merrill Lynch Canada — helped her recognize the importance of bringing diverse teams of people together to build a platform for success.

Loretta believes that eventually, gender equality will become “just the way we do business.” And she says Scotiabank is committed to playing its part in that shift: “Creating a diverse workforce is good business and it’s the right thing to do. Through The Scotiabank Women Initiative, we are driving positive change for women, and across entire organizations, to help them reach the next level of success.”