By Shelley White
The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ has had a strong start since launching in December 2018, but according to Geneviève Brouillard, there’s much more to come.
Geneviève, who is Senior Vice President for Québec and Eastern Ontario at Scotiabank and an Advisory Board member for The Scotiabank Women Initiative, is endlessly enthusiastic about the bank’s expanding efforts to support women-owned and women-led businesses across the country — especially now in these unprecedented times.
“There is still so much potential,” says Geneviève. “We committed to allocate $3-billion in funding over the first three years, and after one year, we’ve already deployed $1-billion. We want to become the banking partner of choice for women-owned and women-led businesses in Canada, so I see this program becoming a Scotiabank signature as we go forward.”
“Hitting that $1-billion financing milestone was only one part of the program’s successful first year,” Geneviève notes. Scotiabank also invested in Disruption Ventures, Canada’s first private, female-founded venture capital fund investing in businesses founded by women.
Throughout 2019, 1500 women entrepreneurs and women business leaders across Canada were able to take part in the program’s educational Un-Mentorship Boot Camps™ and group mentoring sessions, building skills and expanding their networks. The Scotiabank Women Initiative also collaborated with the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs to launch a new bilingual podcast series called “The Go-To: For Entrepreneurs in the Know,” offering business and entrepreneurship essentials.
The program expanded its reach in early 2020, teaming up with networking organization Réseau des Femmes d’Affaires du Québec (RFAQ) to launch a series of events across the province throughout the year.
“RFAQ is a non-profit organization with two thousand members that empowers women entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses and break into foreign markets, as well as businesswomen who want to excel in their careers,” Geneviève says. “It is a great match for us because we have a common goal, to support women entrepreneurs in Québec.”
“These made to measure events will enable women to learn from each other, build relationships and enhance their skills to take their business to the next level,” says Geneviève. “With this partnership with RFAQ, we’re making a statement about Scotiabank’s intention to grow in Québec, to be a part of the community we live and work in.”
The Scotiabank Women Initiative has taken further steps to expand in Québec and created a new role to lead these efforts. This dedicated team member brings a strong understanding of the market and extensive experience working with women entrepreneurs, building programs and value-added content.
The Scotiabank Women Initiative is continuously working to identify improved approaches to provide meaningful, forward-thinking support to women-owned and women-led businesses. Recently, the program sponsored Femmessor, a non-profit organization supporting women entrepreneurs across 17 regions of Québec. The Scotiabank Women Initiative and Femmessor are aligned in supporting women entrepreneurs in Québec through experts who are providing free advisory services to those currently affected by COVID-19.
The program also continues to build out online resources on its Knowledge Centre and is continuing to evolve its approach to communicating with clients through virtual events, webinars and podcasts.
“I want to make sure that as a legacy, I can help get more women into leadership roles like mine and others at Scotiabank. What are the actions we can put in place to make sure we unite that passion and that world of possibility for women?”
“Another important milestone for the program this past year was the launch of a research report that outlines unique insights into how women entrepreneurs approach the financing and growth of a business,” says Geneviève. The Scotiabank Women Initiative report, which was released in March 2020, was based on a study of small business owners in Canada. Entitled “Financial Knowledge & Financial Confidence – Closing Gender Gaps in Financing Canadian Small Businesses,” the study found that while women business owners’ loan applications are more likely to be approved, women business owners are less likely to apply for business loans. It also found that on average, the financial knowledge of women business owners is lower than their counterparts, men business owners.
The report concluded that if woman business owners in Canada are to achieve their growth potential, education and other interventions must focus on both financial knowledge and financial confidence.
Geneviève says that The Scotiabank Women Initiative is aimed at closing the gender gap, tackling unconscious bias and ensuring women have the resources they need to succeed.
“We want women to increase their part of the economic fabric of society,” she says. “That’s why The Scotiabank Women Initiative needs to be there to provide that capital to women, offer that full suite of financing solutions as well as mentorship and education.”
“Mentorship is a core part of the program mandate,” says Geneviève, “and it’s something that they are hoping to expand on.” An executive with 30 years’ experience in banking, Geneviève says mentoring has been an important part of her own career trajectory.
“Mentoring is providing a non-judgmental space that can help people make better decisions personally and professionally. This can have a great impact on people,” she says. “I personally have taken risks and grown because of mentors. Sometimes when I was scared of an offer or a challenge, just getting a text from a mentor saying, ‘Yes, you can do it,’ helped me become who I am today.”
Geneviève says she is also committed to helping talented women attain leadership roles, both through her Advisory Board role with The Scotiabank Women Initiative and through her current role as Senior Vice President.
“The one challenge I still have is bringing more women along with me,” Geneviève says. “I want to make sure that as a legacy, I can help get more women into leadership roles like mine and others at Scotiabank. What are the actions we can put in place to make sure we unite that passion and that world of possibility for women?”
She has some words of advice for women entrepreneurs hoping to grow their businesses and become the leaders they want to be.
“Be bold. Network. And get advice from your banker.”