This Scotiabank Leader Uses Her Experience and Work With the LGBT+ Community to Create an Inclusive Environment for Employees
Laura Ley (she/her), Assistant Director, Internal Control, Scotiabank Mexico, shares her insights
By Sarah Kelsey
When Laura Ley was 17 years old and first told her family she identified as part of the LGBT+* community, she likely didn’t envision that she had taken the first steps to becoming an outspoken advocate for this community within Mexico. Now, 25 years later, she’s regarded as a devoted ally to other LGBT+ colleagues at Scotiabank Mexico and has become a champion of LGBT+ rights and programs across the country.
“When I told my family for the first time, they did not approve or understand my identity,” the Assistant Director, Internal Control for Scotiabank Mexico says. “For many years it was difficult.”
Over time Laura’s relationship with her family has improved, along with the culture where she lives, and she says that difficult time in her life ignited an internal drive to improve her own well-being, the well-being of others, and to help change society and erase workplace stereotypes.
Her work within the LGBT+ community began in university, where she trained to be a psychologist, and eventually went on to support disenfranchised groups and addiction prevention within Mexico. She spent the bulk of her time helping people prioritize their own mental health and well-being. “It has to be at the top of your list, and then everything else will happen accordingly,” Laura says.
Scotiabank Mexico’s culture of inclusion and focus on taking care of its employees first drew Laura to join the team as a part-time member of its contact centre. Once there, she quickly connected with other employees and members of the LGBT+ community. “I felt comfortable and that I wouldn’t be judged by my colleagues,” she says. In 2013 Laura helped launch the Bank’s first Pride ERG program within Mexico. Prior to 2015, there were no regulations to ensure the civil rights of the LGBT+ population in Mexico, with many feeling uncomfortable about disclosing their sexual orientation for fear of being ostracized. Through the Pride ERG, Laura, along with other members of the community at the Bank, helped create that safe space for employees to be their authentic selves. The group’s main goal is to educate people about how to respect everyone regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, gender expression.
“The Bank was very receptive to what we had to say after we came together as LGBT+ colleagues,” she says. “It was daunting at first, [we didn’t know what the repercussions of] ‘coming out at work’ would be, but little by little, with the support of Human Resources, we started to lose that fear, and we started to create safe spaces for every employee.”
Laura also found time to launch Pride Connection — a group of organizations across Mexico with the same objective as the Pride ERG: creating safe workplaces for LGBT+ employees. Scotiabank was a founding member, and since its inception in 2015, the program has expanded to Peru, Colombia, and Chile, with future plans to expand into other Latin and South American regions.
In the span of 16 years, Laura has advanced in her career to the position of Assistant Director, where her team supports local business units in preventing and mitigating risk, while supporting in developing operational risk guidelines for various programs. Not only has she seen the prioritization of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bank-wide in this time, she has been an active part of its advancement.
Today, Laura says she’s surrounded by allies — both at the Bank and in Mexico City. She feels supported by her friends and family and says her wife is someone she can always count on and who encourages her to be a better person. “An ally is someone who proactively and reactively supports LGBT+ people,” says Laura. “Someone who is always willing to support the community and to support those who are not part of the community. A good ally should be a role model and promote best practices and inclusive behaviours. It’s great to see progress happening for the community.”
Still, she admits, there’s work to be done. In Mexico, though the culture of inclusion has been advancing, there’s still a lack of understanding and use of inclusive language. Laura would like to get to a place where people aren’t immediately asked about their marital status or whether they have children. “It’s exhausting to always have to disclose your identity,” she says.
There’s also a need to educate people about the appropriate language to use when speaking to people who are LGBT+. For example, people still refer to an identification as lesbian, gay, or trans (etc.) as a preference, rather than an orientation or identity, which is not accurate.
For Laura, promoting allyship, providing equitable benefits, and striving to advance an inclusive culture for all, 365 days per year, is important for organizations to commit to. “We have to move away from our prejudice,” she says. Understanding that progress takes time, Laura is committed to working to advance that change. “It’s not a race — it’s a marathon. There have been many ups and downs and there will continue to be many,” she says. “Education is contributing to growth. The support of companies [like Scotiabank] matters. Change is happening, [and] that is what motivates me [to keep going].”
*Note: In Canada, the acronym ‘2SLGBTQIA+’ is commonly used as an inclusive term that stands for Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual, along with other diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. However, it’s important to note that terminology and understanding of LGBT+ communities can vary across different countries and cultures. In Mexico, for instance, the term ‘LGBT+’ is commonly used to encompass individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, among other sexual orientations and gender identities. This article uses the term ‘LGBT+’ to align with the local terminology and context in Mexico.