How Anya Schnoor is breaking down barriers for women through mentorship and education.

Growing up in Jamaica, Anya Schnoor says there was an absence of women working in the financial services industry, so when she started her career, she didn’t have a lot of women role models. “It was difficult to break through, it was difficult to get your seat at the table,” she says, looking back, “but once I got through the door, I wasn’t going to stop.” Now, after a nearly 30-year career in the industry that she’s always been passionate about, Anya is undoubtedly a role model herself.

In 2020, Anya was appointed Scotiabank’s Executive Vice President for the Caribbean, Central America & Uruguay (CCAU), a region that provides financial solutions and services to over 2.2 million customers across 11 countries. In her role, Anya leads the development of the overall strategic direction for the Bank’s personal, commercial, corporate, wealth, and insurance operations in the region. She reached her current leadership position through a series of calculated risks that led to progressively senior roles and a path that has taken her from Jamaica to Trinidad and Tobago and then to Canada, where she’s currently based. 

Anya’s career journey began after she graduated from Florida International University in Florida. Returning to Jamaica, she began her financial services career with several years in asset management, followed by investment banking and treasury management. She eventually transitioned to the operational side of banking to broaden her experience. “It was a COO role, where technology, operations, and marketing all reported to me,” says Anya. “It really taught me the nuts and bolts of banking.” 

During her time at the boutique financial services firm, she managed the merger and acquisition of three other banks, as well as a system integration to convert a core banking platform. She became known for asking for the tough assignments — a practice that helped shape her career. “I was always the one that put my hand up, even when everyone else was running for the door,” recalls Anya. “There are times when you have to get uncomfortable and take a chance.”

“I was always the one that put my hand up, even when everyone else was running for the door. There are times when you have to get uncomfortable and take a chance.”

That next big chance came when she got a call from Scotiabank. They were looking for a leader to expand their wealth and insurance division.

“Scotiabank in Jamaica is the leading bank. It’s one of the banks you aspire to work at,” says Anya. “When they called and said, ‘Would you like to come work for us?’ I jumped at the opportunity.”

She joined Scotiabank in 2006 and led a significant acquisition in wealth management. “Integrating two different cultures is very difficult and always interesting,” she recalls. Over the next five years, Anya turned her division into one of the leading wealth businesses in the country, all while managing continued growth of the insurance operations. 

Her success did not go unnoticed, and she was tapped for a developmental program at Scotiabank in Canada, with the goal of broadening her career beyond Jamaica. That led to another life-changing move: relocating to Trinidad and Tobago to become the Head of the South and East Caribbean Region. 

Anya knew leaving her home country would be challenging, “I had to take the chance, and I had to believe that I could be an example — not only to other Scotiabankers, but also to women across Jamaica, who maybe never thought they could.” 

The bold move paid off. “I learned to operate outside of my comfort zone, meet new people, build connections and a network. All of those experiences made such a difference as I progressed in my career,” she says. “I think that’s one of the strengths of the Bank, giving you the opportunity to come out of your comfort zone.”

The opportunity came again in 2017, when she was promoted to Executive Vice President, Retail Products in Canadian Banking. “Retail is, by far, one of the biggest areas of the Canadian Bank,” explains Anya, adding that the Bank was about to embark on a digital transformation. “It was a huge challenge, but also a huge opportunity for me.”

In that role, she spearheaded major critical initiatives in digital and product development to transform the way Scotiabank serves its retail customers in Canada. It was transformative for Anya, too — growing her understanding and experience, and bringing new opportunities to the forefront.

“I never would have done it if I wasn’t able to say, ‘Believe in yourself and try new things.’”

“I never would have done it if I wasn’t able to say, ‘Believe in yourself and try new things,’” says Anya. “Give yourself the opportunity to learn something new, take risks and challenge yourself by doing uncomfortable things. This is the key to growth and to a successful career journey.”

Anya has extended her leadership to support the Bank’s women customers through her support of the Scotiabank Women Initiative (SWI) as the Executive Champion for the roll-out of the program to International Banking markets. With the mission of breaking down barriers to increase economic and professional opportunities for women. Through the program, Scotiabank has been able to create a community with outreach, mentorship, education, and funding, addressing the challenges women traditionally face — from financing their business to becoming ready to serve on a board.

“The success has really been beyond anyone’s imagination. We put the structure and resources in place to make the initiative successful,” says Anya. “In Canada, more than 15,000 women have gone through these various programs, and it’s been really heartwarming to see the feedback, to hear what they have felt, and have garnered from it.” 

When Anya moved into her new role leading the CCAU region two years ago, one of the first things she did was advocate to expand the Scotiabank Women Initiative to other countries. 

The idea was met with instant support. The Scotiabank Women Initiative expanded to Anya’s home country of Jamaica at the start of 2022, launched in Costa Rica in March, and Chile in August. “We’re so excited,” says Anya. “There are many more countries to come, but the initial start is really to anchor those three markets and then use them as a blueprint for the expansion to other countries.”

One of the initiatives of the SWI program that Anya is particularly proud of is preparing women for board roles. Spearheaded by Scotiabank’s Global Banking and Markets business, the program delivers a specialized, in-house training program that takes a unique approach to board readiness. 

“It’s not a traditional corporate governance training — we’re having real conversations about the challenges women face when they get on boards,” explains Anya. “Typically, you are going to be a minority on a board. That in itself brings different conversations, different things that you have to think about to get your voice heard.”

Another area she’s passionate about supporting is education. “I realized education is often the big differentiator between someone who is successful and someone who isn’t,” says Anya. “Through the Bank, we sponsor fifteen scholarships annually for students at The University of the West Indies. If you give somebody the ability to pursue education, that can be transformative.”

“Giving back is something that’s ingrained in being a Scotiabanker. From day one, we’re taught that this is a part of our job. It’s a part of who we are.” 

Anya gets great personal fulfillment giving back to the communities she works in, and she advises others to find, just as she has, an organization to work for that shares their belief system. “Giving back is something that’s ingrained in being a Scotiabanker,” she says. “From day one, we’re taught that this is a part of our job. It’s a part of who we are.” 

Anya has also extended her leadership to support the Bank’s employees as the Executive Champion of Scotiabank’s Caribbean Network, an Employee Resource Group aimed at advancing the development and inclusion of Caribbean employees and their allies. She became an Executive Champion in November 2020 and since then has been supporting various initiatives as a strong advocate of the Caribbean Network’s mission and values.

Outside of Scotiabank, Anya is involved with the International Women’s Forum (IWF), an invitation-only organization that builds connections between more than 7,000 women from 40 countries around the world. In 2010, she became a founding member of the Jamaican chapter. Members have the opportunity to share experiences, ideas, thoughts, and networks, and to meet people from all over the world through IWF’s international conferences. 

“I think it’s very important for women to find opportunities to come together, however they do that,” says Anya. “We now have over 50 members locally, from across all industries. It has become a safe space for us to have conversations about our journeys and our individual life experiences.” 

Anya sees these connections and conversations as vital to career development. “It was later on in life I realized how important having role models are, and having connections with other women,” she says. “Learning about their experiences made me realize that so many things I felt, were not unique to me. It’s through role models and hearing the stories of others that we learn, and we get the confidence to believe in ourselves and trust that we can achieve whatever we want.”

Now that Anya has a career full of achievements behind her and far more success ahead, she’s committed to paying it forward — sharing her own story as a role model and offering guidance and advice as a mentor. 

As for the male-dominated environment she started her own career journey in? “A lot has changed over the last thirty years,” Anya says. “We have a great woman CEO of the Bank in Jamaica. And since I had the opportunity to work at Scotiabank in Canada, so many other great Caribbean leaders both women and men, have been able to come up and are succeeding, and that makes me incredibly proud,” says Anya. 

And for the ones that are still on their path to success, she has one last piece of advice: “Just go for your dreams. And dream big.”

 

How Julia Currie-Love is driving positive change within Indigenous communities and Scotiabank.

By Sarah Kelsey

 

Growing up in Marathon, a small community in Northern Ontario, Julia Currie-Love was acutely aware of the lack of services available to her and her family. 

When I look at the things I didn’t have access to, simple things like an optometrist or mental health support — even when I had braces, I had to drive three-plus hours to Thunder Bay to get them checked. It was so hard,” the Val Caron, Ont. Scotiabank Branch Manager says. “Those experiences have really helped shape my focus on supporting remote communities.”

Having an Indigenous family and growing up in Northern Ontario, Julia knew at an early age that she wanted to bring awareness to some of the challenges she experienced as a resident of a remote community. Through her current role, she’s had opportunities to help meet that goal — but she landed in banking by happenstance.

After taking a year off between high school and college, Julia noticed the bank across the road from her house was hiring a casual customer service representative. She got the job and eventually spent several years with the organization. She trained her way up, receiving financial licences, then moved to another financial institution where she transitioned into account management and client care roles, eventually becoming an assistant branch manager. Julia started with Scotiabank in 2019, making a strategic lateral move to become the assistant branch manager for their Elliot Lake location. She was promoted to branch manager in May 2021.

“One thing I’ve learned is that none of the banks are the same,” Julia says. “In order to succeed professionally, you have to find the bank that has the same culture and values you have.” 

“In order to succeed professionally, you have to find the bank that has the same culture and values you have.” 

She knew Scotiabank had the drive to improve things for its customers and her community. Julia’s time with the company serendipitously coincided with the launch of a few of its major diversity and inclusion programs, including renewed Diversity, Equity & Inclusion goals, and  Effective Allyship campaign, an initiative that has seen the Bank dive deep into creating and affirming a welcoming environment for equity-deserving groups. Employees are encouraged to access the learning tools and resources available to support their ongoing journey of becoming active allies 365 days of the year

Julia has taken on several roles within the organization to help advance inclusion of Indigenous Peoples, including the role of Partnerships Director for the Indigenous Network Employee Resource Group and Co-Chair for the Ontario Mental Health and Wellness Employee Resource Group

Her goal is to help inform and educate employees about the unique needs Indigenous Peoples are facing. “Retail banking employees have specific cultural training to better understand the needs of Indigenous people, as well as team meetings that focus on Scotiabank’s enhanced advancement of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for all equity-deserving groups. That includes strengthening our education on Indigenous Finances, such as understanding how to successfully complete credit applications for an Indigenous person who is earning income tax-free — that’s important,” Julia says.

The educating she’s doing goes beyond understanding just the financial barriers Indigenous Peoples may encounter, however. Part of her job is to remind people about the historic lack of support and resources Indigenous communities face. Access to services is still a major issue.

“Current support structures and access to necessities in remote locations aren’t really geared toward communities that need them.” 

“The people who need resources outside major city centres don’t have the ability to access things, even when technological advances are involved. You still, generally, have to pay costly fees to access things in remote areas,” she says. “Current support structures and access to necessities in remote locations aren’t really geared toward communities that need them.” 

But she doesn’t despair. She knows the work she’s doing from within Scotiabank is having a positive impact on her community and is valued by her team. Pride and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation are days that everyone on her team recognizes as important for acknowledgement and continued learning, for example. “The best days are the days I get to do work with Scotiabank and these groups. It’s how I can create change, and change is happening.”

Julia says her next big professional goal is to continue to expand the number of Indigenous organizations Scotiabank partners with on an external level. Personally, she wants to find time to do more volunteering now that COVID restrictions have loosened. 

“I’m passionate about Northern Ontario and providing resources to my community. I am currently asking myself: ‘How can I make a bigger impact on more people and more communities?’ My drive to participate is to ensure that there are better resources, supports, and an understanding of the specific needs of Indigenous Peoples and those living in remote areas. I want my family to have what they need in order to succeed in the future.”

Meigan Terry believes in purpose-led work — here’s how she’s leading Scotiabank’s major social impact programs.

Meigan Terry

By Sarah Kelsey

 

“Every person needs to have a purpose,” Meigan Terry, the SVP and Chief Sustainability, Social Impact and Communications Officer at Scotiabank, says. “I’ve been able to realize mine in part by working with companies that are committed to doing good for the communities that they serve.”

Meigan says she discovered her desire to affect change at an early age through participation in student government. The experiences taught her confidence to use her voice and helped her uncover key issues she was passionate about. She also learned how to stay calm under pressure, weave a storyline to encourage engagement among followers, and communicate effectively. 

These are skills she now leverages every day in her role at Scotiabank. 

“My team plays a key role in that we align a multitude of stakeholders, inside and outside the Bank, to create positive outcomes for the communities that we live and work in. When we do our jobs well, that work helps to build pride in our employees while also making our customers feel proud that they bank with Scotiabank,” Meigan says. 

Upon joining the team in 2018, her first task was to solidify the organization’s purpose. The result was a singular focus that now acts as a “red thread” for the 190-year-old institution: for every future. “It works for the Bank on many levels. Collectively, we’re here to enable every future. We also need to be ready for every future, including pandemics, climate change and so much more. But on an employee level, it can be bespoke and personal to every Scotiabanker depending on the individual contribution you make every day for the Bank.”

From there, she played a leadership role in launching three of the company’s social impact programs: ScotiaRISE, Allyship, and the Bank’s Sustainability program.

“We live in a country that is welcoming, supportive, and so multicultural, but not all systems are set up to help all people thrive.”

ScotiaRISE is a 10-year, $500 million initiative to promote economic resilience among disadvantaged groups so they can actively and successfully take part in the economy. 

“We live in a country that is welcoming, supportive, and so multicultural, but not all systems are set up to help all people thrive,” Meigan says. “Communities face systemic challenges not just in Canada, but across Scotiabank’s footprint, and our ScotiaRISE initiative is designed to help remove these barriers and provide disadvantaged groups the support they need to participate fully in society and the economy. It works to open up opportunities and to help more people realize their potential across all the communities in which we operate.”

The Bank’s commitment to Allyship was developed in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and the discovery of unmarked graves surrounding residential schools in Canada.

“We realized there was more to do to build employees’ understanding of the role they can play as allies and to ensure that all equity-deserving groups feel included at Scotiabank. We established a framework to ground our inclusion efforts: Listen, Educate, Act and Sustain, and a deliberate focus on enhancing our capabilities as allies,” Meigan says. 

Working with many partners across the Bank, Meigan’s team built the Allyship program with the help of experts from the Centre for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at New York University and hosted an Allyship Summit for Change in January for 90,000 Scotiabank employees. Following the Summit, the team focused the Bank’s annual calendar of inclusion events on enabling employees to become better allies year-round. 

“Everyone can be an ally and everyone can benefit from allyship. That’s part of why our commitment to allyship works — it’s inclusive and supportive and a program that brings our winning teams together at their highest levels to advance our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” she says. “We have to listen, get educated, and ask questions, so we can show up for one another in meaningful ways.”

Finally, Meigan and her team worked with partners across the bank to deliver Scotiabank’s Sustainability program. Addressing and mitigating the risks associated with climate change is the most important and pressing challenge for future generations but, she acknowledges, it can’t be done by one person, one company, or one government. It requires collaboration. Not only is Scotiabank committed to mobilizing $350 billion in climate-related capital by 2030, the Bank’s leaders also now work to ensure the business and their initiatives — from the clients they take on to the output within their buildings — will transition to net zero emissions. “Businesses can show up in a way that mitigates climate risk. We have to work together for everyone’s future.”

“There is an opportunity to make your own positive impact in everything you do, whether that’s in student government, parent council, or by volunteering for a committee at work.”

Prior to Scotiabank, Meigan’s dedication to purpose — ensuring others find theirs, living hers, and bringing it to an organization — made her a sought-after leader on an international level. She began her career as a director at Hill & Knowlton in London, UK, then moved to BlackBerry where she held marketing, communications, and corporate affairs roles across Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. She also worked alongside Sir Richard Branson as the Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Virgin Atlantic Airways. 

Throughout her extraordinary career, Meigan says there are a few guiding principles that have helped her achieve success, both personally and professionally. 

“Look for the opportunity to make your own impact in every new task and challenge, and avoid being a skeptic by default. There is an opportunity to make your own positive impact in everything you do, whether that’s in student government, parent council, or by volunteering for a committee at work. People should never let fear hold them back. Fail fast and fail early. You’re only going to grow and learn so much.” 

The second is to believe in and support the success of others as though it is your own. “Nothing happens in silos,” Meigan notes. “Be an ally for someone else’s success and take people along with you in your own success. We don’t live in a zero-sum world and there is always more opportunity when we align together than we first realize alone.”

Finally, “be right at the end of the meeting, not the beginning,” she advises. “When it comes to partnership and collaboration, going in with an open mind is absolutely essential. If you use all of your energy to advocate for your own viewpoint without actively listening to those around you, you will miss out on key learnings and opportunities to do things bigger and better.”

And of course, “start with your purpose — it will be your guidepost for your big decisions and a powerful gauge for impact and accomplishments. That’s where you will make your mark.”

Elbia Castillo made her voice heard in finance — and is helping women and LGBTQ+ employees do the same.

Elbia Castillo

By Hailey Eisen

 

The story Elbia Castillo shares about the start of her career is almost too good to be true. In the mid 1990s, Elbia graduated with a degree in Economics from the University of Lima in Peru. At the time, she says, people of her generation in her country didn’t have a lot of choice when it came to career opportunities. “If an opportunity appeared, you’d take it,” she recalls. 

So, at 21 years old, armed with a lot of passion and big dreams, Elbia accepted a job on the stock market trading floor with Scotiabank Peru. “There I was, working in the stock exchange with 100 other people, 95 of whom were men. They didn’t even have a women’s washroom, but that’s a story for another time.” 

After the first week, Elbia had hardly closed any transactions, and realized that if something didn’t change she would lose her job very quickly. The issue — quite literally — was her inability to be heard. “The volume of my voice was the problem,” she says. “To close transactions, you had to be very loud.” 

Her father provided some wise advice, which in many ways set the stage for the rest of her career. “Translated roughly from Spanish, he said: ‘You’re a smart woman, you have a lot of dreams — you need to present yourself in a way that they’ll hear you.’ ” 

The next day, Elbia appeared in the stock exchange with a chair, climbed up onto it, and made them notice her. “I only needed that chair for a few days, and after that I started completing transactions, and shortly after, I became one of the best traders in the country.” By 24, she had become Head Trader of a Brokerage House.

“Often all that people need is an opportunity, and they are going to shine.”

To this day, Elbia leverages this example when she’s talking about the experience women and LGBT+ people often have when trying to advance their careers. “Often all that people need is an opportunity, and they are going to shine,” she says. For years, Elbia has been committed to helping  make those opportunities a reality. 

Until 2008, Elbia stayed in trading. When her third child was born and required special medical attention, Scotiabank offered her a one-year maternity leave. This was not the norm at the time in Peru and she felt very grateful for the time off to focus on her family. Through it all, Elbia says the most important thing to her has always been her kids. “My three kids, now teenagers, are my main achievement — they’re my everything.” Looking back, she feels very fortunate to have had leaders and an institution that provided a great deal of support, making it possible for her to do the work she loved while caring for her family at the same time. 

Upon returning to work, Elbia stepped into a new role and a new area within the bank, focusing on Internal Audits. Over the years, she continued to thrive in her career, holding a number of management positions; she loved the opportunity for learning and growth that it provided.

Most recently, Elbia and her family (her three teenagers, her husband, her mother, and their dog) left Peru for Mexico City so that Elbia could take on the position of SVP, Internal Controls & Information Security & Data Officer with Scotiabank Mexico. It was a big decision and a big move — one that they spent a lot of time thinking through. But in the end, Elbia says it was a great opportunity for all of them. 

“I’ve always been a learner, there’s just too much to learn — I can’t stop.”

Over the past 25 years, as Elbia’s career has evolved, she’s continuously made education a priority.  “I’ve always been a learner, there’s just too much to learn I can’t stop,” she says, explaining that at any given time, she has a book in her purse and one in her car, and has often set a goal to read at least 50 books in a year. 

At a quick glance, Elbia’s LinkedIn profile confirms her commitment to learning, revealing more than 20 lines of educational experiences. Some of these credentials include an MBA from ESAN in Peru, a CRM (Certified Risk Manager) accreditation from the International Institute of Professional Education and Research (IIPER), and programs in Ethical Leadership from Harvard University, Leadership from Duke University, and Leadership for Women from Columbia University. She has also completed postgraduate studies in neurosciences with a focus on leadership, communications, and learning, and is currently studying psychotherapy. 

Everything Elbia learns through her studies, she finds ways to incorporate into her work and leadership. Most recently, these studies have influenced and guided her commitment to diversity and inclusion — an area that’s extremely important to her professionally and personally. 

As Chair of Scotiabank’s Corporate Inclusion Committee for the past six years, Elbia says she’s put the topic of DEI on the table, not only for the financial industry in Peru, but across industries as well. “The day we have equal rights and equal access, will be the day we don’t have to talk about this anymore and that will be a much better world,” she says. “Until then, we have to talk about it, and train our people, and continue to do the work.”

Along with four other companies, Elbia and Scotiabank were at the forefront of founding Pride Connections, a network of organizations that promote inclusive work environments for the LGBT+ community in Peru, creating connections and fostering respect. 

“From the Bank’s perspective, our customers are at the centre of everything we do, and we must reflect the diversity of our customers within the bank and in our practices and services.” Sponsoring Scotiabank’s award-winning campaign Bienvenidos todos (Welcome All) was an important part of Elbia’s focus on inclusion. 

Inclusion, according to Elbia, is knowing and understanding that everyone is not the same nor should they be. In order to achieve real change, an organization must provide extensive training in DEI, examine unconscious biases, and change the promotion process to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity. “Scotiabank has for sure influenced a lot of othe companies in this region, and we continue to share much of what we are doing to influence change.” 

“When amazing women achieve big roles and positions, they change the world for the better. Women need to ask for what they want, they need to raise their voices, and they need to make themselves heard.” 

Elbia has also committed to the advancement of women within the organization through her work on Empowering Women, a program designed to increase the representation of women in senior positions through listening sessions, webinars, and networking. 

To bring this program to life, she drew upon her experience in the Women in Leadership program she participated in at Columbia University in New York. “I was the only woman from Latin America in this course,” Elbia recalls. “And when I arrived back in Peru, I turned to my advisors, my two daughters, and I asked them, why do you think girls and women are not achieving their goals in this country? And, they said to me that the first issue is that women aren’t often being heard and the second is they don’t have the networks or connections needed to get ahead.” 

Armed with this information and everything she’d studied in her course, Elbia helped launch the program, which began to alleviate some of these barriers for women. “More than 300 women took this course in Peru, and now it’s available in different countries where Scotiabank operates. I’m extremely proud of the impact it’s having.” 

In mentoring other women, Elbia finds true joy — during her career she says she’s personally mentored around 200 talented professionals. “I’m so lucky to have mentored so many women who inspire me to be a better person, to contribute to my community, and to lead with happiness on a daily basis,” she says. To all women, she offers this advice: “Anything is possible, you have to believe that. When amazing women achieve big roles and positions, they change the world for the better. Women need to ask for what they want, they need to raise their voices, and they need to make themselves heard.” 

Scotiabank’s Global Chief Marketing Officer believes in using marketing as a force for good.

Laura Curtis Ferrera

By Hailey Eisen

 

In late 2014, Laura Curtis Ferrera picked up the phone and made a cold call to Scotiabank.

Having had a rich and dynamic strategic marketing career with wealth management brands, Laura says she was eager to work with an international bank and was impressed with how Scotiabank interacted with Canadians and its customers.

“I had always thought the bank was optimistic, approachable, friendly, confident, and knowledgeable when interacting with its customers,” she says. “That’s what brought me to the bank and has kept me here ever since.”

Her cold call worked, and in February 2015, Laura was hired by Scotiabank into the role of SVP, Marketing. Her first job was to help launch the Scotia Wealth Management brand, which represented several of the bank’s wealth management businesses.

“When I came to the bank, I came in as a specialist in wealth management and asset management marketing. So even though I knew my craft and I had industry experience, the bank was exciting and new, and it was also mildly terrifying,” Laura says. “In my background, I have worked at start ups, family-owned businesses as well as large global companies. But coming to one of the largest banks and largest companies in Canada was a whole new challenge — operating in multiple cultures, in multiple languages, in multiple offices with a matrixed structure was largely new to me.”

Laura went on to add Global Business Banking and Canadian Retail Marketing to her repertoire prior to September 2020 when, in a significant career milestone, Laura was named Scotiabank’s Global Chief Marketing Officer. 

“When you ask what the highlight of my career has been, I have to say I’m living it right now,” Laura says. “To come to work every day and be the steward of the bank’s brand — that’s my bliss.”

“There’s now an enormous obligation for us as marketers to show up as a force for good.”

With a huge emphasis on not only marketing for growth but also marketing for good, Laura says she feels proud of the work she’s doing and the team she’s leading. Under Laura’s leadership, the marketing team at Scotiabank is focusing on advancing the bank’s global brand to be an inclusive ‘Bank of Choice’ — through everything from advertisements to partnerships. 

What’s changed the most over the past seven years, Laura says, is the focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Not only internally — “we must walk the talk,” she says — but also in all aspects of marketing. 

“There’s now an enormous obligation for us as marketers to show up as a force for good,” she says. “Our focus is how we can help communities and society at large by ensuring we remove racial and gender stereotypes and biases and represent all Canadians in an authentic way. For us, it’s about using the power of our dollar to do things that are not just going to be promotional in nature, but actually helpful for the communities we serve.”

An example of one such program which Laura was instrumental in launching — and means a lot to her personally — is Hockey for All. A sponsorship and partnership program, Hockey for All aims to make “Canada’s game” more diverse, inclusive, and accessible to everyone, breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of true inclusion and diversity.

“What makes me especially proud is that it is a platform for consistent change with programming and funding and partnerships versus a campaign that merely highlights the problem,” Laura says. “I love that we are part of the solution in a long-term way. I believe that as marketers and bankers, it is our obligation to use our positions to be a force for good in society. And with Hockey for All and its Latin American equivalent, Everyone on the Field, I think we have accomplished something so special.”

The program involves everything from supporting and partnering with grassroots initiatives, funding community hockey leagues, mentoring young girls interested in hockey and supporting the Hockey Canada Foundation Assist Fund which makes the sport more accessible to Black and Indigenous youth and young People of Colour. 

“I wanted to eliminate the assumption that banks weren’t being good partners to women entrepreneurs.”  

Laura has also had the opportunity to work on the launch and roll out of The Scotiabank Women Initiative, which breaks down barriers to increase economic and professional opportunities for women now, and in the future. “One insight I had always found very troubling was that women were not going to banks when they needed to borrow money for new ventures — likely because they assumed they’d be turned down, even if that wasn’t the case,” Laura says. “I wanted to eliminate the assumption that banks weren’t being good partners to women entrepreneurs.”  

Through the program, Scotiabank has been able to create a community with outreach, mentorship, education, and funding — breaking down the problems women traditionally face and creating a program that solves for each of them.

From small business owners, to women running established companies, to executives looking to get onto boards, to those in receipt of large wealth transfers, Laura says the program hasn’t stayed in one lane, but rather works to respond to a variety of client needs.

“I love that the program has changed dramatically over the past few years and we keep adding to it,” she says. “This type of program makes me feel like I really have a purpose and value in the work I’m doing.”

Through Laura’s leadership, Scotiabank has also committed to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) #SheHer mission which aims to increase accurate portrayals of women and girls in the media. The group developed the Gender Equality Measure (GEM) to track progress and the marketing effect of removing unconscious bias from content. Scotiabank is also a member of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, a cross-industry initiative established by the World Federation of Advertisers to address the challenge of harmful content on digital media platforms and its monetization via advertising.

“I feel like I have a huge obligation to help communities be better off. And that goes beyond reflecting where we’re at now as a society. I don’t see why we can’t reflect the society we want to live in — the world we’d like to see.”

“As a bank, we are very critical of ourselves and our commitment to move beyond stereotypes in all of our marketing efforts when it comes to gender and race,” Laura says. “I feel like I have a huge obligation to help communities be better off. And that goes beyond reflecting where we’re at now as a society. I don’t see why we can’t reflect the society we want to live in — the world we’d like to see.”

One of the earliest lessons Laura learned after joining Scotiabank was, “in order to thrive in a large organization, you must find your people who make the large feel small,” she says. During the last few years of the pandemic, she says what she missed most was the camaraderie of these natural interactions. In fact, she believes the obstacles she faced during COVID were, in many ways, the most challenging of her career. Looking back, Laura says she’s learned a lot about herself as an individual and a leader. 

“I’ve come to the realization that I’m an extrovert, and while I used to think of myself as more of an introvert, I truly get joy from working with my marketing peers and partners,” she says. Finding this joy while working from home was actually harder for Laura than she expected it to be.

“My team was highly productive during the pandemic and they transitioned really well to working from home — but I’m not sure I did such a good job of it.”

In better understanding herself, Laura was able to make some changes and open some doors that may not have otherwise been opened.  “I’ve actually decided to go back to school — both as a student and as a teacher,” she says. As a student, she’s joining CMO’s from around the world for a 12-week Leadership Program through the Institute for Real Growth, and as a teacher, she’s been providing guest lectures for MBA schools across Canada on ‘metrics that matter.’ “Both of these came from the realization that I needed to do something to spark my curiosity and creativity,” she says. 

Beyond work, Laura has always followed her passion and committed time to causes and organizations that matter to her. She was a former director, and now a board member, of Hot Docs,  and currently volunteers with the Children’s Aid Foundation. As a mentor, she’s worked with Next Canada — completing what she refers to as “the triangle” of being a teacher, a student, and a mentor. A network of academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and founders, Next Canada has allowed Laura the opportunity to work with young entrepreneurs providing insight and support. “It feeds my soul,” she says.

Looking back, she says there was a time in her career when she felt selfish for wanting to be a marketer. “I envied those people in careers that were in service to others,” Laura recalls. “But, at this point in my career, I realize I can be a marketer and make a difference. It doesn’t have to be so binary, and I feel truly honoured and proud to be part of projects that continue to have real and lasting impacts.”

How Jackie Wang built a career in procurement that’s helping her challenge bias in supplier selection.

Jackie Wang

By Hailey Eisen

 

When Jackie Wang was 19, her father encouraged her to leave China and move to the United States for college — something that was far less common in the early 1990s than it is today. In order to get a visa to study in the US, Jackie had to secure a full scholarship, which she managed to do at a small college in Boston. 

As she was deciding if she had the courage to leave home, her father offered some sage advice: “If you choose to stay, what is in front of you is your world; but if you choose to leave, the world will be in front of you.” 

With that in mind, Jackie packed up two suitcases and took a leap. She’s been taking risks and making big moves ever since. 

After one semester at school in Boston, Jackie realized that she’d need to make a transfer in order to get the education and exposure required to secure a job in the US upon graduation. She got a partial scholarship to a more well-known school, the University of Houston, and then made a final transfer to complete her degree in Consumer Economics and Policy Management at Cornell University. 

From there, Jackie went on to work for Procter & Gamble (P&G), the Coca-Cola Company, and Rio Tinto — living in Ohio, Germany, Switzerland, Atlanta, Utah, and Montreal. In 2018, she moved to Toronto for a job with Scotiabank. In her role as Senior Vice-President & Chief Procurement Officer, she has been championing an overhaul of the Scotiabank procurement process to be more effective and inclusive — increasing diversity, and tackling bias.

“The higher up you are, the less it is about functional skills and the more it’s about people skills.” 

As a leader, Jackie is working on developing and nurturing soft skills — the skills that she believes real success comes from. “The higher up you are, the less it is about functional skills and the more it’s about people skills,” she says. “How you listen, communicate, build and manage relationships, resolve conflicts — all of these are critical for career success.” 

But she wasn’t always this confident in herself or where her career would lead her. Looking back, Jackie says none of her many pivotal career and life milestones were planned. Each one came about almost by chance — coupled with a lot of hard work — and led to the right experiences and opportunities to propel her forward.  

Her first job was the hardest to come by. “As an international student, options for work were limited. I was introverted, lacked confidence, and was competing with an outstanding group of Ivy League classmates,” she recalls. “I didn’t fit the profile of a consultant — so that wasn’t an option.”

Jackie’s boyfriend at the time (now her husband) had interned at P&G as an engineer the summer prior to her graduation, and he’d loved the work and culture. There were two jobs with P&G that Jackie applied to, one in sales and one in procurement. 

“I knew nothing about procurement, but it was the first job I was offered, and so I accepted it.” Little did she know that this decision would lead to a rich and diverse career in the field. At the time, she was glad to have a job.  

“While I prayed that my assignment would be in marketing procurement, the job P&G offered me was in chemical procurement,” explains Jackie. “As an economics major who chose to go into arts instead of sciences because of my inability to excel at chemistry and physics, suddenly I was in charge of buying chemicals for billion-dollar brands.” 

“As an economics major who chose to go into arts instead of sciences because of my inability to excel at chemistry and physics, suddenly I was in charge of buying chemicals for billion-dollar brands.”

The learning curve was huge, but turned out to be exactly what Jackie needed. “There could not have been a better category to learn about strategic sourcing than chemicals, which was a dynamic and challenging market with dominant suppliers and complex supply chains. It was also a white male-dominated industry — which posed many challenges and taught me a lot.” 

It also prepared her for the work that was to come. Today, with a focus on unconscious bias and diversity, she draws upon those early experiences, and others she’s had throughout her career as a Chinese woman and a new American — often the only one at the table. 

For 14 years Jackie worked for P&G and honed her skills to become a strategic sourcing professional. From chemical procurement she moved into the team that launched the Swiffer brand, and had two international assignments in Europe which helped provide a more diverse perspective and leadership style. 

A few years in, Jackie was asked to take on the role of Global Fabric and Home Care Supplier Diversity Manager. When her VP approached her with the position, she already had a full-time role, and he asked her to take this one on as well. “It was essentially two full time positions, but I didn’t know how to say no, so I said yes,” she recalls. “In two years I doubled our chemical supplier diversity spend and received many awards.”

Her success in that double assignment, Jackie says, led to her advancement into a director role, just six years after graduating from college. In 2012, Jackie made another big move to join the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, and after a few years in this role, she joined the global mining company, Rio Tinto where she stayed until she was recruited to join Scotiabank. “While I loved the challenges and opportunities afforded to me in that last job, I was struggling with the company culture. When I was approached about leading Scotiabank’s global procurement services, I was excited.”

Jackie is now accountable for the bank’s worldwide acquisition of externally purchased products and services, with a focus on enterprise-wide strategic sourcing, expense reduction, category management, supplier management, and third-party operational risk management. 

“Each and every one of us has a role to play in being a steward of the environment and the community we live in. Procurement can impact environmental stewardship, social inclusivity, and governance.”

One of her key focuses has been to re-engineer the procurement process and approach by developing a best-in-class responsible procurement program. “Responsible procurement ensures that the products and services we buy have the lowest environmental impact and the most positive social results,” she says. 

This is something that’s very important to Jackie. 

“Each and every one of us has a role to play in being a steward of the environment and the community we live in,” she says. “Procurement can impact environmental stewardship, social inclusivity, and governance.” 

In fall 2021, Scotiabank launched a new Supplier Diversity Program under Jackie’s leadership. In the three years prior, her team assessed the Bank’s procurement spending to inform the development of the program which helped the Bank to better understand its business relationships with companies owned and led by Indigenous Peoples, members of the LGBT+ community, People of Colour, and women, which in turn enabled it to identify potential suppliers for inclusion in future sourcing initiatives. 

As a result of these assessments, the Bank has designed its Supplier Diversity Program to improve access to procurement opportunities by addressing sourcing, partnerships, outreach, monitoring, and metrics for diverse suppliers. That includes engaging with potential diverse suppliers to build a database in order to introduce them to procurement initiatives where possible. Importantly, the Scotiabank supplier management program enables suppliers to not only get a foot in the door, but continue to develop and partner with Scotiabank to achieve long term sustainable successes.  

“Look around at the country we’re living in,” she continues. “This is the most diverse country I’ve lived in and the most diverse environment I’ve worked in. If our business practices don’t reflect the customers we serve, they’ll leave us. Who wants to do business with an organization that doesn’t support and reflect their community?” 

It’s an exciting time for Jackie to be focusing on something she’s so passionate about. She approaches her work with a focus on unconscious bias, something that’s been top of mind for years. 

“It’s a behaviour change, above all else,” she explains. “When evaluating a supplier, don’t just look at how established they are, when evaluating an individual don’t judge them only by their experience — read the potential. Don’t always look for familiarities or information and data that supports your prior beliefs — always consider the other side, or the other opinion, and ask yourself, ‘what if.’” 

 

How the President & CEO of Scotiabank Jamaica is supporting women — from employees to entrepreneurs.

Audrey Tugwell Henry

By Hailey Eisen

 

“Sometimes as a woman, you are seen, but your voice is not heard.” This experience, Audrey Tugwell Henry says, is not unique to her, but it’s something she’s had to contend with working in banking in Jamaica for most of her career. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the minority as a banking executive — but I’ve never been concerned or daunted by that. I focus on the task at hand and press towards achieving my goals. I make my voice heard,” she says.  

Audrey came to her career in an unusual way. Starting out as a teacher of English literature and Phys-Ed in Montego Bay, Audrey loved working with young people, helping them focus on the results and outcomes of their hard work and physical activity. She likely would have remained a teacher if it hadn’t been so hard to find full-time work. 

When her contract was coming to an end and the local school didn’t have any other teaching positions available, Audrey says her friend directed her toward a bank in town that was looking for a teller. “I assumed I would work in the bank until another teaching position came available. It was more of a chance than a calculated decision — but once I started the job, I knew it was where I wanted to be.”   

Fast forward 34 years, and Audrey is now President & CEO of Scotia Group Jamaica Limited, and Senior Vice President of Caribbean North & Central. She’s responsible for the growth and profitable development of corporate, commercial and retail banking, insurance, and wealth management through a network of branches and subsidiary companies across Jamaica, as well as the North and Central Caribbean islands.

Most recently, Audrey and her team brought The Scotiabank Women Initiative (SWI) into Jamaica, supporting small business and commercial women clients.  

In Jamaica, the program is aimed at advancing women-led and women-owned businesses. The three-pronged program includes access to capital (Scotia has committed to $3B Jamaican Dollars in funding over a three-year period), bespoke education, and advisory services and mentorship. SWI is expected to have a big impact on the island’s business ecosystem — the small business and commercial SWI program in Canada has already helped close to 7,000 participants to grow their business, further develop their business acumen, and hone their leadership skills. 

“In the early days of my career, I had people — especially other women — support my professional growth and take chances on me. I was fortunate to be given opportunities that I raised my hand for, even when I didn’t tick all the boxes.”

“This launch is especially significant because in Jamaica, women are increasingly facing challenges when seeking funding for their businesses,” she says. “Having an initiative focused on women-led and women-run businesses will not just have commercial impact on the businesses themselves but will also translate to creating and strengthening women who will have a broader impact and can be part of decision making at various levels.” 

For Audrey, education and mentorship have both been essential parts of her career advancement over the years. “In the early days of my career, I had people — especially other women — support my professional growth and take chances on me,” she recalls. “I was fortunate to be given opportunities that I raised my hand for, even when I didn’t tick all the boxes.”

And while her latest promotion to President & CEO felt like a natural transition — Audrey has nearly 20 years of experience at the executive level — it hasn’t always been easy. To get to where she’s at today, Audrey had to make a number of calculated decisions and moves. 

“After working for a year-and-a-half as a bank teller, I realized that I couldn’t move up in the bank the way I wanted to unless I had further education in business,” Audrey recalls. With this in mind, she left Montego Bay for Kingston, where she enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Management degree while continuing to work for the bank.  

Upon graduation, Audrey accepted an 18-month contract with a different financial institution, and her career began to progress. “I landed a position as a teller supervisor, and that’s when I really started to come into my own — to feel confident about what I could achieve,” she recalls. 

Over the next few years, Audrey worked her way up in the banking world, taking on a variety of management and executive roles while also earning her MBA from the Mona School of Business and Management in Kingston. In 2017, she took on a VP role at Scotiabank Jamaica, and has been with the institution ever since. 

Audrey is proud to report that 50 percent of deposit-taking institutions in Jamaica are now run by women, which she says is a significant shift from when she started in the industry. “We are still seeing some gaps in the boardroom, as we aren’t seeing female board chairs or directorship at the level we’d like. But we have come a long way.” For her part, Audrey serves as a director on a number of boards. 

“The bank is seen as an industry outlier in Jamaica, because we have fairly balanced representation on our board and we are currently led by a woman at the executive level.”

With Scotiabank, Audrey says, she’s found an institution that shares her commitment to seeing more women in leadership roles. “The bank is seen as an industry outlier in Jamaica, because we have fairly balanced representation on our board and we are currently led by a woman at the executive level.” In fact, she adds, “at this time, we have more women on our leadership team than men.” 

For Audrey, this is also the first time since she began working in senior leadership positions that she has a woman boss: Anya Schnoor, Executive Vice President of Scotiabank Caribbean, Central America and Uruguay, and executive sponsor of the International SWI expansion. “Anya has been a great mentor, supporter, and champion, and when I raised my hand to bring SWI to Jamaica, she helped us to get that done,” she says. 

Having stepped into the role of country head in January 2021, Audrey found herself at the helm of a major bank in a tourism-dependent country in the middle of a pandemic that greatly impacted travel. “It’s been a very challenging time — both personally and professionally,” she says. “Despite the pandemic, we knew we had to continue creating value for our shareholders, supporting our customers, and ensuring our teams were connected.”

Over the past year, she’s had some great opportunities for learning and growth which have included better appreciating the value of being agile, resilient, and able to pivot. “I learned that we had to remain curious and find new ways to reach and meet our objectives without excuses,” she says. “And I believe we’ve done that very well.”  

Personally, Audrey says meditation has been her saving grace. “In the early days of COVID, I was extremely anxious for personal reasons, and I drew upon my faith and supplemented that with a meditation app to achieve stability.” 

As a mother of three, she says she has great empathy for what families have been going through during the past two years. She believes strongly in the power of government support for women, especially in countries like Jamaica where family support isn’t always available. “I know that childcare is one of the weaknesses of our society, and it’s also one of the drawbacks and challenges many women face as they try to advance their careers.”   

Her ongoing goal is to continue to support women both through mentorship as well as through programs like The Scotiabank Women Initiative. “I will continue to give my attention to the needs of women in this country and do what I can to help support women as they try to advance their careers.”

A Scotiabank expert on small business loans shares how women entrepreneurs can better understand their finances — and why it’s so important.

Alida Pellegrino

By Hailey Eisen

 

Having worked in the financial services sector for 30 years, Alida Pellegrino is familiar with the biases that women have traditionally come up against — both in the workplace and as business owners. 

“During the more than 20 years that I was a commercial banker, I would say that 80 per cent of the businesses I interacted with were led by men,” she says. “But things are definitely starting to change, and that’s why The Scotiabank Women Initiative is so important to me.” 

Alida has been helping to address the challenges women face in her current role as Vice President, Credit Adjudication Canada at Scotiabank, and as an advisory board member with The Scotiabank Women Initiative. Providing information, education, and financing, The Scotiabank Women Initiative is committed to dismantling barriers for business owners who identify as women or non-binary, empowering them to take their businesses, careers, and financial futures to the next level. 

“Gillian Riley, President & CEO of Tangerine Bank and Founder of The Scotiabank Women Initiative, created the program after learning first-hand about some of the challenges that women experience when starting their own businesses. For example, it is more challenging for women to access capital than their male counterparts, and she wanted to help women overcome those barriers,” Alida says. “Because I oversee Scotiabank’s small business loan adjudication team, we are able to help small business owners meet their financing needs through assessing loan applications.” 

“Oftentimes, entrepreneurs have a passion, and they jump right in with the resources they have available to them. It’s not until they realize they are ready to grow and need more money to do so that they truly think about finances.” 

Alida personally provides financial education to The Scotiabank Women Initiative clients, and always stresses that a solid understanding of your finances is a critical factor for long-term business success. 

“We know that business owners are typically experts in their trade but having a good handle on your finances is also an essential part of running a successful business,” she says. “Oftentimes, entrepreneurs have a passion, and they jump right in with the resources they have available to them. It’s not until they realize they are ready to grow and need more money to do so that they truly think about finances.” 

If it’s an area you’re unsure of, she adds, there are many simple steps to take to get more comfortable with and take charge of your finances. 

“The very first step is to understand your cash flow,” Alida says. That includes knowing what you’re spending and bringing in each month and following a budget to support the financial management of your business. She also advises that entrepreneurs understand the seasonality of their business, and how that impacts cash flow and to plan for it. 

“I’ll give you an example,” Alida says. “Ramping up for the holiday season, a company producing a product has to buy inventory and start production a few months or quarters in advance— but they won’t have the cash flow from the sales of those products until November or December. Also, to take advantage of other sources of financing such as trade credit from your suppliers which female entrepreneurs tend to shy away from” 

“Remember, it’s ok not to know. It’s those areas of uncertainty where you can really leverage other professionals to support you along the way.” 

For clarification of your financial needs, you must also be able to identify what stage your business is in — start-up, sustainment, or growth — and how you should support it at each stage. Unsure? When it comes to finances, the more questions you ask and information you seek, the better. This is where a relationship with your accountant and banker can be especially beneficial, Alida advises. 

“Knowledge is power. Don’t just meet with your accountant once a year to prepare your financials,” she says. “Befriend them so you can leverage their counsel throughout the year. The same goes for your banker.”

Alida’s favourite part of working in commercial banking over the years was getting to know her clients, learning their stories, and working with them through their challenges and successes- there are few jobs in the world where a business owner shares their trade secrets, info about their clients, suppliers and industry. “As a business owner, you can confide in your banker, tell us about your business and your plans, and we can assist you with your needs and wants and ensure we are a key partner in your success.” 

If you’re hesitant to ask questions, “Remember, it’s ok not to know,” says Alida. “It’s those areas of uncertainty where you can really leverage other professionals to support you along the way.” 

Relationships, in general, are also key to business success, and networking is something Alida advises all women entrepreneurs to spend more time doing. That’s one area The Scotiabank Women Initiative can really help with, she adds. 

“We’ve been able to bring like-minded women together who might not have had the opportunity to connect — in person or virtually — and talk about their challenges, what’s working and what’s not, and build that network which can often prove invaluable,” Alida says. “Through workshops and education, mentorship opportunities, and networking, so far we’ve engaged more than 6,000 women entrepreneurs across the country.”  

Providing access to capital and tailored financial solutions is another key focus of The Scotiabank Women Initiative, and since its inception three years ago, more than $3 Billion in capital has been deployed to women-owned and women-led businesses in Canada. Now, that help is needed more than ever. 

“Women-led businesses already face unique challenges, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effect on the economy has put added pressure on women entrepreneurs,” says Alida. “In order for the Canadian economy to grow, we need to support all types of businesses, led by a diverse group of entrepreneurs, because diversity of thought is where true success comes from.” 

 

This article is provided for information purposes only. It is not to be relied upon as financial, tax or investment advice or guarantees about the future, nor should it be considered a recommendation to buy or sell. Information contained in this article, including information relating to interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change without notice and The Bank of Nova Scotia is not responsible to update this information. References to any third party product or service, opinion or statement, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or approval by The Bank of Nova Scotia of any of the products, services or opinions of the third party. All third party sources are believed to be accurate and reliable as of the date of publication and The Bank of Nova Scotia does not guarantee its accuracy or reliability. Readers should consult their own professional advisor for specific financial, investment and/or tax advice tailored to their needs to ensure that individual circumstances are considered properly and action is taken based on the latest available information.

This executive is taking an intersectional approach to leadership — guided by her own personal struggles.

Rebecca Ehrlich

By Hailey Eisen

 

In 2017, Rebecca Ehrlich hit a major career milestone: her first Vice President role at Scotiabank. That same week, two of her three high school-aged children received mental health diagnoses. 

“I had this incredibly demanding assignment and was often working under tight timelines at work, and at the same time I had to do all this research to find the support and treatment my kids needed,” recalls Rebecca. “Some people in my life actually expected I would take a leave from work, but knowing myself, I knew being busy at work would be a good distraction from my worries at home.” 

She credits her leadership team and the bank’s support — allowing her to work whenever and wherever she was able — with her ability to navigate that difficult time in her life. “No one gives you a playbook to support your family when they’re struggling, and often it takes a lot of time and energy to find the right tools and resources,” she says. “Watching their resilience has made me more understanding of others going through similar struggles and the impact great support can really have. I always want to be able to provide that support from a leadership perspective.” 

This wasn’t the first obstacle Rebecca faced during her more than 20-year career in financial services. “I’ve had a visual disability since I was six, and it’s always made things extra challenging.” From not being able to spend extended periods of time looking at a screen to needing to find alternate ways to look at presentations and documents, Rebecca has had to adjust her work accordingly. “When things are projected on a screen I have to go up close to see them, which can be awkward.” 

But Rebecca’s own struggles haven’t stopped her — they’ve made her a more empathetic and better leader. She’s had the opportunity to work on a number of large transformational projects which involved bringing various groups together, with an emphasis on people and what each individual can bring to the table. This is what really gets Rebecca excited. She’s committed to understanding the perspectives individuals bring to the table and making sure they’re heard. 

“By recognizing people’s differences and the challenges and disadvantages they may face as a result, we are better able to support them through their career journey.” 

Now with over 14 years at Scotiabank, Rebecca has had a number of roles in a variety of business lines — from risk, audit, and security, to information and data management, to the development of strategic opportunities. In July, she started her current role as Vice President, Financial Crimes Risk Management, and in early 2021 Rebecca joined Scotiabank’s Employment Equity Committee, which allows her to consult on strategies around the equitable representation of People with Disabilities at the bank by amplifying their voices, reducing barriers, and elevating opportunities for improvement. 

One of the big focuses of the committee this year is intersectionality, a term first introduced in 1989 by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to explain how Black women experience overlapping layers of discrimination on account of their race and gender. Today, the term has grown to represent how each of us holds an individual range of identities — such as race, disability, ethnicity, religion, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more — some conferring advantages, with others resulting in disadvantages. This multifaceted understanding of identity is encouraged at Scotiabank, because it enables individuals to bring their whole selves to work — and that’s when inclusion happens.  

“By recognizing people’s differences and the challenges and disadvantages they may face as a result,” explains Rebecca, “we are better able to support them through their career journey.” 

Sharing her personal experiences, she says, often allows others to open up to her and share about themselves and their experiences and struggles. “As a leader you often want to problem solve for others, to step in and find solutions, but sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen, validate their emotions, understand their needs, and then work together to take action.” 

Understanding that no two people will ever have the same experience, Rebecca says the key to creating more inclusive workplaces is making these connections. “I always make time for one-on-one meetings where I welcome others to share information in a safe environment,” she says. 

“I love the complex problem-solving side of business, but even more important to me is the impact I have with people — making them feel included, empowered, successful and happy.” 

Helping others is something Rebecca has been passionate about for a long time. In fact, when she was applying to university, Rebecca says she was torn between a career in mental health and one in business. Unable to settle on one focus, she opted for a double major in Psychology and Economics. While she went on to pursue a career in business and has worked in the financial services sector for 20 years, she says her greatest passion is still people. 

“I love the complex problem-solving side of business, but even more important to me is the impact I have with people — making them feel included, empowered, successful and happy,” says Rebecca.

She’s also found a way to connect her work-life with her personal passion of fitness and wellness. Having always relied on exercise as a way to balance her own mental health and well being, she recently became certified as a group fitness instructor to share her passion with others. Now she hosts morning and evening virtual fitness classes with her team at work. “It’s been a great way for us to come together while we’ve all been away from the office.” 

Beyond the workplace, Rebecca works as a parent engagement volunteer with Lumenus, a non-profit organization that provides families with mental health, developmental, autism and early years intervention. 

“My family is very fortunate and privileged, and I know not everyone has the same opportunities we’ve had to access support,” she says. “There were times, even still, when I felt helpless, heartbroken, and alone and so I wanted to help others navigate these challenges and contribute and make a difference in a real way.”

How Tanja Perry is establishing trust between Indigenous communities and Scotiabank.

Tanja Perry

By Shelley White

 

Tanja Perry’s passion for allyship with Indigenous peoples has always come naturally. It stems from her upbringing, her friends and family, her environment, and her job. 

“I grew up in a very small town in British Columbia and went to school with many Indigenous kids my age. They were my friends, my neighbours, and I’ve always had very strong relationships with their families,” says Tanja, who is District Vice President for Alberta/Northwest Territories at Scotiabank. Tanja also met her Indigenous husband living in the north. “My children embrace their Indigenous heritage and it is my role as a parent to ensure it is valued and honored. And living in remote communities has always been in my wheelhouse. I love the remoteness, and all that it has to offer.”

Tanja moved to the Northwest Territories at a very young age to work as an apprentice mechanic. But her chosen career would take a turn when she was approached by a recruiter from a local bank. 

“They said I had the personality to talk to people, so why am I not in banking?” recalls Tanja. “Once I stepped into my role as a banker, I saw very quickly that there were a lot of challenges with credit and accessibility to banking in the Indigenous communities around me. And my passion and advocacy started there.” 

Now, with 30 years of experience in the banking industry, Tanja is a driving force for allyship and positive change in both her role as District VP and as Co-chair for the National and Prairie Region Indigenous Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Based in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Tanja has made it her mission to build trust and forge relationships between the bank and the Indigenous communities in her district and across Canada. She’s particularly passionate about improving relationships with those that are challenged geographically and lack access to banking services. 

“These are relationships that we need to repair as bankers, not the other way around.”

“These are relationships that we need to repair as bankers, not the other way around,” Tanja notes. “And I continue to try and show others what I do, how I work within Indigenous communities, and the relationships that I have been able to build.” 

Another passion of Tanja’s is financial literacy, or, as she prefers to call it, “financial fitness.” Over the past year, in cooperation with the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association, she helped to develop customized Financial Fitness modules specifically tailored to Indigenous community needs. The four modules — targeting Grades 3/4, Youth, Adults and Older Adults/Elders — will soon be making their way into Indigenous communities across Canada via trained facilitators. 

“We’ve selected 12 Scotiabank employees from across Canada to act as facilitators due to their outstanding work within their Indigenous communities,” she says. “They have all completed their facilitation training and as of September, they will be supporting our branches going forward to offer these great programs. So, I’m really proud of that,” she says. 

Tanja points out that the modules aren’t meant to be one-size-fits-all. They have been developed so that they can be adjusted based on an individual community’s needs. “We can really come in with something to offer that’s meaningful, to help individuals plan for their future. It will also allow us to be in our communities to listen, learn, and be partners.” she says.

Another important aspect of Tanja’s advocacy and community-building work has been through her work with the Scotiabank Indigenous ERGs, which are composed of both Indigenous employees and allies. “Employee Resource Groups are a fantastic way to grow opportunities for leadership, networking, and professional development,” she notes. 

The groups’ mandates include striving to recruit and retain Indigenous employees, strengthening partnerships with Indigenous-focused organizations, establishing and maintaining an inclusive banking experience for Indigenous customers, and acting as a key influencer to foster, support, and raise awareness of the bank’s National Indigenous People Inclusion strategy. 

“The collaboration, vision, and work that the Indigenous ERG team is doing is truly inspiring, and I am honored to be a part of it.”

One important project Tanja helped to create is the Indigenous Cultural Competency program, a mandatory learning course for all Canadian-based employees to further enhance their learning and allyship, she says. The Indigenous ERGs have also been increasingly exploring opportunities for collaboration with other ERGs at the bank, to great success. “The collaboration, vision, and work that the Indigenous ERG team is doing is truly inspiring, and I am honored to be a part of it,” she says.

Tanja notes that September 30, which will be the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, marks a critical step to honour survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities. “It is a time to learn and reflect on how we can do our part to eliminate racism and other forms of discrimination,” she says. “We must stand together to learn this history and take action to ensure it is not repeated — it is the only way forward.”

There is still much work to be done to repair and build relationships with Indigenous peoples, adds Tanja, and all Canadians can do their part to help support the healing process. “We must recognize the unique history, culture, and traditions of each community as a fundamental first step. Educate ourselves, be knowledgeable, empathetic, and respectful of Indigenous peoples,” she says. “The culture is beautiful, steeped with values, spirituality, and connections to the land. It is important we all develop a greater understanding, know what is important to them and what they will fight to protect.”

Tanja says she treasures her own connection to the natural environment. When she’s not at work in Fort McMurray or travelling through Northern communities, she and her family spend time in the wilds of British Columbia. “We have a 600-acre ranch where we enjoy our horses, developing our land, kayaking, quadding and taking in the breathtaking surroundings. It’s my happy place.”

In her role as a business leader, Tanja hopes to send a message to others in positions of power about the importance of an inclusive and diverse workplace, offering this advice to managers and executives looking to become diversity champions: “Lead by example by fostering transparency and two-way communication in which every opinion is valued. Embrace the uniqueness people bring to the table and ask yourself what perspectives and voices have not yet been heard,” she says. “Be a leader who creates an environment where individuals feel they can be their true authentic selves.”

How Anique Asher is leveraging the advice of her mentors to pay it forward.

Anique Asher

As Executive Vice President, Finance and Strategy at Scotiabank, Anique Asher shares why and how mentorship is a mutually beneficial relationship, the ways her mentors impacted her career, and how she’s supporting others in their career aspirations. 

 

By Shelley White

 

Take a risk. Trust your instinct. Seek out mentorship. Work hard. 

These are the words of wisdom that Anique Asher has kept front and center while building an impressive career as an executive in the financial industry. Now, she’s passing along that advice and more to a new generation of go-getters.

“Mentorship is one aspect of my job that I really enjoy, because now I get to see it from the other side and provide advice that may help others in their own careers,” says Anique, Executive Vice President, Finance and Strategy for Scotiabank.

“When I say to someone I’m mentoring, ‘I don’t think you’re challenging yourself enough, I think you should take that risk,’ I see myself 10 or 15 years ago,” she says. “And it feels really good to know that you can help that person make an impact in their career.”

Anique is no stranger to taking risks and leaping into the unknown. Growing up on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean, she was the third generation in a family-owned and operated business, and spent her summers as a teenager working alongside her parents. 

“I always envisioned myself becoming an entrepreneur,” Anique says. “I never envisioned a scenario where I would be working in a large financial institution because it’s just not something I had ever seen growing up.” 

But her path would prove very different. Anique’s father had gone to university in Montreal, Quebec, and wanted to give his children the same opportunity. “My parents made the financial decision to enable us to go to a university that was outside of Trinidad. They felt that experience was important for us to expand our thinking and have different experiences,” she says.

“I never envisioned a scenario where I would be working in a large financial institution because it’s just not something I had ever seen growing up.”

Anique went to the University of Western Ontario in London, completing her undergrad and MBA at the Ivey Business School. Instead of pursuing a path of entrepreneurship, she took a position at a multinational financial consulting firm, working in mid-market M&A, eventually moving into investor relations for a major life insurance company. 

“Being in that role, I knew early on that I was going to have a significant learning curve,” she says. “What I needed to do to be effective was to build-out a strong team, to ask questions, to ask for help when I needed it, and to make sure that we were addressing the issues of the shareholders and the institutional investors.”

When Scotiabank approached her in 2018, Anique says she was initially hesitant to make the move, having never worked in banking. But she was enticed by the idea of a new challenge, and once again was encouraged by her mentors to take the risk of the new role.  

“What made this role very appealing to me was a couple of things: First, it was a much larger team than I’d ever managed — 100+ people. Secondly, it was a different industry, and one of the things I have prided myself on in my career is being able to get up to speed quickly, being able to be challenged and learn new things,” she says.

Anique joined the Scotiabank in 2018 in a Senior Vice President role, and in November 2020, she was promoted to Executive Vice President, Finance and Strategy. It’s a role she relishes because it encompasses varied sides of the business, she says. While she is responsible for the more traditional financial side of things, such as global financial planning and forecasting, Anique is also involved in formulating and articulating the bank’s identity from a strategic perspective. 

“It’s rare that you would see finance so well connected to strategy, and sometimes people scratch their heads and say, ‘It’s actually such a different skill set, why would you have the same person doing that?’ But the reality is that it’s such a valuable opportunity to connect those things in a way that will drive meaningful value for the bank and deliver value for our shareholders,” she says.

Throughout her career, Anique says mentorship has been invaluable. Sometimes, her mentors were people that she worked with. Sometimes, they were people that she worked for. And sometimes, they were people outside of her organization.

Anique says that one of the most valuable things she gained through being mentored is having others see things in her that she didn’t see in herself. 

“I remember having a conversation once about a role that I was contemplating taking. And the individual said to me, ‘I think you’re making a big mistake if you take that role, because I don’t think you’re thinking big enough.’ And it was the first time in my life that I’d ever thought, ‘If this person thinks I could do that, maybe I can.’”

“Early on in my career, I would say, ‘I really appreciate everything you do, is there something that I can do?’ And nine times out of ten when you ask that, you get an answer.”

Now, Anique is the one doing the mentoring, through both informal and formal programs like Scotiabank Inspire. She says that the best mentor relationships are reciprocal, with both sides benefitting. As mentees, people should always be asking how they can help their mentor, she says.

“Early on in my career, I would say, ‘I really appreciate everything you do, is there something that I can do?’ And nine times out of ten when you ask that, you get an answer,” Anique says. “Maybe, it’s helping them with a project that’s off the side of their desk, or maybe it’s dealing with an issue that they’re struggling with from a different perspective.”

As the leader of a large team, Anique says that diversity is essential in any organization. She notes that of the 100+ people on her team, more than 50 percent identify as women. “I feel very proud of that as a woman leader,” she says. 

It’s important for people in an organization to see women in leadership, Anique says.  It’s about role modeling, she adds. 

“My husband and I have two kids, 14 and 12. Many times, I’ll say to my team, ‘I have to leave now because I need to do something for one of my sons. I’m going to a baseball or hockey game, so I’m not available at this time.’ And I think that it’s important to role model these behaviors for the team.” 

Anique notes that there were times in her career when she was the only woman in the room, and she had to trust her instincts and ensure that she was heard. 

“I came back to work after my second maternity leave, very clear that I wanted to be promoted, and I was an advocate for myself,” she says. “But if I didn’t have strong women mentors that were supporting me and giving me the runway in which to do that, while still getting to be a mom where I could actively engage with my kids, that would have been a lot harder. I feel a responsibility, particularly within my own team, to be a role model so that people see that it’s possible to have both, just not always at the same time.”

Beyond gender, other aspects of diversity are essential to any successful team, Anique says, which is why it’s important to hire people with different perspectives, such as newcomers. “Because that was me. I was new to Canada and needed somebody to give me an opportunity,” she says. 

“If the person happens to be from a warmer country, I’ll send them a note at the first snowfall saying, ‘Don’t worry, don’t leave. It’s not that bad. You’ll get through it!’” she adds with a laugh.

“When I’m most challenged and I’m really struggling with something, I always think, there’s a path through. Maybe that means getting a different perspective. Maybe that means asking for help.”

Outside of work, Anique loves to travel, read, and play tennis, but most of all, she enjoys spending time with her kids, especially when they’re on the baseball field or at the hockey arena.  

“Both of my sons play competitive sports. I actually find it funny, because I go to these games and they can be so intense for other parents, but I find it to be a source of stress relief for me, because I was so terrible at sports growing up. It just amazes me that we’re genetically related because they are pretty good. And it’s so great to see them take on those challenges and learn how to win and lose as a team a valuable lesson that they can take with them as they grow up.”

While she can’t predict where her career will take her in the future, Anique notes that she’s always ready and willing to take on any new challenge that comes her way. 

“One of the things a mentor said to me is, ‘There’s always a path through, you just have to find the path.’ When I’m most challenged and I’m really struggling with something, I always think, there’s a path through. Maybe that means getting a different perspective. Maybe that means asking for help.”

Or maybe it comes down to those earlier words of advice: Take a risk, and work hard.

“Don’t feel you can’t do something because it’s not innate to you,” Anique says. “You can always figure it out.”

Sherri Pierce owns her voice to make a positive impact on others.

Sherri Pierce

by Shelley White

 

Sherri Pierce remembers the first time she understood the positive impact she could have on others, just by being herself.

She was at an awards gala run by Out on Bay Street (now called Start Proud), an organization that facilitates the professional development of LGBTQ2S+ students as they transition from school to career. Sherri was there with her Scotiabank colleagues, and they were being approached by young people attending the event who had questions about opportunities in the financial industry.  

“I remember very distinctly one girl tapping me on the shoulder and asking, ‘Hey, what company are you with?’ I said, ‘I’m with Scotiabank, I work as a manager there.’ And she said, ‘I didn’t think I would show up to an event like this and see myself in someone in the professional world,’” recalls Sherri, Manager, Operational Effectiveness at Scotiabank.

“That really took me by surprise. I thought I was just coming to a nice dinner. But just by showing up, I had affected someone’s life. It was really eye-opening for me,” Sherri says. “It’s not just about me and the people who have come before me. It’s about the people who come after.” 

It wasn’t long ago that Sherri was a student herself. Growing up in Brampton, she initially thought she would pursue a career as a lawyer. But she was also attracted to the financial industry, and upon graduation from the University of Toronto, “I walked around the downtown core, handing out my resume to a bunch of financial institutions,” she says. “Scotiabank welcomed me in. So here I am, eight years later.” 

“I was surrounded by a community of people who were from different walks of life, but we had something in common.”

In her role, Sherri works in the Business Service Centre where she provides a breadth of services for business banking clients. She says she loves her job because no two days are the same. 

“Because it’s project-based, I’m always working on different things with different departments — commercial banking, regulatory, audit. I also get a lot of exposure at the VP and director level, so it’s definitely the perfect career-building role,” she says. 

Sherri says her experiences as an out gay woman in the financial industry have been positive, especially once she joined Scotiabank’s Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG). 

“I always felt very supported, and I think that support really took off when I joined the ERG, because then I was surrounded by a community of people who were from different walks of life, but we had something in common,” she says. “It’s a safe space. It’s a place where you can go to ask questions of our experienced leaders.”

Now, Sherri has taken on a role of co-chair of the Toronto chapter of the Pride ERG, feeling it’s her turn to “carry the baton a little ways further for the next person.” 

She also recently enrolled in a program through Pride at Work Canada, an organization that helps employers build workplaces that celebrate all employees regardless of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. THRIVE is a four-month virtual program to develop the next generation of queer and trans managers through virtual learning modules and mentorship.

Through THRIVE, Sherri was paired with Val Walls, Director of Sales Effectiveness at Scotiabank, and Sherri says the conversations they’ve had have been invaluable for her career development. 

“The program has really forced me to think about my future and not just come to work and think about what I had to do that day,” she says. “I’ve seen the growth, I’ve learned so much, and it’s only been four months.” 

“In being more me, I’ve been able to find a sense of confidence to speak up more, to not be so worried about what other people think.”

Sherri says her own coming out six years ago was “tough,” especially because she had to do it a number of times. 

“It was definitely difficult, building up the courage to come out to my friends from university, the girls that I play basketball with and wondering, how are they going to react? It’s the fear of the unknown,” she says. “Then, coming out to my parents, the fear of disappointing them. And my big brother. It was a stressful and scary time.” 

For the most part, Sherri says coming out “went okay.” She did receive the support that she needed, though it took some people a little longer than others to come around. 

“Now, I’m in a place where I’m unapologetically gay, it’s who I am. I’ll show up with my suit and tie, I’m not trying to fit a mold or wear a skirt or heels, that’s just not me,” she says. “And in being more me, I’ve been able to find a sense of confidence to speak up more, to not be so worried about what other people think.”

Sherri says that the Pride festivities that come around each June always mean a lot to her. Going to Pride for the first time in Toronto’s gay village neighbourhood felt like “the unshackling of myself,” she says. 

“I remember the first time walking down College Street and then turning down Church Street and it was like the air changed. Everyone was having the greatest time just being themselves. It was freedom.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pride Toronto 2021 will be a virtual celebration, and Sherri anticipates that the Scotiabank Pride ERG will take part in the Virtual Parade as they did last year. The rest of the day will be enjoyed at home with family, she says.  

“You have a seat at the table for a reason. So, use your voice and stand up and speak. Be heard, be seen, be you.” 

Though Pride is a meaningful and celebratory time for the LGBTQ2S+ community, Sherri points out that it’s also important for organizations to take the lead year-round in creating an environment that is safe, inclusive, and where people feel they belong. She says one of the best ways for people to be allies in the workplace is for those with privilege to use their platforms to support their colleagues in the queer and trans community.

“Use your platforms to stand up for them, stand beside them, or stand behind them, to support them in some way,” she says.  

As for LGBTQ2S+ people looking to advance in their careers, Sherri has this advice: own your seat in the room.

“You have a seat at the table for a reason,” she says. “So, use your voice and stand up and speak. Be heard, be seen, be you. 

Sherri says the idea of “owning your voice” is something that she’s learned and developed, especially over the last four months in the THRIVE program. 

“I’ve always been a shy, slightly reserved person, and I’ve been encouraged by my mentor, Val, and my senior leadership to speak up,” she says. “Now, I’m able to lead meetings on my own, and that’s because I’m owning my voice and really speaking up on behalf of what I believe in.”

Sherri says she hopes to take on even more active leadership roles in future, so she can pass along her confidence and her knowledge to the next generation.

“That’s what I have in the back of my mind,” she says. “How am I going to influence who comes next?”

How this Scotiabank executive is responding to the pandemic’s impact on the gender gap.

Nicole German Scotiabank

by Shelley White

 

Like most working parents across the country, Nicole German has encountered ups and downs adjusting to the new normal of life during a pandemic. As a busy mom, she says balancing work and family can be challenging at the best of times, but the pandemic has taken it to another level. 

“I would say it’s really an ebb and flow,” says Nicole, VP & Head Global, Enterprise Digital Marketing & Growth at Scotiabank and Advisory Board member of The Scotiabank Women Initiative. “On one hand, during the lockdown, I’m not driving to sports or having to race home after work. On the other hand, there are moments where I’m consumed with work and trying to juggle online learning and the emotional needs of my children. I also have older parents, and I want to make sure that they have access to all the resources they need and are in good health and spirits.”

To keep things on an even keel, Nicole says she consciously focuses on mental and physical well-being for herself and her family. “We’re trying to get outside as much as possible, and also making sure that we’re reaching out and making those connections with family and friends via video conferencing.”

While it’s likely that anyone can relate to feeling challenged during a global pandemic, it’s become increasingly clear that women have been particularly impacted during this unprecedented time. 

“We are seeing a disproportionate amount of extra load falling to women,” says Nicole. “If you have young people at home and older people you are looking after, it’s that idea of the ‘sandwich generation,’ and that’s especially compounded when women are working too.” 

Nicole says she’s been “astounded” to see how women have lost ground from an employment perspective during the pandemic. She points to a recent analysis by the National Women’s Law Center that found while women outnumbered men in the U.S. workforce a year ago, they accounted for 100 per cent of job losses in the country in December 2020. 

In Canada, the data has followed similar patterns. Global non-profit organization Catalyst pointed out that although unemployment for parents was near-normal by September 2020, 70 per cent more mothers — compared with 24 per cent of fathers — were working fewer than half of the hours they worked in February 2020.

“It’s definitely taking us many steps back, for sure. But on the flip side, it’s the opportunity for leaders and organizations to shine the light on statistics like this and determine how they are going to transform.” 

Nicole considers the lasting impact to women COVID-19 may cause. “It’s definitely taking us many steps back, for sure,” she says. “But on the flip side, it’s the opportunity for leaders and organizations to shine the light on statistics like this and determine how they are going to transform to support women to ensure we remove these inequities and challenges for women.” 

One of the ways Scotiabank is supporting business women through the pandemic is through the Digital Hub created as part of The Scotiabank Women Initiative. Launched two years ago, The Scotiabank Women Initiative is a comprehensive program helping women across Canada take their businesses to the next level through unbiased access to capital, financial services, education, advice, and mentorship.

The Digital Hub is an online platform and resource centre to help women-led businesses transform and thrive during these challenging times. Resources include everything from articles, stories, templates and training on topics like how to build a website and transact through e-commerce to how to use digital channels to promote and market your business. The Hub was developed in collaboration with some of the heaviest hitters in the tech world, including LinkedIn, Shopify, Facebook, and Google. 

Nicole says the idea for the Digital Hub was sparked pre-pandemic. Gillian Riley, President and CEO, Tangerine Bank, and executive sponsor and founder of The Scotiabank Women Initiative, engaged Nicole to create a digital toolkit that would help women entrepreneurs prosper during the challenging times of the pandemic. As a member of The Scotiabank Women Initiative Advisory Board, Nicole embraced the task at hand. 

“When COVID-19 hit, we thought about how we could take that online at scale for women-led businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic” she says. “How can we help women business leaders pivot to use digital as a channel to promote or fulfill their products and services? And so the idea was born.”

While going digital has, for some businesses, been the only alternative during an era of pandemic lockdowns, Nicole says this kind of digital transformation could really benefit many businesses long after the pandemic is over. “The thing about digital is that once you’re set up, it can be very efficient. It can lower your cost to sell or promote your product.”

“I think the first step for organizations, whether you’re big or small, is really doing an internal reflection.”

With International Women’s Day approaching on March 8, Nicole says this year’s theme — Choose to Challenge — resonates with her. 

“To me, it’s about voicing when you see something is off or not right,” she says. “I think it’s about making the choice to step forward for something that you believe in more proactively with a louder voice.” 

While Nicole says that in her career, she has been fortunate to have been supported along her path, she knows that is not always the experience of women building their careers. For example, an August 2020 analysis by Catalyst showed that men hold over 90 per cent of C-level executive roles in Canada. There is clearly more work to be done, Nicole says. 

“I think the first step for organizations, whether you’re big or small, is really doing an internal reflection. Look at your data on women in the workforce. You might think that you’re doing OK, but you don’t really know until you look at the data,” she says.

“The second part is about transparency. No matter where you sit in terms of the data, share that internally among your organization and then offer transparency to the public to say, ‘This is how we’re doing.’ The next step is agreeing to move the needle. And what are the steps that you need to take to do that?” 

Nicole says she hopes that in future, “we won’t need benchmarks and targets.” But in order to get there, our perceptions about what “work” is may need to change. 

“We’re seeing through the pandemic that in some cases women are having to leave the workforce because they’re having to care for kids in the home, or they have lesser pay than their spouse. But maybe once we’re in the ‘next normal,’ it will be different, maybe it won’t be a ‘nine to five anymore. Maybe there needs to be more flexibility, or better access to affordable childcare.”

Nicole says she’s curious to see how things will change with her sons’ generation. 

“I’m raising two incredible young men and I know they are advocates for gender equality because they are my biggest supporters, whether it’s at home or at work. I’m curious to see how it plays out for my guys, because no matter how you cut it, it’s a challenge to juggle.”

 

Deborah Service, VP in Global Technology Services at Scotiabank shares advice on fostering future Black women leaders

by Shelley White

 

Deborah Service has this advice for young women looking to build their careers: Be open. Be curious.

“Don’t limit yourself and your possibilities because you’re thinking, this is what I know,” says Deborah, Vice-President, Service Management, Global Technology Services at Scotiabank. “You may not know something now, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn it and excel at it. Sometimes your career path gets rerouted inadvertently and it turns out to be the best reroute of your life.”

It’s a philosophy that has served Deborah well throughout her career. Born in Jamaica and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Deborah says she never imagined a future in IT.

“When I was in college, if you told me that I was going to wind up working with computers, I would have laughed you out of the room,” says Deborah, who studied Psychology at the City College of New York. “As far as I thought, I hated computers and anything to do with technology.” 

That changed due to a pivotal conversation. To help pay for school, Deborah took a data entry job for a real estate company owned by Barbara Corcoran (who would go on to be a star on ABC’s Shark Tank). Beyond “putting the information on the screen,” Deborah experimented with the computer system she was using, trying out various applications — and often crashing the system through her explorations.  

“While I was at work one Saturday, the person who created the computer system came in to do an upgrade,” Deborah recalls. “And when you’re young, you have no fear. So I said, ‘Hey, is this your program?’ And he said, ‘Yes, it is.’ And I responded, ‘It doesn’t work very well.’”

Rather than being offended, the system’s developer asked Deborah to show him where the trouble spots were. She explained where the system had come up short, and he immediately recognized her potential. 

“He said, ‘You have an intuitive understanding of what systems are supposed to be able to do, and not a lot of people get that,’” Deborah says. “He took out his business card and said, ‘When you’re finished with school, give me a call and if you want a job, I will hire you.’”

After graduation, Deborah did just that. 

“Don’t hire like yourself. Think beyond the resumes, and not just based on the experience that’s on paper. Interview them, dig deep into their character and really identify what they could bring to the table for your team, your business and your customers.”

That first job opened her eyes and she saw that working in technology wasn’t just about programming. Over the next 20 years, Deborah expanded her skills, working in many different aspects of the IT industry at several organizations, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Thomson Reuters, and Time Warner. She went from being a “hands-on-keyboard” engineer and UNIX expert to running data centres and working in service management, a customer-focused approach to delivering information technology.

“Service management came about because there was a recognition that ‘techies’ do more than the technical work, that they are a key enabler of many business functions,” Deborah explains. “To ensure that business and technology work effectively together, the service management role evolved.”

Deborah’s career has also been a personal evolution. Back when she was starting out, she lacked confidence in her own abilities, in part because of the sexism and prejudice she encountered in a predominantly male industry. She credits an early mentor, Vincent Cohan, now Senior Vice President, Global Technology Services at Scotiabank, with pushing her out of her comfort zone and exposing her to new experiences.”

Deborah remembers working with Vincent at the Thomson Corporation in the early 2000s, meeting with technology vendors who “basically thought I was there to bring coffee or take notes because I was the only woman in the room, and the only Black woman in the room,” she says.

“Even if I called the meeting, they would only talk to Vinny. He’d let them do their thing, then would look at me and say ‘Deb, what do you think?’ He would say, ‘Gentlemen, in case you think that I’m the one you need to convince, you’re wrong. She is the one you need to convince. If she doesn’t get it, you don’t get in,’” she says. “He did that a couple of times until people got it.”

Nearly two decades later, Deborah says she is proud of the fact that more North American companies are publicly making commitments to diversity and inclusion, noting that Scotiabank has been a leader in this area. 

“Scotiabank recognizes the value of diversity and an inclusive culture at work. We put customers first — and our leadership, our people, and our products and services need to reflect those in the markets we serve,” she says. “Inclusion is more than a buzzword — it’s a commitment we make to be a winning team.”

That commitment spans everything from hiring targets — they’ve pledged to fill at least 3.5 per cent of senior executive and board positions in Canada with Black leaders by 2025 — to the celebration of Black History Month, and the mentorship and attraction of existing and new Black talent.

“It’s an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices and the contributions of those who went before us,” Deborah says. “To be honest, I wish that there wasn’t a need for Black History Month, but right now, especially with what’s going on in the world, it seems that there needs to be a reminder that people of colour have contributed significantly to the advancement of the human race as a whole.”

She lists some of the accomplishments of Black inventors and scientists, such as Frederick Jones, who invented mobile refrigeration in the 1930s, and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a scientist at the U.S.-based National Institute of Health who developed one of the mRNA vaccines now being used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking to the future, Deborah says more work needs to be done to encourage young women, especially Black women, to see technology as a career option. 

“We don’t get as many women applying for roles as I would love to see. We have to reach out to them when they’re in school and educate them about the different trajectories their careers can take,” she says. “The perception right now is that working in technology involves programming or working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the reality is there are so many opportunities — you can do things like service management and architecture. And we need to make sure that people understand how technology enables every single business. If you’re into music, or gardening, or farming, technology is an enabler for that. We need to evolve that vision of what the possibilities could be.” 

Deborah also has a message for the gatekeepers — executives across industries who are empowered to create real change in the world.

“Don’t hire like yourself,” she says. “Think beyond the resumes, and not just based on the experience that’s on paper. Interview them, dig deep into their character and really identify what they could bring to the table for your team, your business and your customers.”

How The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ is helping women take control of their finances

Erin Griffiths, Senior Vice President, Client Solutions and Direct Investing at Scotia Wealth Management, shares how Scotiabank is leveraging its understanding of women’s unique wealth management needs, and leading the charge to serve women best.

By Shelley White

Erin Griffiths has long had a passion for helping people achieve better financial futures. 

“I’ve spent my entire career, over 20 years, in the wealth space,” says Erin. “For me, it’s been a passion from the start, as I was able to see the difference that it can make in people’s lives.”

Erin is particularly driven by a desire to help women take control of their finances and attain their life goals. Women have historically been underserved by the wealth industry, and Erin says that there’s a “huge opportunity” to do better for them.

She points to a PMG Intelligence report from December 2019 that found that while 94 per cent of women investors want to learn about money and finances, and 90 per cent regard advice from a wealth advisor as helpful, only 22 per cent of women have a financial plan prepared by a professional. 

“There’s such a demand for [financial advice], and there’s been progress, but I think there’s still a significant gap,” Erin continues. “I would love to see us help close the gap that we’ve seen out there.”

To that end, Erin is championing the expansion of The Scotiabank Women Initiative into Scotia Wealth Management. This successful two-year-old program has already made significant strides in supporting women entrepreneurs grow, build and sustain their businesses in Canada.  

The Scotiabank Women Initiative launched in December 2018, led by executive sponsor Gillian Riley, now President and CEO of Tangerine Bank, to support women-owned, women-led businesses in Canada through access to capital, mentorships and education. One year later, the program was expanded to women clients in Global Banking and Markets, led by Scotiabank’s Loretta Marcoccia, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Global Banking and Markets. 

In its first two years, the program has deployed two thirds of its $3-billion commitment in funding for women-led businesses and engaged more than 2500 women entrepreneurs across the country through over 100 boot camps and mentorships sessions. In celebration of its two-year anniversary, The Scotiabank Women Initiative launched a Digital Hub to deliver resources to help women entrepreneurs adapt to uncertain economic times. 

In the one year since the launch of the Global Banking and Markets initiative, Scotiabank has delivered programs that help women clients to reach the next level of their careers. The team has designed and delivered a bespoke series of training sessions facilitated by Scotiabank professionals designed for women clients to increase their knowledge about key business topics such as cyber-security and payments modernization, and to network with other women in similar industries or roles. In addition, the Bank has launched a Good Corporate Governance Program, designed and facilitated by Julie Walsh, Scotiabank’s Senior Vice President, Corporate Secretary and Chief Corporate Governance Officer to help open the boardroom doors to more women in Canada.

On December 7, 2020, The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ for Scotia Wealth Management was launched, building on Scotia Wealth Management’s Total Wealth approach to provide tailored wealth advisory services to women, just the way they want it.

Erin says the idea is to transform the way Scotia Wealth Management serves its women clients, to better understand women’s distinct wealth management needs and provide a wealth advisory program that empowers women to take charge of their financial futures.

The program includes three pillars: education, advice and access to wealth services. The education pillar provides online resources and interactive workshops to help women make informed financial decisions about areas of focus that may be of particular interest to women. 

“Information around life transitions, like dealing with aging parents, navigating divorce, retirement. All those things that really are top of mind for our [women] clients,” Erin says.

In the advice pillar, Scotiabank Wealth advisors receive dedicated training to more effectively work with women clients. “It’s about training our advisors to have better, more meaningful conversations with their women clients,” she adds.

And through the access to wealth services pillar, advisors help women create a financial plan that will serve the entirety of their lives – from selecting appropriate financial instruments to transitioning their wealth and exploring how to leave a meaningful legacy through their estate. 

Following a successful pilot in 2020, Scotia Wealth Management will be rolling out different phases of the program for their women clients this year. Erin says that Scotiabank aspires to become the wealth manager of choice for women in Canada. 

“A lot of women are time-pressed because they’re business owners or working while trying to manage and juggle a family at the same time, and I think this is where advice becomes very important.”

“We want to change the way we serve our women clients as we go forward. Not just for our current client base, but also for future generations of wealth clients.”

Erin says her passion to help people achieve better financial futures originated way back in her childhood. 

“I grew up in a family where there were stresses about finances, especially for my mother after my parents divorced, so I always wondered if there was something I could do in my career to help change that for other families,” Erin says. “It came from a view that if you can remove some financial stresses from people, you can help clients live their best lives.” 

Early on, she was inspired by a female woman mentor whose life offered her a glimpse of what she could someday achieve. 

“I love the quote, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’” Erin says. “I was fortunate to know a friend’s mother who was a senior executive at one of the banks, at a time when that was not very common. I always looked up to her and I continue to learn a lot from her to this day.” 

Erin developed her career in the male-dominated advisory space, spending nearly a decade with ScotiaMcLeod as Director of Products and Services. “I was lucky to have both men and women champions at Scotiabank to support me in my own career development,” she says. 

As Vice President, Strategy, Erin was integral to the launch of the Scotia Wealth brand, then moved on to lead Scotia iTRADE®, the company’s online brokerage business. In March of 2020, she took on her current role as Senior Vice President, Client Solutions and Direct Investing at Scotia Wealth Management, which broadened her responsibilities to include the company’s financial planners and insurance consultants. 

Now, serving as Co-Chair of The Scotiabank Women Initiative for Scotia Wealth Management, Erin brings together several of her interests: helping people achieve better financial futures, driving change in the industry and championing women.

Erin says she has been very pleased about how much momentum and support there is for The Scotiabank Women Initiative across the bank, from both men and women.  

“It’s not just being championed by women, our male executives are also one hundred per cent behind this initiative, and that’s also been great to see,” she says. 

“We have trailblazers like Gillian and Loretta who’ve launched their pieces [of the program], but at the end of the day, it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure that we do the very best job for our women clients and customers across the bank.”

Tamara’s short-term disability presented unique challenges — here’s how her employer enabled her to overcome them.

By Shelley White

Tamara Mungal’s life changed in the blink of an eye. 

It was December 2018, and Tamara had recently been promoted into a new role as Senior Consultant, Talent Acquisition for Retail and Small Business Banking at Scotiabank. On what was otherwise an ordinary day, things changed when Tamara fainted. Though she doesn’t remember exactly what happened, “I must have hit a doorknob or something on the way down,” Tamara says.

Her brother found her bleeding and unconscious on the floor and took her to the hospital, where tests revealed she had a concussion. After getting the diagnosis, one of Tamara’s first concerns was her new job.

“I remember contacting my director and saying, ‘The doctor said I have a concussion, so maybe I can return to work next week.’ He replied, ‘Why don’t we wait and see what the doctor has to say,’” Tamara recalls. “I thought, give it a week, I should be fine. I had no idea I would have to go on short term disability for a total of eight months.”

Although each individual’s experience is different, concussions can cause a range of symptoms that can persist for a year or more. Tamara says she experienced dizziness, nausea and vomiting, as well as pounding migraine headaches, crippling fatigue, and brain fog. 

“There was some memory loss in the beginning,” she adds. “I’d have conversations with people and I would find myself forgetting parts of the conversation. I was unable to drive long distances because that would exacerbate the nausea, dizziness and the headaches. I wasn’t able to watch screens or monitors for an extended period of time because I had sensitivity to light. I also had a loss of balance and coordination, difficulties concentrating, mood swings and sleep disturbances.”

Moreover, Tamara had a persistent feeling of guilt about missing work. 

Even though I was aware my leave was medically justified, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.

“This was a drastic change for me. I’d never been on a medical leave before,” she says. “Even though I was aware my leave was medically justified, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I was also partly afraid of how my peers might respond or interpret my absence since my concussion was not visible.”

Tamara says that another contributing factor to her guilt and fear stemmed from her upbringing. Born in Trinidad, Tamara moved to Canada with her family at the age of 10. 

“Coming from an immigrant household, we’re very aware that many immigrants struggle to find employment, and it’s something not to take for granted. I was raised to feel like it was wrong to take too many sick days, because it could create a negative perception in the eyes of the employer,” she says.

Slowly, Tamara’s condition improved, with the help of physiotherapy, acupuncture, massage, counselling, mindfulness practices and meditation. Six months after her fall, Tamara got in touch with the Bank’s Workplace Accommodation (WA) team to discuss returning to work.

“I told them, ‘I’m ready to come back, I’ll just assess my progress and see how it goes,’” she says.

To ensure Tamara was cleared to return to work and would be properly accommodated in the office environment, the WA team asked for assessments from her physiotherapist and an occupational therapist to determine what her return to work should look like. 

Tamara was cleared for a gradual return to work in August 2019, with regular check points to assess her progress. One of the assessment recommendations for Tamara was to work in a private room to avoid migraines that could be caused by too many lights in an open, shared workplace. This recommendation would also help to reduce distractions that could disrupt her concentration.  In connection with this recommendation, she was advised to take frequent screen breaks throughout the day.

And though she understood these accommodations were for her benefit, they once again stirred up feelings of guilt and shame.

“My team, for the most part, sat together in an open workspace and I would be sitting alone in a private room. I sometimes felt like I needed to explain myself to avoid being perceived as antisocial because I was sitting alone,” she says. “I also felt like the accommodation was hindering my presence and visibility in the workplace.”

To help ensure she felt valued and included, Scotiabank provided opportunities for Tamara to participate in multiple special projects, such as delivering Inclusive Hiring Training across all regions and launching Talent Acquisition’s Onboarding Program. 

“I really appreciated these opportunities, because it allowed me to have the exposure I felt I was missing. It allowed me to build relationships, form connections, and build a brand for myself,” she says.

Anna Zec, Senior Vice President, Global HR Services at Scotiabank says that Scotiabank is committed to providing accommodations for employees (and prospective employees) with disabilities, so that people are able to realize their full potential in the workplace. “Aligned with this policy, the Bank has a dedicated Workplace Accommodation (WA) team who works with employees on their accommodation needs,” she says. “They work together to help recognize barriers and determine solutions.”

Zec says that when employees like Tamara return to work from a leave of absence, the WA team may work with the employee, the employee’s healthcare team, management and other parties as needed to implement accommodations to facilitate a safe and sustainable return to work. And over the past few years, Scotiabank has expanded mental health benefits to build and align with an overall philosophy of “Total Wellbeing” — an effort that has been especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The global pandemic has created not only a physical health crisis, but many are now referring to the resulting mental health crisis as the silent second wave,” Zec says. “These measures were put into place to provide support to employees so they can bring their best self to work, and to life, every day. The Bank recognizes that everyone’s needs are different, even more so during these challenging times, and offers comprehensive and flexible programs that are available to employees when they need them.”

Like many on her team, Tamara currently works from home, and while she still gets migraines and must be careful to limit her screen time, Tamara says she is following the recommendations of her healthcare providers and her condition continues to improve as she utilizes the total wellbeing benefits offered by Scotiabank.

I’m able to relate to others in different ways — as a woman, as a woman of colour, as an immigrant, and as someone who had a short-term, non-visible disability.

The theme of this year’s 2020 International Day of Persons with Disabilities — which is observed on December 3rd each year — is “Not all Disabilities are Visible.” For Tamara, this day is about removing stigma and promoting understanding and support for the rights of persons with disabilities.

“Through this experience, there’s another layer to my intersectionality. I’m able to relate to others in different ways — as a woman, as a woman of colour, as an immigrant, and as someone who had a short-term, non-visible disability. We want to be a workplace of choice for the diverse communities we serve, so having these unique lenses really help not only strengthen me as an individual, but professionally I am able to have a multi-dimensional outlook as a member of a winning team.” 

While the past two years have been challenging, Tamara says she has been surprised to recognize the positives in her experiences.

“I did have feelings of shame and guilt in the past, but looking back and reflecting on it, I see it differently. I see resilience. I see strength in my story”.

Engine for Change: How Sandra Odendahl is mobilizing social impact and inclusion for every future.

Scotiabank Vice President reflects on intersecting experiences as leader, professional engineer and woman of colour.

 

By Shelley White

 

During these challenging times, many in the corporate world are asking: are we doing enough to make things better? 

As Scotiabank’s Vice President of Social Impact and Sustainability, Sandra Odendahl thinks about that question a lot. She is constantly evaluating how the bank is embedding good environmental and community practices into its business and operations. 

“The biggest positive impact we can have on society is through our business: the people we employ; the way we provide products, services and advice to customers; and how we help the economy,” she says. “But our community investment activities also contribute to positive benefits to society, and our business thrives when communities thrive.”  

Sandra and her team divide their work between four key pillars: donations to not-for-profits and charities, academic partnerships, corporate sustainability, and overall corporate responsibility strategy. The pillars are part of an overarching goal to make a positive impact on the communities where we work and live.

“If we’re providing grants or creating charitable partnerships, we’re evaluating them by asking: what is the social impact of this partnership? But we also consider, is there an opportunity for a positive alignment to our business? Is there an opportunity for employee engagement and employee involvement in that partnership?“ Sandra says.

The events of 2020 have made Sandra’s team more important than ever. For example, after the killing of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd, widespread protests were spurred across the U.S. and Canada and the focus on anti-Black racism gained momentum at the bank, Sandra says. Employees across different areas of the business wanted to do more to address racism and discrimination. 

“Some businesses were looking at renewed product or service offerings, while other areas of the bank were more interested in enabling our people by deepening learning to help them confront bias,” Sandra says. “There was so much great work going on, but it needed to have a shared direction, so I was tasked with leading the charge to pull it all together.”

Sandra was asked to lead the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) Inclusion Task Force at Scotiabank, a project that is nearing completion. 

“At the beginning, we looked at the results of employee surveys and executive listening sessions with employees on the topic of racism, and then studied best practices across different companies in addressing diversity and inclusion to determine where the gaps were in how we are dealing with racism. We asked ourselves, ‘How can we best honour our commitment to anti-racism when it comes to our employees, customers and business partners? How can we demonstrate it within our community?’” she says. 

Following the assessment and recommendations of the Task Force, Scotiabank’s Inclusion Council will determine an appropriate framework for the bank’s anti-racism actions, in order to “sustain thoughtful and strategic activity over time,” Sandra says. “We don’t want to lose momentum once it’s no longer front-page news. It’s something that we’re permanently building into the existing D&I framework.”  

As the child of a West Indian mother and a German father, Sandra says that her life growing up in Ottawa was a “typical child of immigrant parents experience.” She was one of very few women in her chemical engineering classes at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto, and as a result, she formed strong relationships with her small cohort of fellow women students, some of which have lasted for 30 years. 

Sandra began her career performing environmental impact assessments for pulp mills, mines and hydroelectric projects in Indonesia and across Canada. She eventually found her way into the financial sector, where she was a resource sector analyst for one of Canada’s top five banks and then led one of the first environmental risk management teams on Bay Street. Her passion for environmental sustainability issues runs deep — she recently completed a five-year term as Chair of the Board for the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and is a Board Member of the Ontario Clean Water Agency and the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

But while her workplaces were mostly male-dominated, Sandra says she feels fortunate that she didn’t encounter many barriers as a woman working in science and engineering.

“I know that I am really fortunate to have had many positive experiences as a woman of colour, and I realize that’s not always the case for people who struggle or feel alienated because of their race or gender.”

Having said that, there were moments “where I wanted to roll my eyes when someone said or did something ignorant,” she says. She remembers working at a petrochemical plant where an older male colleague put up a magazine centrefold of a nude woman in their shared workspace. (She moved it so she wouldn’t have to look at it.) And then there was the time as a grad student when a visiting international professor rudely asked her: “What’s with the hair?” 

“I don’t remember the exact words, but my hair was a little bit wild and unkempt — compared to someone with straight hair,” Sandra recalls. “I always wore my curly hair pretty much natural back then. So, I just laughed and said, ‘What’s with my hair? Well, it grows out of my head this way, just like your hair grows out the way it grows out.’ He didn’t pursue the conversation!”

Sandra thinks her pragmatic, no-nonsense attitude has served her well over the years in dealing with tone-deaf comments. 

When confronted with an uncomfortable comment or action in the workplace, Sandra’s advice is to assume positive intent, but to also stand up for yourself, “as politely and concisely as possible,” she says. 

“You can ask a question like, ‘I’m not sure what you mean by that — can you please elaborate?’ Sometimes you realize they didn’t mean anything by it. I think that’s really important.”

And when someone really does mean something by it? That’s when it’s time to speak up for yourself, speak out and raise your concern, Sandra says. “Sadly, there are ignorant people in the world, and you’ve just got to figure out how to go around them.” 

One of most effective ways to make a positive impact on diversity and inclusion in the Canadian workplace is to set a good example for the next generation, Sandra says. “As a successful woman engineer and professional, who is also a person of colour, I feel that it’s important to support and mentor young people.”

That’s why she volunteers with the University of Toronto’s engineering school and has also served as an advisor to Ryerson University’s Social Ventures Zone, where she mentored engineering students and advised student-founded startup companies. 

Representation matters, Sandra says. 

“It matters to see somebody who you can identify with doing something you may never have thought of doing,” she says. “I hope I am inspiring other women and people of colour to think, ‘Of course, there is a place for me in all this.’”

Hockey legend Cassie Campbell-Pascall opens up about the importance of sport — even during a pandemic.

For Cassie Cambell-Pascall, hockey is more than just a career. She recently spoke with Lisa Ferkul, Director of Hockey Sponsorship at Scotiabank, on the return of the NHL, supporting women’s hockey, and the new documentary she’s featured in, Hockey 24 — highlighting stories of community hockey from across Canada.  

 

With NHL training camps set to start on July 10, hockey fans are excitedly getting closer to the return of a season that was put on hold nearly four months ago. But to equate Canada’s official national winter sport with just the NHL would be selling it short — it’s more than one league, and to many, it goes far deeper than just armchair entertainment. 

Cassie Campbell-Pascall would certainly agree on both counts. One of the most successful and recognized players in women’s hockey, she won 21 medals with Canada’s National Women’s team, including six golds at the World Championships, and two Olympic gold medals while captain — the only Canadian hockey captain, male or female, to achieve that feat.

Since retiring in 2006, she’s kept her focus on the game — as a broadcaster for Sportsnet’s Hockey Night in Canada (and the first woman to do colour commentary on the show), and a Scotiabank Teammate, acting as an ambassador to the organization. 

She recently checked in with Lisa Ferkul, Director of Hockey Sponsorship at Scotiabank. Over the eight years, they’ve worked together on programs like Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada — where they annually coach side-by-side — Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest, and the Scotiabank Community Hockey Sponsorship Program, their business relationship has developed into a friendship, built on a mutual love of the good ol’ hockey game. 

 

LF: I know we’re here to talk about hockey, but let me start by asking: how has this pandemic been for you? How have you and your family been coping?

CCP: I would say for the first three weeks, I took advantage of a mandated break that I probably would have never taken for myself. I was just coming into the busiest time of my season, where I was heading off to the Women’s World Championship and then I was going to go straight into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Then all of a sudden this hit, and you’re told to stay home. And so for three weeks, I kind of went off the grid — I didn’t do anything on social media, I spent time with my family, got jobs done around the house, and became a homeschool teacher, like every other parent out there that has their kids at home. 

And then you start to think, this is serious, people have lost their lives. I made a list of things I could do. I started a program called #JoinTheMovement, where we just try to get people to get active across the country. I supported Ronald McDonald House in Calgary — I’m an ambassador for RMHC — by buying meals with my family. I’ve had my great days and I’ve had my really hard days, where you’re scared and you wonder, is life going to ever be normal again?

 

LF: Yeah, the biggest thing for me is keeping perspective. I feel lucky that no one in my immediate circle has been severely impacted by the virus. And I’m very fortunate to work for Scotiabank — the bank has been extremely supportive of its employees. I wasn’t travelling as much as you were for work, but I had a pretty busy professional and social calendar, so I’ve been finding that this has been a time to slow down as well. But I do miss going to hockey games.   

CCP: Well, we know the NHL is coming back, but there’s so much we still don’t know. I mean, they have a plan that they’ve set out, but it all kind of depends on everything. For me, as a broadcaster, I don’t know whether I’ll be live at the venue, or broadcasting from a studio in Toronto, or from home here in Calgary. 

The one thing I can say for sure is we want the teams to play for the Stanley Cup. I believe hockey, and sport in general, can really help people get through this. I’m hoping it comes back sooner than later. 

 

LF: I totally agree. Hockey matters to Canadians. And by that, I mean hockey right down to the community level, right down to the kids starting out. You were seven when you first started playing, right?

CCP: Yes, and when I started, I think like so many young girls of my generation, it was because I had an older brother who played, and I wanted to be just like him. There wasn’t a girls’ league or minor women’s hockey at the time. I’d go to the rink and I’d be playing mini-stick hockey in the corner with some tape balls and all the other siblings. Finally, I just said to my parents, ‘Why can’t I play?’ They were worried about me getting picked on, but they let me play and I loved it so much. 

I loved it so much that I didn’t listen to the people that I heard, loud and clear, say ‘Girls shouldn’t play hockey’ as I walked into the rink. I loved it enough to ignore being made fun of and just kind of store those things in the back of my brain. And when I made my first Olympic team, those things kind of came out, like, that’s kind of funny you said that. 

You’re a lot younger than me, but I know you played hockey growing up, and you still probably were told that as a girl you shouldn’t play. 

 

LF: Yeah, I don’t know about a lot younger, but I did have the opportunity to play girls’ hockey, whereas when you started out you were playing with the boys and there weren’t many women hockey players to look up to. Fortunately, that’s changed. 

CCP: I think it’s been so important that people like you are in positions of strength at organizations like Scotiabank, because you fight for us behind the scenes, and fight to make women’s hockey just as much a part of the branding and marketing plans. I think that’s what has changed. 

 

“And I think for me, I get to sit in NHL arenas all the time, and call NHL games, and I’ve played at the highest level of women’s hockey, and sometimes you just forget about what hockey is really about — which is our kids.”

 

LF: Well, at Scotiabank we really believe that hockey is for everybody, and that we need to do our part to make it inclusive to everyone — which is such a great segue into Scotiabank’s Hockey 24. This documentary that we put together — with help from award-winning filmmakers, Scotiabank Teammates like you, and a lot of Canadians — is really about how community hockey in Canada isn’t just one story, it’s millions of stories. 

CCP: It’s such an important message, and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of it. The day it was all filmed on, November 17, is my daughter’s birthday, and we were participating in the Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest here in Calgary, and she was there with all her current teammates from this year and a bunch from last year, and she was just so excited. 

And I think for me, I get to sit in NHL arenas all the time, and call NHL games, and I’ve played at the highest level of women’s hockey, and sometimes you just forget about what hockey is really about — which is our kids. And it’s not only about trying to make some great players, but I think you want to try and make them great people, and this documentary really showed that hockey has the power to do that. 

 

LF: I don’t know if you know the background, but originally Hockey 24 was set to premiere during Hot Docs, an international documentary film festival here in Toronto. And when isolation was imposed and the live festival was cancelled, we called our friends at Sportsnet to release it on broadcast on May 24 — in the middle of a pandemic, in the absence of the game we love on the ice. 

CCP: Well, I think when it was released, I think people needed it. People needed to share in these messages of adversity and how people overcame them through hockey. Those were the stories that I was looking forward to seeing, which don’t often get told. And I think with Hockey 24, to have those grassroots stories told by Canadians and produced by Canadians — I mean, it’s something that’s never been done before, so I was definitely excited to be part of it that day, and then to see the final product.  

 

LF: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. There were so many inspiring stories — like the stories of Nicole, or Ainslie — that really conveyed how hockey is more than just a sport. 

CCP: And I’ve seen that in the other work I do with Scotiabank’s hockey initiatives. About a half-dozen times, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the kids I taught at Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest back when it started, 15 years ago, who are now coming back as an instructor for the program. 

That’s really powerful to me because that means she’s come through Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest as a six or seven year old, she’s found a love of the game, she saw a role model in someone who played on the national team or at a high level, and she just kept loving this game. Right through those teenage years when it gets tough, right through those years when you’re going off to university and you have no idea what you’re going to do and no idea what you’re going to take, but you know you’re going to play hockey — and it kind of grounds you through that. And then you’re back at this program that helped influence you at a young age, and I find that cycle very powerful. I know we lose a lot of girls at the age of 12 to 14 in sport for a variety of reasons. And so to see that evolution of a young player, to have met her a long time ago and then see her again and who she’s become as a person, who she’s become as a leader, those are some powerful moments. That’s when you realize you’ve had an impact, you’ve made a difference. 

That’s why, with Scotiabank, to support the women’s game as much as you have behind the scenes, I can’t even thank you enough. The impact that this company has had on women’s hockey is second to nobody. I know it sounds corporate and cliché, but it’s true — I’ve worked with a lot of different companies over the years where I’m there as the token woman, and I’ve never been made to feel like that here. So I just want to thank you for being you, and for pushing things behind the scenes, and for being a great friend.

 

LF: Well I’m going to echo the same sentiment. Thank you for being a Teammate, confidante, and such a dear friend.

How one employee’s story inspired Scotiabank to enhance their benefits plan for everyone.

When Eileen Bonetti saw her child struggling, she knew she had to do something to help. 

Eileen’s daughter, Ashley, was assigned male at birth. In 2016, at the age of 22, Ashley came out as transgender. 

“But what we realized was that Ashley coming out was just the tip of the iceberg,” says Eileen, Director, Country Relationship, Chile, International Banking at Scotiabank. “Underneath, there was a lot of pain and anxiety, which led to severe depression.” 

It’s well-documented that transgender youth face increased mental health challenges. A 2017 study by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) found that transgender youth had a higher risk of reporting psychological distress, self-harm, major depressive episodes, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. The 2015 Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey found that 1 in 3 trans youth had attempted suicide in the past year. 

Seeing the pain that her daughter was in, Eileen was overwhelmed with worry. 

“Being a parent of a child who struggles with depression is really paralyzing,” she says. “You don’t know what to do.”  

To get some help for Ashley, Eileen looked to her employee benefits plan to fund therapy sessions. Ashley began therapy and was covered up to her twenty-fourth birthday, but after that, she was no longer eligible. After a call to her insurance company, Eileen discovered that her benefits only cover dependents for mental-health support if they are under twenty-five years of age and studying full-time. It was a heavy blow.

“I had all these benefits, but I couldn’t use them for the person in my family who really needed it,” she says.

Eileen reached out to her Scotiabank manager and he suggested she connect with Scotiabank’s Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG) for advice. Their mission is to help create an inclusive and supportive environment for LGBT+ employees, customers, their allies and friends. Eileen attended a meeting of the ERG to share her story.

“I remember that day. They all hugged me and they said, ‘You’re in the right place. We are going to work with you on this,’” Eileen says. “I felt very secure and very supported.”

The group asked Eileen to share her story and perspective as an LGBT+ parent through a series of panel discussions they were organizing throughout 2019. Through these panels, Eileen was able to relay the roadblock she encountered in trying to use her benefits for Ashley’s therapy. 

Ayman Alvi, Director, Global Benefits, Scotiabank Total Rewards, was in the audience for one of Eileen’s talks, with other members of his team. Ayman says the issue she raised resonated with them.

“We are always incorporating employee feedback, and the experience Eileen shared was a powerful one,” Ayman says. “We want to provide flexibility in our benefits to try to meet a wide variety of needs, and this seemed to be a gap.”

Ayman says the team reached out to their benefits provider to understand how they could expand eligibility for their employees’ mental health benefits. They were told the federal Income Tax Act does not allow for increasing the age of children who can be covered by benefits (Scotiabank pays up to $3,000 per year, for a variety of mental health professionals) — so those benefits could not be changed. 

 

“People think, I’m not going to say anything because nothing will happen. Or, I’m afraid to ask. And you know what? Things happen. You just need to speak up and ask.”

 

Undeterred, they found another way to address the gap. Scotiabank already offered a Wellbeing Account where employees could allocate benefit dollars towards mental health-related expenses. So the team updated that policy to allow for reimbursements for mental health-related expenses for any family members, such as adult children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles.

“We assume that there are many in the bank who may be dealing with similar concerns, whether it be an adult child, an elderly parent for whom an employee has caregiving responsibilities, or another family member who needs support,” Ayman says. “We believe this is an important and valuable resource to provide our employees and therefore the right thing to do.”

The changes came into effect earlier this year. When Eileen found out, she was relieved and grateful that she would be able to access funds from the Wellbeing Account to pay for Ashley’s therapy.  

“I thought, Oh my God, this is really life-changing,” she says. “I wrote an email to HR to say thank you and that I appreciate the bank for listening. Being listened to — that’s really touching.”

Eileen says Ashley is now doing well. She’s “building up her confidence,” working part-time and engaging with a writing coach to write a book. “The therapy has made a difference,” Eileen adds. 

June is Pride Month and at Scotiabank, the company works to raise awareness for the inclusion of LGBT+ communities and build futures that are free of discrimination, where LGBT+ people feel safe and open to be their true selves. In 2019, Scotiabank was the first Canadian bank to sign the UN Global LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business to strengthen its work around human rights and in promoting equality for LGBT+ people.

For Eileen, Pride means visibility in the community. That’s why it’s important for LGBT+ people, their parents, and other allies to share their stories to open up hearts and minds.

“I think that listening to these personal stories can really make a difference. That’s when it clicks. There are so many stories out there and one will resonate with you and then you will be an ally with passion,” she says.

Through this experience, Eileen says she has learned a lot about herself. 

“What I learned is that I’m stronger than I thought I was. As parents of LGBT+ children, we come out too. If I didn’t take part in that panel discussion at the bank, nobody would know. It’s a step for me too to say, ‘I’m the parent of a trans kid.’ So you find out how courageous you are,” she says. “I also learned that unconditional love is very empowering — that is what empowered me to fight for a good cause.”

Eileen says she’s also learned that the actions of one person can make a big difference. She encourages others to speak up in the workplace if they see something they think should be changed. 

“People think, I’m not going to say anything because nothing will happen. Or, I’m afraid to ask,” she says. “And you know what? Things happen. You just need to speak up and ask.”

L’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia, au service de toutes les entreprises détenues ou dirigées par des femmes

 

Par Shelley White

 

Depuis son lancement en décembre 2018, l’initiative Femmes de la Banque ScotiaMC cumule les projets et, selon Geneviève Brouillard, cela ne fait que commencer.

Geneviève, qui est première vice-présidente de la région Québec et Est de l’Ontario à la Banque Scotia et membre du comité consultatif de l’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia, est une fervente partisane des initiatives que la Banque déploie aux quatre coins du pays pour renforcer son soutien aux entreprises détenues ou dirigées par des femmes, tout particulièrement en cette période sans précédent.

« Nous pouvons encore faire beaucoup, déclare-t-elle. Nous nous sommes engagés à investir une enveloppe de trois milliards de dollars dans les trois premières années et, après un an, nous avons déjà injecté un milliard de dollars. Ce que nous voulons, c’est devenir le partenaire de choix des femmes qui possèdent ou dirigent une entreprise, donc je vois très bien cette initiative devenir un programme emblématique de la Banque Scotia. »

« Ce jalon d’un milliard de dollars en financement, ce n’est que l’une des réussites de notre première année », précise Geneviève. En effet, la Banque Scotia a aussi investi dans Disruption Ventures, le tout premier fonds privé d’investissement en capital de risque canadien fondé par des femmes, pour des femmes.

En outre, les ateliers Un-MentorshipMC et les séances de mentorat en groupe offerts en 2019 dans le cadre du volet formation de l’initiative ont permis à 1 500 dirigeantes et entrepreneures de partout au pays d’élargir leurs compétences et leur réseau. L’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia s’est également associée au Forum for Women Entrepreneurs pour lancer la nouvelle série de balados bilingue Le Go-To : pour les entrepreneures au courant, qui se penche sur les notions fondamentales de l’entrepreneuriat et des affaires.

Début 2020, l’initiative a étendu son champ d’action en faisant équipe avec le Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec (RFAQ) pour organiser des activités dans la province tout au long de l’année.

« Le RFAQ, c’est un organisme sans but lucratif de 2 000 membres au service des femmes entrepreneures qui veulent faire croître leurs activités et percer à l’étranger ainsi que des femmes d’affaires qui aspirent à une brillante carrière, résume Geneviève. C’est le partenaire idéal pour nous, puisque nous partageons le même objectif : épauler les entrepreneures québécoises. »

« Ces activités sur mesure permettront aux participantes d’apprendre l’une de l’autre, de nouer des relations et de parfaire leurs compétences pour amener leur entreprise vers de nouveaux sommets, poursuit-elle. En s’associant avec le RFAQ, la Banque Scotia manifeste clairement son intention d’être plus présente au Québec, de faire partie intégrante des collectivités dans lesquelles ses employés vivent et travaillent. »

L’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia déploie donc des efforts pour augmenter sa présence dans la province et a d’ailleurs créé un nouveau poste pour piloter cette expansion. Ce poste a été confié à une personne dévouée qui possède une profonde compréhension du marché et une vaste expérience de travail avec des femmes entrepreneures et de conception de programmes et de contenu original.

L’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia travaille sans relâche pour trouver de meilleures approches qui permettent d’offrir un soutien novateur et concret aux entreprises détenues ou dirigées par des femmes. Récemment, elle a par exemple parrainé Femmessor, un organisme sans but lucratif au service des entrepreneures dans 17 régions du Québec qui, tout comme elle, cherche à épauler les entrepreneures québécoises touchées par la pandémie de COVID-19 en leur prodiguant les services-conseils d’experts gratuitement.

Parallèlement, l’initiative alimente son centre de ressources en ligne et parfait sa stratégie de communication externe par l’intermédiaire d’événements virtuels, de webinaires et de balados.

 

 

Je veux que ma contribution ait été d’aider d’autres femmes à se hisser aux postes de leadership à la Banque Scotia, qu’ils soient semblables au mien, ou tout autres. Que pouvons-nous faire pour réunir notre passion et cet océan de possibilités, au service des femmes? 


« Une autre étape importante franchie cette année : la publication en mars 2020 d’un rapport d’étude qui jette un éclairage inédit sur la relation qu’entretiennent les entrepreneures avec le financement et la croissance de leur entreprise », explique Geneviève. S’appuyant sur un sondage effectué auprès de propriétaires de petites entreprises au Canada, ce rapport intitulé
Connaissances et confiance en finance – Vers une parité hommes-femmes dans le financement des petites entreprises canadiennes révèle que les demandes de prêt présentées par les femmes propriétaires d’entreprise sont plus souvent acceptées, mais aussi moins nombreuses. On y constate aussi que leur niveau de connaissances financières est, en moyenne, inférieur à celui de leurs contreparties masculines.

Le rapport conclut que pour permettre aux femmes propriétaires d’entreprise au Canada d’atteindre leurs objectifs de croissance, les formations et autres initiatives doivent autant mettre l’accent sur les connaissances financières que sur la confiance qu’elles s’accordent à ce sujet.

Geneviève rappelle que la mission de l’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia est de refermer l’écart hommes-femmes, de s’attaquer aux préjugés inconscients et de s’assurer que les femmes ont les outils dont elles ont besoin pour réussir.

« Nous aimerions que les femmes prennent une plus grande place dans le tissu économique de la société, dit-elle. D’où la nécessité pour l’initiative d’être présente pour leur offrir ce capital, leur donner accès à une gamme complète de solutions de financement, sans oublier le mentorat et la formation. »

« Le mentorat constitue un volet central de l’initiative, renchérit Geneviève, et l’objectif est de le développer encore plus. » Du haut de ses 30 ans d’expérience en tant que cadre dans le secteur bancaire, elle insiste sur le rôle prépondérant qu’a joué le mentorat dans son propre parcours professionnel :

« Le mentorat, c’est disposer d’un espace exempt de jugement pour prendre les meilleures décisions, que ce soit sur le plan professionnel ou personnel. Ça peut changer la vie de quelqu’un. Si j’ai su prendre des risques et m’épanouir, c’est grâce à mes mentors. Lorsque j’étais effrayée par une proposition ou un défi, c’est le simple fait de recevoir un message d’un mentor me disant “oui, tu en es capable” qui m’a permis de devenir qui je suis aujourd’hui. »

D’ailleurs, Geneviève compte bien profiter de son rôle dans le comité consultatif de l’initiative et dans le cadre de son poste actuel de première vice-présidente pour aider des femmes de talent à gravir les échelons.

« J’ai encore un objectif à l’horizon : faire monter plus de femmes à bord. Je veux que ma contribution ait été d’aider d’autres femmes à se hisser aux postes de leadership à la Banque Scotia, qu’ils soient semblables au mien, ou tout autres. Que pouvons-nous faire pour réunir notre passion et cet océan de possibilités, au service des femmes? »

Pour conclure, voici les bons conseils de Geneviève pour toutes les entrepreneures désireuses de développer leur entreprise et de devenir des dirigeantes à la hauteur de leurs aspirations :

« Foncez. Réseautez. Et demandez conseil à votre banquier. »

The Scotiabank Women Initiative has something for every women-owned, women-led business.

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.”

After breaking barriers, Swanzy Quarshie is pulling others along with her

As a Director in energy sales at Scotiabank in Toronto, Swanzy Quarshie guides institutional investors in the landscape of energy. As a member of the bank’s Black Employee Network, she’s helping to mentor and inspire a whole new generation of rising financial stars.

 

By Shelley White

 

When Swanzy Quarshie first moved from Newfoundland to Toronto, she knew two things for sure: she wanted to be a portfolio manager one day and she wanted to work on Bay Street. 

A Bachelor of Commerce graduate of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Swanzy had completed a co-op program as an analyst with an East Coast telecommunications company. During the program, her co-op supervisor encouraged her to pursue her dreams of working in the capital markets. 

“He knew that I was really passionate about finance and he told me he thought I could do really well in it. He got me excited about my potential,” says Swanzy, now Director, Energy Sales Specialist, at Scotiabank in Toronto. 

Swanzy flew to Toronto, stayed with family friends in Mississauga, and set out to get a job. 

“But I knew so little about Bay Street. All I knew was that Bay Street was where you went if you were looking for a capital markets job. Unfortunately, I certainly didn’t know any of the right people to guide me,” she says. “And so I got on the subway and got off at Bay station.”

Finding herself in swanky Yorkville — more about high fashion boutiques than high finance — Swanzy asked someone on the street where the office towers were. 

“They said, ‘You mean like the financial district?’ And pointed me south. I headed that direction on foot, entered office towers and handed in my resume to anyone who would take it.” 

That first bold move was the beginning of an auspicious 20-year career in capital markets. Now, as a Director at Scotiabank and a member of the bank’s Black Employee Network, Swanzy is helping to mentor and inspire a whole new generation of rising financial stars.

Originally from Ghana, West Africa, Swanzy’s first experience with Canada was at eight years old when her family moved to Edmonton. Her father, a lifelong academic, had received a Canadian International Development Agency scholarship to do his PhD in the city. After three years in Edmonton, the family moved to the small island nation of Papua New Guinea where Swanzy attended an international school. 

Swanzy says that she felt like an “outlier” in both those environments.  

“In Edmonton, I was one of four black kids in my school and two of them were my sisters,” she says. 

After that first whirlwind experience landing a job on Bay Street, Swanzy began to build her career in capital markets in Canada. She worked her way up to portfolio manager in the energy space within five years of being hired.

When the company she was working at was acquired, Swanzy found herself again at a transition point. Keeping an open mind to new opportunities and different career paths, she talked to oil and gas companies, analysts, private equity firms, investment bankers, and more. “It got me as excited about my career as I was that first day I got off at Bay subway station.” Except this time, she had a network of contacts who rallied around her.

 

“Anytime you can break a barrier or break a ceiling, you have a responsibility to also pull somebody else along with you. And I see the Black Employee Network as that group that will allow me to reach out to people that face similar barriers and to help pull them forward.” 

 

When Swanzy was contacted by Scotiabank to discuss a new opportunity to join the bank as Director, Energy Sales Specialist, she went in with an open mind and quickly realized this new position was exactly what she had been looking for. 

“My clients are institutional investors that invest in energy,” Swanzy explains. “As a representative of Global Banking and Markets at Scotiabank, I represent the research team and provide clients ideas and solutions on behalf of the bank. Whenever there’s anything noteworthy going on in the energy landscape, I reach out to clients.”

Swanzy says Scotiabank’s commitment to diversity and inclusion was a major factor that convinced her it was the right place for her. During the interview process, her potential employer expressed how diversity and inclusion was an integral part of the bank’s culture. Scotiabank is currently the only Canadian bank that has created a Diversity and Inclusion office with a focus on capital markets.

“I was searching for a new platform to launch the next phase of my career. The role, the fact that diversity and inclusion is an integral part of this leading Canadian bank’s culture and the opportunity for career progression and development told me this was the right place for me,” she says.

Another important change in her life has come from her involvement with the Black Employee Network at Scotiabank. Swanzy says that in the past, although she had worked with some associations and done some mentoring, she never explicitly attached herself to any one group.

“I’ve come to understand that I have a role to play,” she says. “Anytime you can break a barrier or ceiling, you have a responsibility to also empower others. And I see the Black Employee Network as that group that will allow me to reach out to people that face similar barriers and to help pull them forward.” 

To celebrate Black History Month this year, the Black Employee Network is hosting a panel, moderated by Rania Llewellyn, Executive Vice President, Global Business Payments at Scotiabank, that will tackle the question “What does the future of Corporate Canada look like for black professionals?” Swanzy says that for her, Black History Month means a great deal. 

“I take a lot of pride in who I am,” she says. “And I take a lot of pride in the collective black experience. A lot of the slave trade occurred through Ghana. Slave castles dot the country’s coastline, so I’m forced to think about this part of our history often. For me, Black History Month is about recognizing all the achievements that have been made by our shared group in the face of extraordinary and often insurmountable barriers.” 

For young women hoping to succeed the way she has, Swanzy has this advice: Stop putting yourself in a box. 

“I think as women we naturally assume really defined roles and we allow these roles to further define who we are and our career choices,” she says. “If you want to grow, it’s really important to erase the confines that come with definitions, so you can embrace new experiences and the mistakes and failures that inevitably come with them.” 

 

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.”

 

Knocking down physical walls to help demolish barriers to inclusion

Can changing a physical workplace foster inclusion? Barbara Mason, Group Head and Chief Human Resources Officer at Scotiabank, explains how an “Activity-Based Working” approach to their office design created a space that enables all employees to work when, where, and how they choose — demolishing barriers, increasing engagement, and ensuring everyone is enabled to be their very best.

 

By Barbara Mason, Group Head and Chief Human Resources Officer, Scotiabank

 


 

 

The workforce has never been more diverse than it is today — a “one size fits all” approach to both physical workplace and workplace policies is no longer acceptable. 

Out of the available labour market, 52 per cent are women, more than 30 per cent are visible minorities, 10 per cent are people with disabilities, we have four generations now represented, along with greater diversity in sexual orientation and gender. The variety of perspectives this mosaic brings leads to richer solutions, greater creativity and ideation, and demands that workplaces be more inclusive. It also means a widely varying set of expectations and needs for employers to consider in order to attract and retain the best possible talent. 

At Scotiabank, an effort began a few years ago with the initial objective to decrease costs by reducing our real estate our employees occupied. What quickly emerged in our research in looking at other organizations outside of Canada was that we could learn from them and move well past the typical densification options, like hoteling. We had an opportunity to build a physical workplace, with accompanying “how to use” policies, that delivers a wonderfully enhanced employee experience to all employees. At the root of that experience was a simple concept — choice.

Several months of surveying our downtown Toronto population revealed what we already knew but hadn’t built a workplace for — employees are human. They have preferences, pet peeves, personal requirements, and unique quirks. They’re more than the sum of their tasks. And, if we put the responsibility in their hands to plan their day and where they’d like to work, then they would be truly enabled to perform at their very best. 

 

Employees are human. They have preferences, pet peeves, personal requirements, and unique quirks. They’re more than the sum of their tasks.

 

Enter Activity-Based Working (ABW) — an approach that recognizes that people perform different activities in their day-to-day work, and therefore requires the right technology and variety of spaces in order to complete that work in the most effective way possible. It’s a workplace that equips you with the tools needed to work when, where, and however you choose. 

We introduced training for managers on how to manage their teams remotely, allowing for more opportunities to work from home, and our spaces range from ergonomic chairs and standing desks to private offices, quiet zones, alone in silence, or somewhere where there’s a bit of a buzz. The spaces are equipped to be accessible by design in order to make the work environment more comfortable, user-friendly, and easier to navigate for persons with disabilities. ABW helps build an inclusive culture by offering everyone the same experience regardless of seniority.

To date, we have more than 6,000 employees working in ABW space. There is equal satisfaction amongst represented genders with the new space and we saw a significant boost in engagement amongst women working in ABW compared to those who are not, most noting they were far more engaged as a result of greater opportunity around flex working hours and working from home. More than 80% say they would never go back to their old way of working.

How employees use their space is their personal choice, and those preferences inform how we build. The future of the employee experience is one they design for themselves.

 

Meet Kristal Au-Yong: Senior Vice President of Innovation & Insights at Scotiabank

Kristal has enjoyed a career of almost two decades in the financial industry, specializing in risk management, global transaction banking, and financial regulations. In her current role as SVP Innovation & Insights at Scotiabank, she is responsible for responding to the needs of the market by partnering across Scotiabank to accelerate strategic priorities powered by Analytics, applying customer insights and intelligence to business models, as well as diving external FinTech partnerships. Prior to Scotiabank, Kristal worked for the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada and IBM. Kristal is a passionate Board member of DAREarts, a foundation that is focused on building leadership skills through arts for marginalized youth. We caught up with her ahead of our spotlight event in Toronto on September 18th — The New Age of Business: How Digitization is Reshaping Your 10-Year Plan — where she will be speaking on the panel. 

 


 

 

My first job ever was… delivering the Mississauga News in grade 6 with my sister. 

I decided to be a banker because… I had a love for math and looked for a place where I could apply it to real life. 

My proudest accomplishment is… I can’t really pinpoint one accomplishment. Overall, I’d say that I’ve always taken risks by choosing opportunities that put me into a ‘discomfort’ zone and I’m proud of how I’ve consistently taken on these challenges throughout my career.  

I surprise people when I tell them… Career has not always been my number one priority. 

My best advice to people starting out in business is… Take advantage of this time to understand the details, learn as much as possible. Keep in mind that networks can last your whole career so always build relationships for the long run. 

My best advice from a mentor was… Be resilient and creative around how you approach challenges. Focus on bringing solutions rather than what went wrong once you understand the root cause. 

I would tell my 20-year old self… Relax and travel! There’s so much more to life and happiness than there is to ticking off the checkmarks of what adulthood is supposed to be like. If things don’t work out the way you planned it, there are so many options that are just as fantastic. 

 

“We don’t know exactly what to expect all the time, but we know that life gives us so many new exciting options when we choose to be open to it.”

 

My biggest setback was… Battling severe endometriosis on a daily basis. I’ve dealt with this for as long as I can remember and it’s not something that we speak about as much or truly know how to resolve yet, but it impacts at least 1 out of every 10 women. 

I overcame it by… I haven’t yet fully overcome it but I work hard every day to manage the physical and mental aspects of dealing with chronic pain. 

The best thing about being a banker is… Being able to play a role in a customer’s financial well-being and being a part of large Canadian organization that impacts the lives of many Canadians.  

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… Practice the piano.  

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… Nothing makes me happier than when my plants grow and flower! 

The one thing I wish I knew when starting in Banking is… The Financial Services industry is constantly changing, whether through economic cycles, new types of competitors, or innovation in technology and business models. It is imperative to spend the time to stay on top of events and trends, constantly looking to the future for what is next. 

I stay inspired by… Learning about people, whether in history, current or just getting to know those I am surrounded by on a daily basis on a better level.  

The future excites me because… The world is innovating and changing at a rapid pace. We don’t know exactly what to expect all the time, but we know that life gives us so many new exciting options when we choose to be open to it.

My next step is… Focusing on my latest challenge and opportunity at work and rewarding myself by planning a great vacation in early 2020.

 

How working for Scotiabank has enabled Jessica McKenzie to have a deeper connection to her First Nations heritage

Self-identity has an important role in shaping each of our lives, it’s a process that develops over a lifetime. For Scotiabank Program Manager, Jessica McKenzie, an instrumental moment in her journey to self-discovery was finding out about her First Nations heritage. After becoming aware, Jessica took many steps to understand and celebrate Indigenous culture from a course at university to becoming an executive member of the Scotiabank Aboriginal Network. Jessica shares how understanding who she is made her a more confident person and she sends a heartwarming message to young Indigenous women seeking to build their careers.

 

By Shelley White

 


 

 

Jessica McKenzie grew up in Toronto with questions about her identity. A person of mixed Indonesian and First Nations heritage, Jessica knew only half the story of her background. 

“I didn’t even really know that I was Indigenous until I received my [First Nations status] card, it wasn’t really spoken about in my family,” she says. “We were Catholic. We didn’t go to traditional learnings, we didn’t go to powwows.” 

In order to learn more about her First Nations side, Jessica took a course in Indigenous studies while doing a liberal arts degree at York University in Toronto. The course was life-changing, says Jessica, opening her eyes to the crises facing Indigenous people in Canada and giving her clarity about what she wanted to do with her career. 

“I started to understand not only who I am as a person, but what I wanted to do for my people,” says Jessica, who is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.

Jessica volunteered at Indigenous Friendship Centres around the city – community hubs offering culturally-based services to Indigenous people in urban settings. Then, in a moment of serendipity, she met a Scotiabank recruiter who helped her continue her journey of self-discovery. Jessica had applied to be a bank teller in her third year of university and the recruiter, who was also Indigenous, recognized her potential.

“She said, ‘How would you feel about recruiting First Nations individuals across Canada?’ I just jumped at it,” Jessica says.

As a diversity recruiter for Scotiabank, Jessica travelled from coast to coast, visiting reservations and First Nations events on weekends to make connections and spread the word about opportunities at Scotiabank.

“I started building a rapport and a trust with [the people I met], so they could see a little bit of me within themselves,” she says. 

When she was offered a full-time role at Scotiabank, Jessica decided to take an even bigger leap. She completed the final year of her degree at York while working full-time at Scotiabank.

 

“We want you to be leaders. We need your voice. We need you to be resilient and this is exactly why our people have been fighting for so long. Don’t give up on a dream, shoot for the stars.”

 

“It was absolutely intense – I was working 9 am to 5 pm at Scotiabank and going to school from 6 pm to 10 pm,” she says. “But it was so worth it. I loved working with people within my community so I just couldn’t give up working at the bank.” 

Now, as program manager technology at Scotiabank, Jessica manages two programs that she created from scratch. One is a technology internship program that gives university students the opportunity to work in areas like software engineering, software development and data science. The other program, called IgnITion, is for recent university graduates – a full-time, 18-month program that allows grads to rotate through different areas within the bank’s Technology Solutions Group. 

“We get them to dip their toes into a bunch of different areas, so they can truly understand what they want to do for a career,” she says. 

Jessica is also an executive member of the Scotiabank Aboriginal Network, one of the bank’s volunteer Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). The group organizes “lunch and learn” activities for Scotiabank staff, “sharing our culture with the rest of the bank,” Jessica says. 

The Scotiabank Aboriginal Network recently ran events celebrating National Indigenous History Month in June. This year, they partnered with the bank’s Pride ERG to invite a guest speaker who is two-spirited – in Indigenous culture, an individual who identifies as both male and female. They also brought in a keynote speaker to talk about Truth and Reconciliation, an issue that is close to Jessica’s heart. 

“His main focus was, what can we do as people within the community to educate others on how to rebuild our relationships, not only with ourselves but with the land?” she says.

Jessica notes that Scotiabank has a long track record of working closely with Indigenous communities. The Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB) has awarded Scotiabank their Progressive Aboriginal Relations “Gold Standing” designation three years in a row. 

Scotiabank recently partnered with Our Children’s Medicine (OCM), a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping Indigenous job seekers overcome barriers to employment. (While the Canadian unemployment rate is 6 per cent, the Canadian Indigenous youth unemployment rate is 24 per cent.) OCM helps businesses improve the application process by prioritizing skills over work experience. 

As well, Scotiabank unveiled their Legacy Space in August, which was built in partnership with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. The room, located at Scotiabank’s Bay street headquarters in downtown Toronto, features an installation based on the graphic novel The Secret Path by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire. It tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old boy who died while fleeing a residential school. People who use the room will have the opportunity to learn about Chanie’s story and be inspired to act in the name of reconciliation.

It’s important to provide connections to Indigenous culture in the workplace, says Jessica. Meeting Indigenous colleagues at Scotiabank meant a great deal to her when she first started at the bank and helped her see it as her “second home,” she says. That’s why the Scotiabank Aboriginal Network created a mentorship circle where they pair new hires with more seasoned Scotiabank employees who are also Indigenous.

“It’s great to have that friend, that guiding hand and that community not only at home but in your workplace as well,” she says. 

While Jessica exudes confidence now, when she first started at the bank, she was faced with a feeling of imposter syndrome, “like, I shouldn’t be here, I don’t deserve this,” she says. “Speaking to a lot of my peers, I discovered it’s a common feeling among Indigenous people. So a big thing that I remind other Indigenous employees coming into the bank is that they were chosen for a reason.”

Jessica has a message for young Indigenous women seeking to build their careers.

“Know that you’re exactly what our ancestors prayed for,” she says. “We want you to be leaders. We need your voice. We need you to be resilient and this is exactly why our people have been fighting for so long. Don’t give up on a dream, shoot for the stars.”

How Scotiabank supported Tamara Hansen’s gender transition — and she became a role model for others on the same journey

 

Tamara Hansen had been working at Scotiabank for over 30 years when she made the choice to come out as transgender and publicly transition. She wasn’t sure what to expect from the process — and was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support she received from the bank and her coworkers. Now, she’s speaking out about her own experience to help others on a transition journey.

 

By Shelley White

 

Tamara Hansen’s decision to come out publicly as transgender did not come without trepidation.

“When I decided to do this, I was petrified,” says the 60-year-old delivery manager specialist at Scotiabank in Toronto. Tamara had lived “in the closet” for most of her life and had begun her journey of transitioning privately.

“Transitioning is a long, drawn-out process over many years. It’s very expensive, there are all sorts of health implications that may or may not arise, and at the end of it there’s no guarantee that you’re going to have the results that you had hoped for,” she says. “I chose to go as far as I could before I made this public so that I had the opportunity to back away without causing any negative impact in my career or with my family life.”

That all changed in 2018. Tamara says she had “tested the waters” with some of her friends to gauge their reactions. “By the time that I had opened up to about six or seven, it was quite clear that everybody was very supportive of this,” she says.

But she had no idea how her workmates would react. Tamara had been working at Scotiabank for over 30 years in a variety of roles, and she was familiar with Scotiabank’s policies surrounding LGBT+ employees. She knew they were strongly inclusive and supportive, which gave her the confidence to reach out to her vice-president at Scotiabank and human resources (HR) about her intentions to come out.

“Going into this, I fully expected that I would be stick-handling it and I’d have to justify what I was doing every step of the way. But HR and the workplace accommodations team stepped in and they drew up a plan,” she says. “From that point forward, it happened very quickly.”

Once Tamara agreed to the plan and the timeline, HR got in touch with Morneau Sheppel, the human resources services company that implements Scotiabank’s employee assistance program.

Morneau Sheppel put together formal group training sessions which would be conducted for Tamara’s entire division, about 250 people. “It was totally unexpected,” Tamara says. “It felt to me like everybody just bent over backwards, whether it was management or workplace accommodations.”

Tamara had decided to take a week off to get herself mentally ready, and the training sessions took place on a Friday before she returned. Tamara says it soon became clear that the training sessions, and the news about her transition, had caught everyone by surprise. “By about 11:00 am, I started getting emails,” she says.

 

“First, you’re not alone, and secondly, trust your friends and co-workers and family. Although it’s not something that’s talked about day in and day out, we’ve come a long way as a society. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the reactions.”

 

The following Monday morning, she walked through the door of her workplace for the first time as Tamara.

“It was 100 per cent acceptance,” she says. “It was, and still is, very emotional, but on a very positive note.”

HR also put Tamara in touch with other transgender employees, something she said was very helpful.

“Being hooked up with somebody who’s gone through this, that was huge,” she says. “You get to have their perspective on it — what worked, what didn’t work, what to look out for. Just having somebody to talk to, it creates a positive guiding light.”

Tamara says that being able to live openly as her true self has changed her life.

“I have never been happier than I am now,” she says. “You go through life and you’re conditioned to believe that this is the way that life is. You think you’re happy. You think you’re doing good. And then all of a sudden this happens, and the joy is just overwhelming.”

Tamara says that although she does get “stares” when she is out in public occasionally, she considers herself very lucky because she hasn’t experienced any abuse or harassment. And now she feels it’s important to speak up about her experience. She wants to be part of a positive narrative about transitioning, a motivating story to help guide people — especially older people — in their own journeys.

“Trans people who have been suffering their entire life in a secret closet, living a dual existence, they need something to hold on to, to help them be their authentic selves,” she says. “I’ve got an opportunity to spread the word — be a model, if you like, of how it can be.”

As this year’s Pride celebrations approach, Tamara says she’s looking forward to the festivities in a different way than in years past. Pride Month happens in Toronto between June 1 and July 1, culminating in three days of parades and celebrations on June 21st to 23rd. It’s one of Canada’s largest arts and cultural festivals, with an annual attendance of over 1.6 million people.

For years, I considered myself as being part of the LGBT+ Community, but I kept myself presenting male in public until I was ready to come out. So I shied away from attending Pride events and being part of the celebrations,” she says. “This year is going to be exciting.”

Although Tamara says she recognizes that LGBT+ people still face barriers in Canada and abroad, she has a message for others who might be on their own transition journey:

“First, you’re not alone,” she says. “And secondly, trust your friends and co-workers and family. Although it’s not something that’s talked about day in and day out, we’ve come a long way as a society. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the reactions.”