Meet Dauna Jones-Simmonds, a Diversity Consultant and Lifelong Champion for Access to Employment

Born in St. Kitts, Dauna Jones-Simmonds migrated to Canada almost forty years ago and has first-hand experience navigating the roadblocks and challenges encountered by new Canadians — particularly those of colour. Today, as the President of DEJS (Diversity) Consulting, she shares her accumulated knowledge through consulting and diversity training activities, and providing mentorship and assistance for young Black women looking to advance their careers. She is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for ACCES Employment, a past Board Member at SKETCH, and has been the only Black female member in the Rotary Club of Toronto.

Get to know how her personal and professional journey led to her becoming one of three co-authors of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women, and a Women of Influence Luncheon panelist.





My first job ever was… a bank teller at the Royal Bank of Canada.


I chose my career path because… One was by sheer accident – Human Resources was bestowed upon me when the Labour Relations Manager walked away from negotiations and the company I was with at the time, asked me to ‘pitch’ in. As a person who never seems to know how to say ‘no’, I quickly and willingly said ‘yes’ I will help. The other career that I am now pursuing at this later stage of my life is authoring books. This came about as a result of innocent and curious conversations. With tenacity, I pursued what is now our passion – co-authoring.


My proudest accomplishment is…co-authoring my first book, 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women – it was a dream I always had and to see it come to fruition. This of course is secondary to marrying my husband and building a beautiful family.


My boldest move to date was…working in Utah while trying to raise two young kids. It was difficult but I felt that this opportunity would help me build my career and could have led to greater and better things.


I surprise people when I tell them…I am the thirteenth of 14 children.


My best advice to people starting their career is… grab whatever opportunities come your way. Be a sponge and learn as much as you can.


My best advice from a mentor was… your best weapon is getting a good education and building your network. Hold on to your strong values and principles of integrity and honesty.


I would tell my 20-year old self… keep exercising and keep learning.


My biggest setback was… having to start my career all over again when arrived in Canada. However, this was a learning experience which made me realize that nothing comes easy and that I would have to fight for what I want if I wanted to progress in life.


I overcame it by… building my knowledge about my adopted country, gaining a better understanding of the people with whom I surrounded myself and using this accumulated knowledge to my advantage.


Work/life balance is… what one wants it to be – if you enjoy life, working hard may be one’s way of balancing work and personal life. It’s what makes one happy.


The last book I read was… The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill


I stay inspired by… my beautiful granddaughter – I dream about her future and the difference she can make to the world.


The future excites me because… I believe our younger generation is focused and determined. On a personal level, I will be travelling a lot more.


My next step is… to focus on strengthening my family values and writing the third edition of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women – 2020.




Business leaders, here’s how you start taking diversity and inclusion seriously

We all know it should be a priority, but how do we begin to make it one? Terri Hartwell Easter of T.H. Easter Consulting,  a leading employee engagement, diversity and inclusion management, and human resources management firm based in Maryland, U.S., weighs in.


By Terri Hartwell Easter



You cannot pick up a newspaper without reading about our collective difficulty with issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in society more generally. While most companies and organizations are publicly committed to diverse workforces, they seem to have trouble sustaining that commitment. So what is really going on?

Having worked with many different kinds of organizations on diversity and inclusion efforts, I have found that most of them see it as a tactic, or a box to check to meet regulatory or cultural mandates, as opposed to a strategic business imperative.   

What does it mean to approach diversity and inclusion as a strategic business imperative? It means recognizing that getting diverse people in the door is not the end goal. It means that diversity and inclusion initiatives are not isolated from the larger workforce in terms of engagement and performance. And just like any other business initiative, it means that an organization must articulate their business case for diversity and inclusion.

An important first step in developing sustainable diversity and inclusion programming is to assess the current state of leadership and organizational readiness. This step is foundational and is probably the single most important factor in the success or failure of diversity and inclusion initiatives. It is only through this analysis that we can assess whether the business case for diversity and inclusion aligns with an organization’s leaders’ vision, interest and readiness for the change that may be necessary to achieve sustainable outcomes and results.    

And it does require real change. It is not uncommon for diversity and inclusion strategic planning to go off the rails as the realization sets in that changes in behaviors, processes, and approaches, not to mention mindsets, are required for success. An organization’s financial and psychological investment in the status quo should not be underestimated.  

So we begin by asking hard questions, like:

  • What are your organization’s business imperatives for diversity & inclusion? Is there alignment among leaders (organization leadership, business unit leadership, board of directors) with the aspirations and vision for diversity and inclusion in your organization?
  • What is the nature of your organization’s leaders’ investment in the status quo with respect to diversity and inclusion? What are the cultural connections, power dynamics, and barriers to change?
  • What level of personal awareness do your organization’s leaders have with respect to concepts related to privilege, bias and inequities, and the dynamics of organizational and personal change?
  • How competent are your organization’s leaders in the skills necessary to change the culture and nurture an inclusive workplace, including adeptness in relationship building and management, trust building, exercising influence, leading change, and managing conflict?
  • How ready are your organization’s leaders to acknowledge and own the organization’s past failures or missed expectations for success? More importantly, how ready are they to now assume the responsibility and accountability necessary to achieve new goals for the organization’s talent management, including engagement, professional development, performance management, and sponsorship as a part of a diverse and inclusive workplace?

These are not small ticket items. These questions go to the heart of an organization’s culture, vision, values, and mission, which can cause considerable discomfort for some organizations and individuals. But if it is approached in a fact-based, business-minded way, it can be done without assigning any blame or shame. The goal is to have an honest dialogue — and to the degree that this is successful, it will help your leaders craft a very realistic strategic plan with appropriate goals and objectives.

Like any change effort, the process of implementing a new diversity and inclusion strategy will be slow and incremental. As anyone who has ever tried to change a lifelong habit can attest, behavioral change does not happen overnight — but it can be done. Approach it just as you would any new business initiative, use classic business process re-engineering techniques to understand where your organizational systems are working at cross-purposes with your diversity and inclusion aspirations, and use evidence-based practices to benchmark and best position your efforts for success.  

Diversity and inclusion is serious business.  It’s time to position your business to take it seriously.



As the former Chief Operating Officer of a top 100 national AmLaw legal practice and highly regarded organizational change strategist for leading professional services firms, commercial banks and the White House alike, Terri Hartwell Easter‘s trademark is bringing new approaches and innovative thinking to some of the toughest human resource management challenges. With a renowned diversity practice, Terri works with clients to frame day-to-day business through a lens of inclusion to attract and retain a more diverse workforce, and create pathways to business growth. 

Women of Influence Luncheon Series – Gender Diversity Summit

On September 28th, 2016 we hosted the Women of Influence Luncheon Series in downtown Toronto, featuring a panel of diversity champions. We sat down with Mike Henry, Philip Grosch and Anna Tudela to hear about the best practices and transformative thinking that is critical to accelerating organizational change.

What we learned:

  • What was the inspiration behind becoming an advocate for women’s advancement? Philip Grosch says it started with needing to keep top talent. “We cannot afford to lose this amazing talent group”
  • Words of wisdom – “Diversity is the act of inclusion, one thing to encourage people to do is to take action, we have to all commit to doing something” – Mike Henry
  • What Philip Grosch says to the Audience – Everyone has a role to play, we have to engage people in the conversation, and tell people when we see an injustice
  • Anna Tudela’s advice is to start practicing amplification – Amplification started in the white house when women noticed that they weren’t being heard, they came together and whenever a woman had a point to make another women would state that point again until everyone in the room heard

Congratulations to Nicole Pitt from Scotiabank!  Concluding the afternoon events, we announced the winner of our VIP Membership Experience Giveaway. Thanks to the generous contributions from our sponsors, Nicole has access to a spot at the short-format executive education programs offered by the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, back-up child care from Kids & Company and training sessions from Captivate.

Photography by Kevin Gonsalves Photography

A case for allyship: How Scotiabank is working to reduce the stigma around mental health

The stigma associated with mental health issues in the workplace leave them too often hidden or ignored. We spoke with Jennifer Douglas, executive champion for the Scotiabank Alliance for Mental Health, to learn how one major financial institution is working towards solving the problem.

By Shelley White

Each week, up to half a million Canadians miss a day of work due to mental health issues. But how many would feel comfortable telling their co-workers why they were absent?

Mental health challenges are often a hidden problem in our society, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people experience them. According to a 2008 survey by the Canadian Medical Association, just 50 per cent of Canadians said they would tell friends or coworkers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72 per cent who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer.

This reluctance to be open about mental health often stems from fear of stigma—a fear that is often warranted. A 2014 study, published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, reported that 64 per cent of Ontario workers said they would be concerned about how work would be affected if a colleague had a mental illness.

“Sadly, we know that many people feel unable to talk openly to their employer about their challenges because they feel they will be stereotyped or held back at work,” says Jennifer Douglas, executive champion for the Scotiabank Alliance for Mental Health (SAMH), one of the company’s many employee resource groups.

Ending that stigma is one of the goals of SAMH, and that’s why it’s being relaunched in October to focus on “allyship,” says Jennifer.

“We all have a role to play in ending the stigma. It’s everybody’s responsibility to create a supportive environment for both employees and customers,” she says. “Most of us know family, friends or coworkers that may suffer in silence. We’re trying to appeal to those who have mental health challenges as well as those who support friends and family who do.”

Jennifer, who is also senior vice president of credit cards at Scotiabank, says she was spurred on to become executive champion for SAMH because her own circle of friends was touched by mental illness.

“I’ve always had the philosophy that we should have a respectful and supportive environment for employees and customers. But, like most others, I do know people that have had mental health challenges and tragically last spring, a friend of mine lost her daughter to suicide,” says Jennifer. “So that was a real catalyst for me to become a champion for mental health at Scotiabank.”

SAMH meets regularly through the year, and Jennifer says they have three goals in mind: to raise awareness of mental health, to end the stigma, and to provide training, assistance, and resources to managers so they can support their employees.

“We all have a role to play in ending the stigma. It’s everybody’s responsibility to create a supportive environment for both employees and customers.”

One of the most important ways to raise awareness is to encourage people to speak more openly about mental health, notes Jennifer.

“It needs to be a regular, ongoing conversation and not something we just talk about once a year,” she says. “People talk about physical health challenges they have, but people don’t talk about mental health in the same way. By having more, frequent conversation, it will make people feel more comfortable talking about it.”

Another way to be an ally is to be mindful of using inclusive language. It’s commonplace to hear terms like “crazy” used in flippant ways that can be hurtful. Allies can stand up and speak out when these kinds of labels are being tossed around carelessly, says Jennifer.

“I’ve taken on the role of executive champion for only a few months, and even in that amount of time, I’ve become more aware of these types of terms. If someone was using them, I would address it and give them an opportunity to switch to a better word.”

In addition to SAMH, Scotiabank offers other ways to support employees when it comes to mental health. The bank has an internal website dedicated to the well-being of employees, featuring LifeSpeak, a health and wellness platform that provides instant access to expert advice on all kinds of topics, including mental health challenges and ideas on how to better cope with them. Scotiabank also offers a comprehensive benefits plan that includes employer-paid coverage for mental health care expenses including those related to both treatment and prevention, an employee and family assistance program that offers professional counselling for challenges like workplace stress and anxiety and access to experts to help navigate the elder and cancer care systems in Canada.

“We do believe that inclusion makes us stronger, and at Scotiabank we want to ensure we’re creating a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment,” says Jennifer.


World Mental Health Day is October 10th, and Scotiabank is planning to mark that week with events and activities to promote their resources and create a dialogue about mental health. As supporters of national charity Partners for Mental Health, Scotiabank will be leveraging their “Not Myself Today” campaign and encouraging employees to take part. They will also host an internal panel event for employees in Toronto.

“We’re going to have topics like myth-busting, a panel discussion on success factors for a healthy mind, and an overview of some of the resources available to help and support with mental health issues,” says Jennifer.

Even more important than once-a-year events though is encouraging an ongoing conversation about mental health. It’s something all of us can do, says Jennifer.

“I think if we can encourage an open dialogue about mental health, we can break down the stigma,” she says. “But I think it’s going to be a journey. It’s not going to happen overnight.”



The three key practices for an inclusive work culture

By Shazia McCormick

Shazia McCormick is the Director, Culture and Inclusion at Scotiabank. She’s worked globally in multiple industries, and is a recognized thought leader in her field.

Growing up as a child of mixed-race parents gave me a unique perspective on life. I learned first-hand how ethnicity can impact how you are treated—having both experienced privilege and being the target of non-inclusive behaviours. It also spurred me to want to understand the world more. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in multiple countries, with each having their own socio-economic challenges.

As an adult, this has allowed me to recognize that privilege comes with a choice: how we use it. I believe in the concept of “I am the problem. I am the solution.” It is everyone’s job to help create an inclusive culture, especially in the workplace. Being an ally and amplifying the voices of others are key components, but there are many levers needed to make change happen.

And this is where we have the opportunity to do better in our workplaces. Creating an inclusive culture is not just about initiatives, it’s about fundamentally changing the things that happen every day. This includes processes and practices throughout organizations, how we communicate, and the skills that managers and leaders have.

Yes, it’s easier said than done—but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Through my experience in organizations around the world, and in my current role as Director, Culture and Inclusion at Scotiabank, I’ve been able to identify some elements that help create an inclusive work culture.

Don’t just create diversity, embrace it.

With over 23 million customers globally, Scotiabankers speak over 100 languages and hail from over 120 countries. As Canada’s international bank, diversity is key to the success of our company. We believe that inclusion is the action that delivers the benefits of diversity. If an organization lacks systemic practices to help its employees deliver their best, it will never see the full potential of a diverse organization.

Our inclusion journey has evolved over our many years in business. We embrace diversity by valuing differences. Through our practices, we strive to create an environment where we amplify and leverage these differences to foster innovation and performance. Through our people, we continuously build our understanding of our customers and each other. It is our varied perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences that enable achievement of our business goals.

Related: Learn how Maria Theofilaktidis is leading by example, and how she navigated her career to land at the top.

Encourage involvement throughout the organization.

We believe that every Scotiabanker has a role in creating an environment where people feel involved, respected, valued, connected, and are able to bring their authentic selves to work. By fostering this mindset with all employees, we enable them to do their best work.

We have had success engaging all levels of our organization through Employee Resources Groups (ERGs). These are the grassroots voice of Scotiabank employees, amplifying the voice of our diversity, spanning cultural groups, gender groups, LGBT+ and more. They focus on employee development and general awareness, and they identify opportunities to have customer impact.

An organization doesn’t necessarily need to follow this model—but even without large programs, you can find success by encouraging individual employees at a grassroots level. A great example of personal action is the HeForShe movement, which we have also embraced at Scotiabank. It’s simply men taking tangible actions in their day-to-day jobs to make a difference in gender equality. The immediate impact may be within their sphere of influence, but the results of the movement are inevitably broad-reaching.

Set the strategy and tone from the top.

If senior leaders are not on board acting as role models, inclusion efforts will fall flat. At Scotiabank, we emphasize leadership development, specific to inclusive and respectful behaviours. We also hold our leaders accountable to demonstrate inclusivity in their actions and teams. This can be seen both through daily practices and initiatives, such as our leadership development program and our Inclusion Council.

Founded in 2014, the Inclusion Council has a mandate of demonstrating, monitoring, and promoting a culture of inclusion and diversity of perspective for better business results. Led by our Chief Human Resources Officer, and consisting of Executive Vice Presidents and Senior Vice Presidents from across the Bank, they are tasked with embedding diversity and inclusion into strategic business initiatives. The group meets regularly to ensure they’re having an impact. Whatever your organization’s inclusion strategy, by regularly examining what’s working and what isn’t, you’ll find that progress can be put on a faster track.

My last piece of advice: don’t rest on your laurels. Scotiabank is continuing to evolve what it means to be an inclusive workplace and the need for it to be an action. It is never enough to say, “We support diversity.” An inclusive environment is a daily, organization-wide effort, demonstrated through both people and practices. At Scotiabank, we understand that and it is how we compete at our best.

Meet a champion for women that’s leading by example

“It’s not about squashing men and lifting others up, but rather to be sure our policies and practices are fair and equitable and that the opportunities are there for everyone.”  – Maria Theofilaktidis



By Shelley White

Maria Theofilaktidis is passionate about gender inclusion in the workplace.

“It’s a personal thing for me, because I’ve always had this view of identifying injustice out there and then trying to do something about it,” she says.

As Executive Vice President for Retail Distribution, Canadian Banking at Scotiabank, Maria is a shining example of how women can enjoy career success while helping others to do the same.

She’s a member of the Global Inclusion Council at Scotiabank, where she is the Executive Champion for Scotiabank Women. Her role on the council is to monitor and promote a culture of inclusion at Scotiabank, while acting as a role model for younger employees exemplifying what women can achieve.

“If I look back at my career, there have been very few women role models in top positions, because I’ve been in male-dominated industries,” says Maria. “I feel that every woman has that responsibility to show others the path she has taken and the things she has done that have led to her being successful.”

Maria’s journey to success began as a child growing up in South Africa. She was one of four daughters of working-class, Greek-Cypriot immigrants, and says her parents instilled a strong work ethic and spirit of perseverance that would serve her well in the working world.

“My parents had a hard life, and their focus was around us getting an education, being independent, making our own paths and never having to rely on someone else for our own success or life,” she says. “I never grew up with a view that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. When I started work, that was the mindset I started with.”

RelatedThree key practises for an inclusive work culture 

In her early days as an accountant, Maria says it could be challenging to be the only woman at the boardroom table.

“There were times I walked into a meeting and they would talk to the young man on my right or my left because they assumed that he was my boss,” she says.

Faced with these obstacles, Maria refused to let those challenging moments get her down. She called upon that persevering spirit to assert herself and prove her abilities, while still remaining true to her personality and her values.

“I didn’t let it stop me from having my voice heard,” she says. “I think one thing that helped me was that I worked with some forward-thinking leaders, who were supportive and empowered and put you in those positions irrespective of the fact that you were the only woman on the team.”

Maria points out that study after study has shown that companies that have a more gender-diverse management team and workforce are more engaged, more innovative and more competitive. And while some might fear the spectre of “tokenism,” she emphasizes that gender-inclusive hiring practices are about creating an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to be the best they can be.

 “It’s not about squashing men and lifting others up, but rather to be sure our policies and practices are fair and equitable and that the opportunities are there for everyone,” she says. “It’s our responsibility to provide [young women] coming into the workforce with the opportunities to develop on an equal basis to their male peers.”

One of Scotiabank’s initiatives to promote gender equality is their “HeForShe” movement, where male leaders at the company talk publicly about the actions they will take personally to help empower women and challenge any unconscious bias they may have when it comes to women in the workplace.

“We’ve had some great take-up on that, people who have said, ‘I’m so pleased we’re having this conversation,’” says Maria. “The more people talk about it, the more they are able to engage and say, ‘I recognize that now in myself and I can learn to do things differently.’”

As the champion for Scotiabank Women, Maria says she’s been proud to see the company’s commitment to prioritizing gender inclusion, and she’s seen “big inroads” made in the last 10 years. The amount of women in executive positions has been growing every year. Through the grassroots Women’s Groups across Scotiabank, female employees at the manager and director levels get opportunities to network with peers and gain access to female role models in senior leadership positions. Scotiabank has also partnered with Plan Canada’s Because I’m a Girl, a global organization that promotes education, health, safety and economic security for girls in developing countries.

“We are lucky in Canada that women don’t face some of the challenges that women face globally, like not having access to education, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a bigger voice in the bigger picture and really help to further the cause around education and safe spaces for women,” says Maria.

As well, Scotiabank’s commitment to diversity goes beyond gender, ensuring inclusion and opportunities for all, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or ability. In fact, Scotiabank was named Canada’s Best Diversity Employer by Mediacorp Canada in 2015 and was also recognized as one of the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces by Great Places To Work.

“We want to create an environment where everyone can be their authentic self at work because it’s only then that someone will speak up, that they will participate, that they will be fully engaged and bring the highest value into the workplace,” says Maria.

“There is no one look, feel or sound of a leader, that’s what we need people to understand.”

Scotiabank’s partnership with Women of Influence is another positive step towards promoting inclusion and diversity in the workplace, says Maria, because it’s in line with her view that individual actions can create collective change. She says there’s a quote from Spider-Man that sums it up quite well:

“‘With great power comes great responsibility,’” she says.

“How can we ask for change if we’re not part of that change? And that’s what Women of Influence is all about – it’s all of us mobilizing to influence others to do the right thing.”