Model Behaviour: How Val Walls is leading by example to engage LGBT+ employees, customers and allies at Scotiabank


As Director of Sales Effectiveness at Scotiabank, as well as lead champion for Scotiabank’s Toronto Pride Employee Resource Group, Val Walls is always asking herself: How can I touch, move, inspire and make a difference? She shares how she’s driving change and creating an inclusive vision of LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans+) rights.


By Shelly White




For Val Walls, the energy at Toronto’s Pride Parade feels like “arriving at the top of the mountain.”

A long-time participant in Pride festivities, Val says she looks forward to experiencing the spirit of harmony and togetherness that permeates the event each year.

“The day feels like a hum of bees around a blooming cherry tree,” says Val of the annual Pride Parade, happening this year in Toronto on Sunday, June 24. “Sweet smells of food, music vibrating through your body, a patchwork blanket of sounds that fill your senses. As flags wave and people cheer, there is one common denominator — everyone is smiling and standing united.”

Val is Director of Sales Effectiveness at Scotiabank, a position that involves developing strategies to optimize Scotiabank’s sales force and coaching team members for higher levels of performance. She’s also lead champion for Scotiabank’s Toronto Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG), a role she took on because she believes that “if we want to drive change, we cannot just talk about it. We need to be the instrument of change.”

Scotiabank has a strong global diversity and inclusion strategy and a real commitment to support the LGBT+ community, says Val. “And to have that strategy come to life, it requires employee commitment. I am an openly gay woman, and to be a leader means to model leadership in and outside of one’s functional role.”

Val says Scotiabank’s Pride ERG has three objectives: to demonstrate Scotiabank’s support for the LGBT+ community, to create awareness of Scotiabank’s safe and inclusive work environment and to engage LGBT+ employees, customers and allies.


“We want to help allies have greater awareness as to what it means to march and stand in solidarity.”


This year, Scotiabank’s Pride Month campaign kicks off on June 1 with a celebration at ScotiaPlaza in Toronto for all employees and customers. Team members will march together in the Pride parade on the 24th, says Val — more members than ever before.

“Over 150 is our goal, and our ‘stretch’ goal is 300,” she says. “We want to help allies have greater awareness as to what it means to march and stand in solidarity.”

On a personal level, Val also walks in the Trans March with her wife and daughter to raise awareness about the rights of transgender people and the challenges they face. “We march because there’s so much more work to be done on that front,” she says. It’s taking place this year on Friday, June 22.

Another Pride highlight for Val is participating in the Dyke March, which is scheduled for Saturday, June 23. She recalls riding her motorcycle in past years “with enthusiasm, at the front of the line.” Val has participated in this parade multiple times, “and the energy of the crowd escalates as the roar of the bikes hits Yonge Street,” she says.

Val says that people sometimes ask her why we as Canadians still need to have conversations about LGBT+ rights. Some people assume that because we are in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people don’t have their rights infringed upon or deal with prejudice.

In answer, Val will share the story of what happened to her recently on the Toronto subway. She was reading emails on her mobile device and just as the subway doors opened, a man suddenly pushed her hard into the wall.

“He said, ‘You’re a freak. You’re not a man or a woman, you’re a freak,’” says Val, recalling the incident. “And then he ran off. As I picked myself up, I was shocked, but then I had deep sadness. You don’t think of these things occurring in 2018, but they do.”

For Val, Pride is about acknowledging how far we’ve come as a society in the last four decades and raising awareness of how much further we need to go.


“It’s about stepping forward and modelling, so you can build that confidence and pass over the reins.”


As a leader in both her roles at Scotiabank, Val says she has a mantra: T.M.I. M.A.D. It means: How can I touch, move, inspire and make a difference?

“It’s about stepping forward and modelling, so you can build that confidence and pass over the reins,” she says. “I’ve already seen it in nine months with our ERG — seeing people step forward, saying, ‘I’d like to learn more. What can I do to get involved?’”

Organizations can take steps to become more inclusive and respectful to LGBT+ employees by educating all staff on what LGBT+ means, says Val. “It’s about teaching employees the language and how to engage in respectful curiosity.”

Then, it’s important for organizations to establish internal LGBT+ mentors to assist in supporting team members, engage in conversations of differences and encourage deeper understanding. Additionally, LGBT+ team members should be involved in all forums and committees, to ensure their voice is heard. It’s also important to ensure there is a leadership track for young, talented LGBT+ employees, to ensure they end up in executive positions and sitting on boards.

Val notes that it’s critical that organizations consider intersectionality when developing LGBT+ strategies. Intersectionality is a sociological theory describing the multiple threats of discrimination an individual might face when their identity includes a number of minority classes, like gender, age, ethnicity and ability.

“It important to question — am I thinking in in a homogenous way or am I thinking inclusively?” says Val. “If I look around at the group that is within our ERG, how do they all identify? And why is it that I don’t have more allies here, or members of colour? And what stops employees from stepping forward and becoming more involved?”

Val says she envisions a future for Pride where the diverse LGBT+ community emerges as a stronger and more unified voice. In the more distant future, she envisions Pride becoming “a moment of reflection on a path we won’t repeat.”

In this scenario, all people can come together in solidarity, she says. “Future Pride becomes a time of true celebration of our human-to-human connection, moving away from our differences.”


Scotiabank is Canada’s international bank and a leading financial services provider in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and Central America, and Asia-Pacific. Our culture of inclusion is the heart of our global community of Scotiabankers. It is a big part of the Bank’s success and what makes us a global employer of choice.

Learn more about Scotiabank’s commitment to inclusion and Say hello to a career with Scotiabank.


LGBT+ is the acronym that represents people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, 2-Spirit, allies, and other people’s identity based upon their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Meet Erick Vandewedge, Challenging Unconscious Bias to Change the Face of Technology Consulting at Deloitte

Even with over 18 years’ experience providing technology advisory and implementation services, Erick Vandeweghe was surprised when he learned during an Unconscious Bias training that many male executives unknowingly favour men over women for analytical tasks. As the leader of Deloitte’s Canadian Technology Consulting practice, Erick has become more attuned to biases within the organization and encourages equality throughout his national team. Erick believes that we all need to take an active role to continue to recruit, engage and develop our most talented women so they are able to maximize their impact and bring their voices to the business. Meet him here.




My first job ever was… Working in the fields around Blenheim, Ontario, learning the hard way what a dollar is worth.


I chose my career path because… I had the benefit of experiencing different corporate cultures and environments through co-op experience while at the University of Waterloo. I realized that working in a hierarchical organization would not meet my personal needs or give me the sort of professional fulfillment and development I was looking for. I wanted a fast paced, rapidly changing, highly entrepreneurial environment. Consulting was the calling for me given the pace of change and the requirement to continue to be better and at the forefront of the latest trends and industry issues. Combining Deloitte, which has a great collaborative, competitive, and supportive culture, with the Consulting business model was the perfect set of ingredients for what I was looking for and I’m as energized and committed now as I was the day I started.


The best part of my job is… I often tell people that I have the best job in Canada. Technology is at the centre of so much in today’s economy. In my role, I have the privilege of seeing the many ways that Technology is having an impact to help our clients excel. Choosing where and how we focus as a business based on where the potential for impact is greatest.  


My proudest accomplishment is… Making Partner at Deloitte and doing it on my terms by focusing on the clients and issues that I thought were important, and developing my skills in order to become the type of leader that I wanted to be.


My boldest move to date was… Relocating to Melbourne, Australia for two years without a job lined up. It was unnerving getting off the plane with my wife, two suitcases and no return ticket. The next two years were some of the best experiences of our life.


I surprise people when I tell them… I am an avid cyclist.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Do something you love. Life is too short to be unhappy professionally. In the past, I have worked for an organization where I wasn’t having an impact, wasn’t valued, and wasn’t progressing. Work is such a big part of our adult lives that it can have a profoundly negative effect on so many aspects of your life if you don’t love what you do.


My best advice to people looking to advance their career is… Put people first. Apply the same principles when engaging with clients, peers and staff. Followership and teaming is critical in order to magnify your impact and meet the myriad of demands we face each and every day.


Sponsorship is important because… You never have all of the answers. You need guidance, inspiration, encouragement and endorsement at many points in your career. It propels us forward, opens new opportunities and keeps us challenged.


My best advice from a mentor was… Your clients are your currency. Always suspend self interest and find ways to go above and beyond to make your clients successful in all of your interactions, and good things will follow.


My biggest setback was… I’m a very shy person by nature, a personality trait that doesn’t fare particularly well in the notoriously Type A culture of consulting organizations, nor in the requirement for adept business development skills as a partner in a Professional Services firm. When I first started in the business, I tried to model my own personal style after those around me whom I thought to be successful. This was not being true to myself. Being confident in my own abilities and realizing that I needed to be true to myself allowed me to play to my own strengths. This was critical in centering myself and thriving professionally.


I overcame it by… The other half of overcoming that innate challenge was getting married. It may seem odd, but in many ways my wife Tara is the opposite of me. She challenges me in so many ways that she makes me a better person and professional by helping me soften the rough edges.


Work/life balance is… Different for everyone. What works for me may not work for the next person. You need to be confident in your impact at work, and learn how to pivot the focus between yourself, your family and your career.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… Very much about me. I deal with Technology every day professionally, so being disconnected in my personal life is my release. 


I stay inspired by… The talented people we add to our business each and every day. The new ideas, the new way of doing things, and the new approaches keep me motivated and inspired.


The future excites me because… We are working in a time of unprecedented change and extraordinary opportunity. The opportunities we are presented with now and the choices we make in responding to them will be defining moments for our organizations and our economy for decades to come.  



Want to hear more from Erick Vandeweghe? Get your ticket to The Sponsorship Summit today.



Meet Tanya Van Biesen, Director of Catalyst Canada and #GoSponsorHer Advocate

Tanya van Biesen is Executive Director of Catalyst Canada, the leading global non-profit working to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion, and a founding partner of the #gosponsorher initiative. As a recognized influencer with deep experience in the executive search sector at the most senior levels of corporate Canada, Tanya has over two decades of industry research to share on why sponsorship is so effective in advancing women. On June 21, she’ll speak on a panel of sponsorship experts at The Sponsorship Summit: How Corporate Canada is Investing in Female Leaders. Get to know her a little more personally here.




My first job ever was… Delivering newspapers for my brother when he was too tired to cover his route.


I chose my career path because… I am passionate about people.


The best part of my job is… The incredibly interesting people that I meet every day.


My proudest accomplishment is… My 2 children – Jack and Meredith.


My boldest move to date was… To leave the security of a partnership position at a world class firm.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I have always wanted to be a back-up singer.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Work hard, work with great people, and learn as much as you can as quickly as you can.


Sponsorship is important because… It is intentional support and advocacy for the career success of another.


My best advice from a mentor was… To plan my career out as I would a marathon, and not a sprint.


Work/life balance is… Looking forward to both being at home and being at work.


I stay inspired by… The people that I meet who are committed to gender equity.


The future excites me because… I believe that Canada is on the cusp of amazing change.


My next step is… The same as my last. Continue to advocate for women in Canadian business.


Want to hear more from Tanya van Biesen? Get your ticket to The Sponsorship Summit today.



How Brenda Rideout became the first female CEO of a major Canadian financial institution

In just one leap of faith, Brenda Rideout entered the new world of fintech in the 90s, kick-starting a nearly 20 year tenure at one of Canada’s most innovative financial institutions, Tangerine Bank, where she is now CEO. Learn how her personal passion, several influential women, and a desire to be bold has helped shape Brenda’s impressive career.


By Shelley White



Tangerine Bank CEO Brenda Rideout has never been afraid to take a risk.

“When new opportunities presented themselves, I raised my hand for them,” she says of her impressive career path. In March, Brenda became the first female CEO of a major Canadian financial institution, a remarkable milestone in an industry where women in top jobs are still few and far between.

Brenda recalls the leap of faith she took when she first joined ING Direct in 1999 (which rebranded as Tangerine in 2014). She was at Shoppers Drug Mart at the time, when she heard that ING Direct founder Arkadi Kulmann was looking for a director of software development to give the bank an Internet presence in Canada. After a meeting with the iconoclastic CEO, Brenda was inspired by his vision of branchless, Internet banking.

“That was in the 90s, so there were organizations that had static websites, but nobody had a truly transactional website,” says Brenda. “So I went home that night to tell my husband, ‘You know what? I’m going to leave my nice, secure job at Shoppers to go work for this direct bank and help Canadians save their money.’”

It was a bold and risky move, but Brenda liked the idea of being able to create something innovative from scratch. “It was a startup, so I wouldn’t have to worry about legacy systems,” she says. “I would have the opportunity to build and shape from a technology standpoint.”

Technology had been a passion for Brenda ever since high school. Growing up the youngest of six kids in a “typical, middle-class family” in Toronto, Brenda took an introduction to computers course and learned early programming languages like BASIC and FORTRAN. She was instantly hooked.

“My parents were encouraging me to become a nurse or a teacher, so you can imagine their surprise when I told them I wanted to study computers and program,” she says. “They didn’t know what that was. There was no such thing as the Internet at that time, let alone videogames and the gadgets we have today.”

After high school, Brenda studied computers at Seneca College, then began working as a programmer. Craving opportunities for advancement, she took a job with Imperial Life Insurance Company, where she worked her way up into management. It was at Imperial Life that Brenda met her first mentor, Carole Briard (who would go on to become Chief Information Officer at Bank of Canada).

“Carole played a key role throughout my career,” says Brenda. “There were very few [women in technology at the time], and that connection with another female leader who was trying to advance in technology was very important. To this day, we are still very close.”


“There were very few women in technology at the time, and that connection with another female leader who was trying to advance in technology was very important.”


Brenda also believes in continuous learning. She holds a number of technology certificates, and completed an Executive Program at Queen’s University in addition to a Masters Certificate in Innovation at Schulich School of Business.

A strong advocate for the advancement of women in the Canadian workforce, Brenda has led the women in leadership program at Tangerine for several years. She says that mentoring can be a valuable way for women to support each other.

“I think that lack of confidence and fear of failure can hold us back, myself included,” she says. “I definitely reach out to my female network. And it’s not about just seeking a mentor to say you have a mentor, but being willing to ask for help.”

The late Mona Goldstein, Toronto marketing guru and CEO at Wunderman, was another important mentor in Brenda’s life. After successfully taking on several operational-type roles at ING Direct, Brenda was asked to head up marketing for the company, a position she found daunting.


“It’s not about just seeking a mentor to say you have a mentor, but being willing to ask for help.”


“It was not necessarily in my wheelhouse and I certainly felt inept at times, wondering, ‘What am I doing here?’ My confidence was wavering,” says Brenda. “But Mona provided me some tremendous insight and encouragement and was one of the smartest, most inspirational women I’ve ever met.”

As a mom with a high-profile career, Brenda says work-life balance could be a challenge, especially when her son was young. In the tech world, working after hours is a necessity. Because it was hard to control her afternoons and evenings, Brenda says she felt strongly that she needed to control her mornings.

“I needed to connect with my son in the morning, so I would have breakfast with him every morning, I’d give him a hug, I’d put him on the bus. In banking, it’s quite common to have breakfast meetings starting at 7:30am, and I really had to be strong about saying no to early morning meetings,” says Brenda. “If you say no often enough, and say, ‘I’m happy to meet with you later in the day, but I’m not coming in for a breakfast meeting,’ people get used to it.”

Brenda says she still makes mornings with her family a priority.

“My son is 14 now and we still have breakfast every morning, although I think it’s more for me than him now. It’s getting harder to get that hug,” she laughs.

When she’s not carving a path for women in leadership roles, Brenda says she craves time in the outdoors with her family – hiking, golfing, skiing and walking their two dogs.

“I also enjoy cooking and baking,” she says. “If my husband will get the ingredients, I’m more than happy to put on some music and cook in my kitchen.”

Brenda attributes her career success to a strong work ethic and ample curiosity. “And having family and friends and mentors – people you can talk to and trust – is a must,” she adds.

Her advice for women hoping to emulate her success? Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn, and raise your hand when opportunities arise.

“Joining ING Direct was a risk,” she says. “But the journey has been amazing.”




Meet Carolina Parra: An Executive That’s Balancing Career and Family

Carolina Parra is the Vice President of Corporate and Commercial Risk at Scotiabank Chile. She’s also a mother, wife, and adamant advocate for the value of diversity, recognizing that when a diverse group of talented individuals is heard, incredible things can happen for both business and culture. 


By Shelley White



Carolina Parra is an executive at one of Chile’s banks. She’s also a wife and mother to a 7-year-old daughter. But whether Carolina’s in the boardroom or at home, she makes it clear which role comes first.

“Balancing is hard, but I’m a wife and mother first and that’s my priority and there’s no discussion about that,” says Carolina, Vice President of Corporate and Commercial risk at Scotiabank Chile. “Building a family takes teamwork and my husband is my teammate. He is a husband and father first. Our family is central to what we do and it is a balancing act to ensure that one or both of us is always in our daughter’s life.”

Growing up in Bogota, Colombia as the eldest of two daughters, Carolina says her upbringing had a huge impact on her career aspirations and future success.

“Both my parents worked when we were growing up and had successful careers – my dad in business and my mother as a dentist,” she says. “Seeing their passion for their work was what inspired me to focus on studying and challenge myself, making sure I could reach whatever goal I wanted.”

Watching her parents successfully balance rewarding careers and family life was an important influence on Carolina’s life. “They ensured we would always spend time together at the end of the day to share our activities and celebrate whatever we had accomplished,” she says. “That really was the basis for what my family is today.”

After completing her industrial engineering degree at university in Bogota and a stint in consulting, Carolina found herself drawn to the world of commercial banking. She says she always liked the financial side and enjoyed numbers. Over the next two decades, Carolina expanded her expertise, working in different areas of banking as well as several different countries, including Colombia, Puerto Rico, Chile and Canada. She says her experiences enhanced her appreciation for diverse cultures, as well as the need to understand context when entering a new environment.

“Each culture has its wonderful sides, and its quirks,” she says. “The first thing you need to learn is that each culture is shaped by what the people have lived through in the past, and you need to understand, respect and enjoy that.”

In addition to leading a team of 60 people as a vice president at Scotiabank Chile, Carolina is also a proud member of Chile’s diversity and inclusion council because “that’s the world’s reality now,” she says. “Attracting and retaining talent is key to our success and, by definition, the talent we attract is diverse.  Failing to attract or retain that talent isn’t an option. Diversity provides such a variety of perspectives, knowledge and experiences and it reflects our customer base.”

“Attracting and retaining talent is key to our success and, by definition, the talent we attract is diverse.  Failing to attract or retain that talent isn’t an option. Diversity provides such a variety of perspectives, knowledge and experiences and it reflects our customer base.”

To promote diversity at Scotiabank Chile, the council has created an internal communications campaign to educate the workforce on the benefits of diversity and inclusion, as well as hosting multicultural lunches with staff to celebrate the different cultural backgrounds of employees. The council also recently launched an initiative to recruit more people with disabilities.

“At Scotiabank, we’re all working to create awareness that there’s value to diversity, that we need to cherish and create that shift in culture to challenge our unconscious bias and create that inclusive environment,” says Carolina.

She notes that women can undercut their own progress by not “raising their hand” when it comes to promotion opportunities. That’s why she believes it’s important for senior management to help identify women who are ready for career advancement.

Coaching can also be a powerful tool to help talented women progress in the business world. “It’s that constant feedback to employees to focus on how they can improve, how they can expand their influence and improve their technical skills,” says Carolina.

For women who want to excel in their chosen industry, Carolina says her first advice is always, find what you love and do it very well.

“You have to love it, you have to own it and show people that you are good at it,” she says. “The second piece of advice is make your voice heard. In a discussion, raise your hand and speak up. The third piece of advice is in order to advance and be a leader, you need to learn to coach and develop other people, because that speaks highly of how much of a leader you can be.”

When she isn’t leading her team or coaching the next generation at Scotiabank Chile, Carolina’s focus is on spending her leisure time with her family, in activities like swimming and playing tennis.

She hopes to raise her daughter with the same confidence that she grew up with, and the knowledge that it’s possible to have both a family and a fulfilling career.

“Family has to be the priority in my world,” she reiterates firmly. “If it’s not, I’m only making a living, I’m not making a life. Life is what matters in the end.”




Meet Caroline Riseboro, a CEO With a Plan for Women and Girls

Caroline Riseboro leads Plan International Canada’s operations as President and CEO. Previously she held roles at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation, as well as World Vision Canada, where she was the first and youngest woman in the agency’s history to serve in the SVP role. Her volunteer leadership positions span across numerous boards and task forces including Imagine Canada, and she has been credited as an innovator and champion of ground-breaking and award-winning campaigns that have engaged Canadians in new ways on some of the world’s toughest issues. Here she reveals the driving force behind some of her gutsiest career moves, and why she’s extremely hopeful for the future of women and girls.



My first job ever was… Walking race horses when I was 12-years old. It was interesting because I worked only with men, and it was the first time I experienced and understood a male-dominated environment. I had no idea how well that would serve me later in my life and career.


I decided to enter the non-profit world because… My first job after university was in advertising. It struck me early on in the role that I was working hard to create more profit for sugary drinks, fast food and telecoms companies. At the same time, as I walked to work I would pass people suffering from homelessness, poverty, mental illness and addiction. The answer was staring me in the face: I have to make sure I am using my talents to make this world a better place.  


I hope to make a positive impact by… Forging a path where there traditionally hasn’t been a path for younger, ambitious women. I want to show everyone that it’s possible to make your dreams a reality. I also want to make a positive impact by living and working in a way that transforms social norms that face women. I want to show young women leaders that it is okay to be different, and in fact, that’s what the world needs from us right now.


“I want to show young women leaders that it is okay to be different, and in fact, that’s what the world needs from us right now.”


My proudest accomplishment is… Different from what most people would expect. I think most people would expect that my proudest accomplishment was becoming President  & CEO of Plan International Canada at age 38, and being a trailblazer and breaking the glass ceiling. But in reality, my proudest accomplishment is that I haven’t given up yet. A lot of being successful is grit, even if it feels like the task at hand is too difficult.


My boldest move to date was… Having a very senior role at a large organization I had worked at for almost 15 years, and leaving to pursue a role at a much smaller one. I realized that while I was contributing, the only way to grow was to venture out of my comfort zone. My other bold move happens on a daily basis, when I constantly try to be authentic and vulnerable. Being a CEO, I think it is important to open up and show women that it is not always easy, but we can push through.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I am more hopeful than ever that women can assume positions of leadership and break glass ceilings. This is because we have finally acknowledged the challenges women face. I believe that we have this powerful, educated group of girls and women growing up as leaders to join the ranks of other women.


My best advice to people who want to make a difference is… To know that we can impact much more change than we realize. If we dream it first, and then put the dream into action by being bold, we can achieve anything.


My best advice from a mentor was… Do it afraid anyway.


“We can impact much more change than we realize. If we dream it first, and then put the dream into action by being bold, we can achieve anything.”


My biggest setback was… Listening to that critical voice in my own mind. It’s that whole notion of ‘can I really do this?’


I overcame it by… Doing it afraid. And I say that because often we don’t realize we have everything we need within us to succeed. And if we don’t, we can build the skills along the way. That is how everyone successful has succeeded. Women often feel they need to be 100% ready, but you’re more ready than you think. The only way forward is to do it.


Work/life balance is… A myth. It is a question that I don’t even want to answer yet again. It puts pressure on women, with this perception of how women should be leading their lives. The better question is do I feel whole in my life and as a person?


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I have an intensely needy creative side that I need to nurture. So much of my work is cerebral and is focused on tackling the toughest global issues.  Creativity is the outlet that I have to explore the ethereal.


I stay inspired by… The people around me. I am inspired by the talent and human potential I am surrounded by that has yet to be unleashed. This is particularly true of the talented team I lead at Plan International.


The future excites me because… We can truly make a positive difference. It will take time. It will take energy. It will take perseverance. It’s taken my nearly 40 years to realize this, but really anything is possible.



Learn more about Plan Canada and Caroline’s work.

Meet Valerie Gerardi, a Woman Who’s Winning in a Male-Dominated Industry

Valerie Gerardi is a Canadian entrepreneur, co-founder and owner of Anvale Homes Inc. a custom home and renovation development company serving the GTA. Her entrance into the building industry, which is still largely male-dominated, was much more than chance or coincidence, the result of a family deeply rooted in the home construction industry and a father who was a renowned home builder in the local community. She has since left her own lasting mark on the industry, serving as an example of how when passion, skill, and a desire to learn collide, there are no limits to where a woman can succeed.



My first job ever was… Working for my father’s home building and development company. I was 15 years old, in grade 9, employed at the corporation as a summer student to assist with administrative tasks.


I decided to continue in the family business because… I was able to learn so much from my family business. I fell in love with putting together projects from start to finish for clients, and I enjoy every aspect of the building process; I have a hands on approach throughout every aspect of the new home building process—from overseeing the design to managing the build construction


My proudest accomplishment was… Being nominated for best custom home in 2013.


My boldest move to date was… Leaving the family business and starting my own custom home building and renovation company Anvale Homes. Then, after meeting with clients to locate them a property, my husband and I realized there was a void in the company. Our hired realtor wasn’t locating the properties, it was me! I made a bold move to go back to school to get my real estate license which helped the company and my clients moving forward.


Being a woman in a male dominated industry is… Not an easy position to occupy. I bring a woman’s perspective to an industry traditionally and predominantly male-dominated, and as a woman in a male-dominated field, you have to be prepared to assert yourself at all times. But I also provide clients with a distinctive viewpoint and understanding of what makes a home truly functional while also aesthetically distinct and appealing. I bring a fresh and unique perspective new home building and renovating.


I get ahead by… Getting up early, which empowers me to get more done. Exercising also keeps my body in shape, motivates my mind and makes me more productive. I’m also always learning new things. I’m a lifelonger learner, I never pass up the chance to learn a new fact or a new skill.


“As a woman in a male-dominated field, you have to be prepared to assert yourself at all times.”


I surprise people when I tell them… That I’m a home/renovator builder and realtor.


Valerie Gerardi on construction site

My best advice to people starting out in entrepreneurship is… To focus on setting & achieving small incremental goals rather than trying to start a business and instantly build your vision of what the company should be in the years to come. Have the full picture in mind, but take the steps one at a time. No matter what your vision, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by all of the steps needed to get to your goal. 


My best advice from a mentor was… The best advice I ever received was from my Dad, my biggest mentor in life. Starting when I was young, he always quoted Confucius and told me, “Choose a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life” and that “the greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”


My biggest setback was… When my Dad died and the company was torn apart by family members deciding to go in different directions. I had to take a step back to decide what my passion was and where I was heading. That’s when my husband and I started Anvale Homes. I had to start all over again, which was a big challenge.


“No matter what your vision, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by all of the steps needed to get to your goal.”


I overcame it by… Taking one step at a time, planning my goals, asking for help, never giving up, and being true to my self and my passion to help clients build their dream homes.


Work/life balance is… A daily effort. I always made sure I was there to pick up my children after school to hear about their day and take them to their activities, making sure we have dinner together, then making time to exercise, rest and rela to rejuvenate myself.


If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m scared of geckos!


I stay inspired by… I get a great sense of accomplishment from seeing a home start from ground up, then handing over the keys to clients and seeing them move into their dream home that my team and I built.


The future excites me because… There are so many wonderful things to do, build, and renovate!



Learn more about Valerie and her company, Anvale Homes

Make their voices heard: How the capital markets sector can benefit from diversity

Marian Lawson

Marian Lawson, Executive Vice-President of Global Financial Institutions and Transaction Banking with Scotiabank, believes that corporate championing of diversity is good for not only minorities, but for businesses as well. Here she explains how not only bringing new perspectives to the forefront, but making those perspectives heard, benefits the capital markets sector. 

By Shelley White


When it comes to diversity in the workplace, it’s not just about bringing disparate voices to the table, says Marian Lawson, Scotiabank’s Executive Vice President of Global Financial Institutions and Transaction Banking. It’s about making sure that those voices are being heard.

As co-chair of the Global Banking and Markets Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, Marian is passionate about championing diversity in Canada’s capital markets sector. She notes that a diverse and inclusive culture can help enable high-performance teams in a competitive industry like hers.

“Different backgrounds bring in different experiences, and while you might not reach a different conclusion, you’re considering diverse perspectives,” she says. “Studies show more diverse groups lead to better business results.”

In fact, a 2015 study by McKinsey & Company called Diversity Matters found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. The study also found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have better-than-average financial returns. (To prepare the report, McKinsey examined proprietary data sets for 366 public companies in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Latin America, across a range of industries.)

“Studies show more diverse groups lead to better business results”

“The other thing that’s really important is we want to be a reflection of our community, our customers and our other stakeholders,” adds Marian. “Having a diverse pool of employees allows us to better understand our customers’ needs, which lead to better outcomes.”

To make sure those diverse voices are being heard, it’s critical to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable being their “authentic self,” she says.

“If you’re trying to pretend to be something else, you’re not bringing your best ideas, so I think we need to create environments where people are comfortable being themselves, whatever that self happens to be,” she says. “Whether it’s gender, sexuality or race, people need to feel the environment is welcoming to them.”

Marian is particularly committed to promoting gender diversity in her industry. A long-time leader in corporate and investment banking and global capital markets, in 2016 she was named one of Canada’s most powerful women by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) and received the Women in Capital Markets (WCM) leadership award.

The lack of representation of women in senior corporate roles is a Canada-wide issue. A 2016 report from the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) — a coalition of provincial securities regulators — found that only 12% of all Board seats at the 677 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) are held by women.

Because there are significant gaps in the level of female representation in Canadian capital markets, Marian says it’s one of their Steering Committee’s top priorities.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out how to move the dial with the numbers of women in our organization,” she says.

Marian says one of the issues is that the capital markets sector has traditionally been a very male-dominated area. “I think the perception of the business was one that was very competitive, very cutthroat — movies like The Wolf of Wall Street don’t help us at all,” she notes.

“The challenge is to find enough qualified and interested women for these jobs. It is like anything – it is the fear of the unknown,” says Marian. “To that end, one of our top priorities is to show as many young women as possible what a day in the life actually looks like. This way, when they make their choice about their career, it is with a better understanding of the role and the work.”

She points to organizations like WCM that do outreach to girls in high school to tell them: “These are really interesting careers and you shouldn’t self-select out of these.” At Scotiabank, Marian says they invite female university students to spend the day and shadow women on the job.

“I think I do it because it’s the right thing to do, and I’ve met so many great women and some of them just needed someone to give them 30 minutes”

To ensure talented women aren’t getting passed over when they do apply for jobs, Marian says the committee has recommended all managers go through unconscious bias training to ensure equitable hiring decisions are being made. “Because it is unconscious, you don’t know you’re doing it,” she says. “We’re trying to make people much more aware of when they do have a bias.”

It’s also important to ensure women feel that they can have a job in capital markets and a family too, says Marian.

“Another initiative our committee has come up with is a program for people on maternity and paternity leave, so it’s making sure people feel supported while they are away,” she says. As part of the program, the group asked fellow employees to become mentors to people on leave. “We launched that a couple weeks ago and the response has been phenomenal in terms of people wanting to be mentors.”

As a mentor and role model herself, Marian says helping talented young women succeed is very important to her.

“I think I do it because it’s the right thing to do, and I’ve met so many great women and some of them just needed someone to give them 30 minutes,” she says. “It’s giving them the push, giving them the encouragement.”

When offering guidance to promising young talent, Marian says she emphasizes that women should never be afraid to ask for what they want.

“If you don’t ask for it, no one’s going to give it to you,” she says. “And I always say: you don’t have to have every skill in the world to do a job. Sometimes it’s about attitude and your ability to learn.”




Lift as you Climb and Learn as you Soar

Virginia Brailey

Virginia Brailey, Vice-President, Marketing and Strategy at ADP Canada believes fully in reaching beyond your career comfort zone, and bringing others along for the climb. Her advice? You should too.

By Hailey Eisen

“It’s not the act of jumping out of an airplane; it’s what’s you learn before the chute opens that really matters,” Virginia Brailey says. Learning on the job (and while skydiving) has been her approach throughout her 25-year career as a marketing leader, and it’s advice she shares with anyone looking to take their career to the next level.

“Every time there was a chance to get involved in a new area or take on a new challenge I jumped at it,” she recalls. “I have always considered myself lucky to have these opportunities to learn, even though it can be a lot of pressure to learn quickly.”

The result is an impressive career trajectory through natural resources, telecommunications, technology and now, as Vice-President, Marketing and Strategy at ADP Canada, in the human capital management industry. Virginia has tackled a number of specialties including corporate communications, product management and strategic planning in organizations of all sizes.

“Getting out of your comfort zone is the key,” she explains. “Assuming you have strong basic skills, there is no reason to turn your back on a great opportunity just because you lack years of experience. This goes for everything from a new job to a big project in your current role.”

Just like skydiving, taking on new opportunities requires a little bit of nerve and a great deal of trust in other people. “I talk to so many educated, smart women who feel they need to have one-hundred per cent of the skills or experiences to put up their hand for a new project, and this keeps them on the sidelines,” Virginia explains. “The truth is, there are always lots of people out there who can help you learn and you may find support in the most unlikely places to help you on that journey — you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.”

As a volunteer mentor with the American Marketing Association, she encourages others to view learning itself as a goal, as is the chance to see things from a different point-of-view by rolling up your sleeves to work alongside colleagues or specialists with whom you might not normally engage.

“The truth is, there are always lots of people out there who can help you learn and you may find support in the most unlikely places to help you on that journey — you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.”

“Taking on opportunities beyond your existing role or department is good for career advancement, but more importantly it helps you understand and respect the work and expertise other people bring, and what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes,” Virginia explains. “That’s information you can bring back and pass along to the people you’re helping on their journey. I like the phrase, ‘lifting as you climb,’ because I think the most important thing each of us can do at work is to help other people grow and learn.”

Her own challenges and experiences early in her career have contributed to Virginia’s commitment to encourage others. Working in traditional male environments in the natural resources and telecommunication sectors, Virginia heard plenty of discouraging messages, but looked to role models and mentors for guidance. “Earlier in my career at a predominantly male mining company, it was the president who was always quick to encourage me to run with new opportunities and that alone made a huge difference,” she recalls.

“I like the phrase, ‘lifting as you climb,’ because I think the most important thing each of us can do at work is to help other people grow and learn.”

At ADP, Virginia continues her mission of learning and teaching. “Leadership is a privileged obligation — both to teach others and to continue learning yourself,” she observes. “We have a wonderfully diverse group of senior leaders and associates, and I learn constantly — that’s a big part of what energizes me.”

While she is not planning to jump out of any more airplanes, Virginia explains she is still learning as she goes. “I actively surround myself with people of different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures — because there is so much power in diversity.”


A proven case: championing diversity enables innovation

The importance of innovation in business is undisputed. Tapping into diversity as a driver of innovation is a newer concept — but it is already proving its worth. Dubie Cunningham, vice-president of innovation at the Digital Factory at Scotiabank, shares why and how diversity has been a key driver of success.

By Shelley White

Diversity in the workplace isn’t just a good idea, says Dubie Cunningham. It’s a crucial part of being a successful business in the digital age.

As vice president of innovation at the Digital Factory at Scotiabank, Dubie’s mandate is to help accelerate the Bank’s digital strategy and reimagine the customer experience in an era where technology has become ubiquitous. Advances in FinTechs (financial technology) in areas like mobile payments, wearables, and artificial intelligence are promising to change the way the world does their banking.

“Our customers have come to expect a completely different experience than in the past,” says Dubie. “The accessibility of technology has dramatically evolved, and our customers’ expectations about how they want to interact with the bank have completely changed.”

Diversity is an important part of Scotiabank’s digital strategy, says Dubie, because it’s key to reimagining the banking experience for this new age and beyond.

“It’s important for us to think broadly outside traditional banking and what a traditional banker is thought to be,” she says. “In the last couple of years, trying to tap into those kinds of opportunities makes diversity particularly important and very, very exciting.”

At Dubie’s workplace, the concept of the traditional office has been “blown up,” she says. There are no offices or cubicles. Instead, people work at picnic-type tables, and in the corners of the room, where white boards filled with colourful sticky notes invite collaboration and open dialogue. It’s an “agile” workplace — a concept pioneered in the Silicon Valley where employees have the freedom to work where they want, when they want.

“If our customers are diverse and we want to serve them well, we need to be as diverse as they are.”

This forward-thinking workplace style is part of the way the bank is challenging traditional notions of what a bank is all about and encouraging diversity in the people who work there.

The Digital Factory team also encourages diversity of thought by bringing people from different aspects of the business to work together in one dynamic space. From software developers to marketers, from data scientists to security, everyone has a seat at the table.

“The way we work attracts a real variety of people,” she says. “A lot of folks don’t want to be in a constrained, overly formal environment. It takes barriers away and everyone’s value and contribution becomes equally important. We see a lot of the by-products of this in the people that are coming to work for us.”

Dubie points out that a diverse workforce — whether in gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or skill set —reflects an increasingly diverse customer base.

“Because we are a global bank, I think it’s really about aligning with our customers. If our customers are diverse and we want to serve them well, we need to be as diverse as they are. Really understanding and reflecting their values means we can be more successful,” she says.

Partnerships with global innovation hubs, accelerators, incubators and university research programs have been another part of encouraging diversity at Scotiabank’s Digital Factory, bringing in fresh ideas from a new generation of out-of-the-box thinkers.

“Opening our doors to students has been key in helping us better understand people’s perspectives through their eyes and their skills,” says Dubie.

To succeed in our rapidly changing world, businesses need to constantly be thinking about different methodologies to encourage diversity, she adds.

“Unless we continue to embrace diversity and leverage it and build on it, we will be at a disadvantage, so I think of it as a business imperative to make it a priority.”


Dubie Cunningham shares her biggest inspiration, and why IT needs more women

Gender equality is a particular passion for Dubie, who’s long been inspired by her pioneering mother, an architect in an era when not many women were in that field.

“My mom was the only female architect in the sixties working on the CN Tower, and in her graduating class, she was one of only a couple women, so she’s very inspiring to me,” Dubie says. “She showed me what is possible and I’m very proud of what that generation has done and what my generation has done.”

As the mother of one boy and three girls, Dubie says she has great faith in what the next generation will accomplish, but she notes that when it comes to gender equality in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), there is more work to be done.

“One thing we’ve noticed in IT (information technology) is we’ve got a problem because not as many women or girls are going into science and math,” says Dubie. “Think about the damage that will do to the diversity pipeline, and we really need it. We need diversity as we build our solutions.”

To encourage women to pursue STEM-related careers, Dubie says her team collaborates with partners like Ladies Learning Code, going into universities and making presentations to encourage women to pursue careers in IT.


An Open Letter to Our Men

man in front of train

By Teresa Harris

To my brothers, my father, and my friends. To all of the men I love and have loved in my life, I ask you this: please listen, and please learn.

Listen to the message this election has so clearly announced about what our neighbours — and what we can assume many within our own borders — think of powerful females. Hear the words “nasty woman” and “Miss Piggy” and understand where they are coming from. Feel the weight of the fact that the source is America’s 45th President-elect.

Learn that although your intentions may be good, your actions matter. Your words matter. Your legacy — the impression you leave on the countless young boys who will grow into the men of our future — is one of the most important responsibilities you’ll have in your lifetime, and right now the climate is ripe for that legacy to be tainted.

We love you so deeply and wholly that it breaks our hearts to know you, the good and decent ones, have this letter to bear. I ask you to be brave in this time of hostility and confusion and exercise your power for change among your peers. It is critical that you do so.

That is what I ask of you today.

Here is what I do not ask of you.

I do not ask you to rally underneath the women you love and respect in an effort to lift us. I do not ask you to stand in front of us to shield us from the cruel reality we’ve suddenly realized our world represents. We are not frail, and even well-intentioned offerings of protective strength in reality are benevolent insults to our capabilities.

What we need is for your voices to be quiet at times when ours should be heard. We need you to look at us when our faces should be seen. We need you to stand beside us when our numbers are low. We need you to exist not as our scaffolding or our armour, but as our allies.

There has been an assumption in recent time that led us to believe a woman’s work is done. What we’ve realized is that the work of this generation of women is far from complete, and that no level of qualification or sum of money can do that work for us. That has never been made clearer than in the past 24 hours.

And despite your loving intent, you cannot do it for us either. But you can do it with us. You can and you should and you will, because the future of our humanity depends on it. So please listen, and please learn.



Rethinking roles: The President of one of Colombia’s largest financial institutions discusses gender inclusion

Santiago Perdomo

Achieving true equality is a challenge, particularly for countries that value traditional gender roles in both the workplace and household. We spoke with Santiago Perdomo, President of Banco Colpatria, to discover how one of Colombia’s largest financial institutions is advocating for change and leading by example.

By Shelley White

Santiago Perdomo is looking forward to the day when executive positions at his company are split evenly between women and men—fifty-fifty.

As President of Banco Colpatria, one of Colombia’s largest financial institutions and an international operation of Scotiabank, Mr. Perdomo is determined to lead by example when it comes to gender inclusion in his country.

“As such a large company in Colombia, I think we have a responsibility to teach other companies the importance of gender inclusion, all the way up to the top levels of an organization,” he says.

Mr. Perdomo is backing up his words with action, setting measurable goals to drive change and get to that fifty-fifty target. At the end of 2015, the overall workforce of Banco Colpatria was 50 per cent women, he says, but when it came to the top levels of management at the bank, the percentage was not as high.

“At the end of 2015, we had 34 per cent women in the top levels of Banco Colpatria, so we started to set some goals,” he says. “Our goal was to have 37 per cent of women in top positions at the end of 2016, and we are going to end the year at 39 per cent, so we have exceeded our goal.”

“It is very important to have metrics and to push everyone in the organization to work towards a better balance between male and female,” he adds.

While Mr. Perdomo believes that gender inclusion is about fairness and equality, he points out that businesses also benefit from putting women in top positions.

“It’s proven that organizations that have gender inclusion perform better,” he says. “These organizations have a better work environment, they serve and fulfill customers’ needs better and they are true community supporters.”

It’s an argument borne out by research—a 2011 study by non-profit research group Catalyst Inc. found that companies with three or more women board directors significantly outperformed those with no women board directors. In the study, companies with the most female board directors bested those with the least, earning better return on sales (ROS) by 16 per cent and return on invested capital (ROIC) by 26 per cent.

“It’s proven that organizations that have gender inclusion perform better”

As well, a McKinsey & Company study analyzed 180 publicly-traded companies in France, Germany, the UK and the U.S. between 2008 and 2010, and found that companies with more diversity on the executive boards (specifically, women and foreign nationals) performed better. Returns on equity (ROE) were 53 per cent higher for companies in the top quartile of diversity versus the bottom quartile.

There is work to do in Colombia when it comes to workplace gender equality, notes Mr. Perdomo. At the root of the problem is the “unconscious bias” that many people have when it comes to gender—seeing men as more suited to management and women as being more suited to the domains of home and family.

Mr. Perdomo says that when he began to explore his own attitudes, he had to admit that he himself had unconscious bias. But by being aware of it, he’s been able to move past it and encourage others to do the same.

To this end, the bank holds regular conferences, discussions and focus groups on the topic of gender inclusion to help make employees more aware of unconscious bias. At the executive level, representatives from Banco Colpatria’s branches around Colombia meet regularly to share best practices and discuss how to improve gender inclusion with their employees.

“It’s important to educate the men [of Colombia], because in this country, many men believe that women have to do everything in the house—the kids, the homework, the household, etc. We know that shouldn’t be the case and that as men, we need to help in the home,” he says. “And second, in the workplace, we need to help create opportunities for women to succeed, whether that is offering flexible work arrangements or encouraging them to take the challenge and apply for more high profile positions.”

Supporting women is a priority for Banco Colpatria, says Mr. Perdomo. The bank has hosted several events for women in their organization featuring female executives from inside and outside the bank, sharing their stories of challenge and reward and engaging in interactive discussions. As well, updating bank policies around flexible work schedules have improved the ability for women and men to balance competing priorities.

Mr. Perdomo says his dedication to gender inclusion has been partly motivated by an inspiring woman in his life—his wife, Cristina.

“She works in a brokerage house in Colombia. We have discussions about many things and I have to say that she has influenced the way I think. She often makes me see the subject from a different perspective,” he says.

In February of 2016, Scotiabank hosted an International Banking Leadership panel in Toronto called ‘The Power of Inclusion,’ and Mr. Perdomo took part, joining Scotiabank country heads from Mexico and Chile. More than 200 employees attended the event that was also webcast to international locations. The event was moderated in Spanish so panelists were able to speak in their native tongue and be inclusive of the Bank’s many Spanish-speaking employees watching in person and online (with real-time translation provided for English speakers).

“[My wife, Cristina] works in a brokerage house in Colombia. We have discussions about many things and I have to say that she has influenced the way I think. She often makes me see the subject from a different perspective”

The three country heads reflected on their experiences as leaders and discussed gender equality in their countries and organizations. Mr. Perdomo talked about how women at Banco Colpatria are gaining more and more prominent positions.

“In the steering committee, we have three women out of eleven members. Before, we had none,” he told the audience. “These are women with vast experience who are adding so much value to the organization.”

The panel was a great experience, says Mr. Perdomo, and a reflection of Scotiabank’s continued leadership in the area of diversity and inclusion.

Closer to home, Mr. Perdomo says he hopes Banco Colpatria’s initiatives will influence not only his employees, but other companies and organizations across Colombia.

“It will be better for our country, so it’s important to change minds everywhere, in every town.”



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

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.