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

How do you attract top talent? Foster an inclusive workplace

By Shelley White

For Naomi Shaw, gender inclusion is about more than simply counting how many women work at an organization.

“For me, inclusion means an environment where every employee feels valued for what they bring to the table,” she says. “People can feel comfortable to be themselves, and feel that they can contribute to their maximum and perform at their best.”

As senior vice-president of human resources for international banking at Scotiabank, Naomi leads a passionate team that is committed to promoting gender inclusion, a key strategic focus for Scotiabank’s international banking division. It’s a commitment to equality that benefits employees and the organization as a whole.

“If your organization has a reputation for having an inclusive workforce, people will come knocking on your door and you will attract the best talent,” she notes.

Naomi became aware of the need to further promote gender inclusion when she began visiting Scotiabank’s Latin American countries as part of the bank’s international banking team.

“I would be sitting and meeting with the senior management teams in those countries and I’d often be the only woman at the table,” she says. “I thought that was such a contrast to what I had seen here in Canada.”

Naomi wondered, “Are we tapping into the broader talent pool, both internally and externally?” It sparked a discussion with the international country heads about unconscious bias—the idea that everyone has biases against different groups that they may not be aware of.

Through informal discussions with women in Scotiabank’s international offices, Naomi was able to learn about some of the challenges they have experienced in their careers. Many of the challenges were based on cultural expectations in their home countries—ideas that women are responsible for the family and men are responsible for working.

For example, one female employee recounted: “I have kids, but my career is important to me too. If something is happening and the team is asked to work late, my boss will say, ‘You’ve got kids, don’t feel like you have to stay, you can go home.’ But my boss wouldn’t say that to my male counterparts.”

As more stories were shared, the awareness of unconscious bias grew which led to a commitment by Scotiabank’s international banking division to make gender inclusion a priority.

Scotiabank CEOs from Mexico, Colombia and Chile recently took part in an International Banking Inclusion Panel at the new Scotiabank Centre in Toronto, where they reflected on their experiences as leaders and why they believe it is important to continue building a culture of inclusion at Scotiabank. More than 300 employees attended the event, which was moderated in Spanish so panelists were speaking their native tongue, with real-time translation for English speakers.

Naomi, as facilitator of the panel, says she was humbled by the participants’ honesty and willingness to be so open.

“For the international CEOs to do this panel, I think it was incredibly powerful,” she says. “They wanted to show people that they felt this was important.”

Scotiabank Colombia’s CEO and country head, Santiago Perdomo, spoke about what he and his team are doing to ensure women have equal opportunity to excel.

“We are working on having more flexible schedules, and we have also initiated talks with women where they express their concerns,” he said. “We are continuing to have these talks because these conversations are very important.”

Santiago also noted that women in his organization are gaining more and more prominent positions.

“In the steering committee, we have two women out of eleven members,” he said. “In the next level of report, we have 37 per cent women in leadership positions. These are women with vast experience who are adding so much value to the organization.”


“If your organization has a reputation for having an inclusive workforce, people will come knocking on your door.”


Another panelist was Enrique Zorrilla, Scotiabank Mexico’s senior vice-president and country head. Enrique pointed out that diversity in an organization should be looked upon as an opportunity.

“I’ve concluded that we need each other — we are better together than on our own. As we talk about diversity and inclusion, we have to recognize that because of origin, experiences, gender and other aspects, each person brings different attributes and we need them all.  Having these multiple perspectives makes us better as a team.”

It’s an attitude that seems to be working — in 2015, Scotiabank Mexico was awarded first place from Mexico’s Great Place to Work Institute in the gender equality category.

Francisco Sardon, Scotiabank Chile, CEO and country manager, added that he sees firsthand the need to create an inclusive environment.

“We all feel a responsibility to come together to make efforts to foster inclusion. The executive committee in Chile is a great example of this. We have a diverse group representing six different countries, with 12 individuals, men and women, showcasing the outlook of international banking in Central and South America. This sort of collaboration can really be fruitful.”

To keep the momentum going, a Scotiabank inclusion council with representation from each of the Latin American countries meets monthly to share best practices and experiences.

Naomi says she is optimistic that gender inclusion will continue to improve in the international banking community as more people understand that it’s not just about equality, but good business too.

“If we have a truly inclusive culture and people feel like it doesn’t matter what gender you are, what colour you are, what school you went to, then we can attract the top talent and it would be a true meritocracy,” she says.

“What could be better for an organization than having the best talent and the most high-performing teams?”

Straddling the Gender Pay Gap

Despite legislation and good intentions, we are a long way off from equal pay.

By Shelagh McNally

It’s 2016 and Canadian women make 27 per cent less than men. That means that for every dollar a man earns, a Canadian woman earns 73 cents. Still, that’s an improvement. In 1951, when Ontario passed the Female Employee’s Fair Remuneration Act, the gap was 49.5 per cent. In 1987, when Canada passed the Pay Equity Act, the gap was 36 per cent.

In the last ten years, pay equity has been mostly stagnant. The Status of Women has stated “when it comes to the salary gap between the sexes, women have hit a brick wall.” And compared to the international community, we are lagging behind. The United Nations has put Canada on notice for its “persistent inequalities between women and men.” Last year, the World Economic Forum gender-gap ranking put Canada at 30, well behind Rwanda, Nicaragua, Burundi, Slovenia, and Bolivia. In 2006, we were ranked at 14.

Why has progression stalled? How has the problem remained unsolved for over two generations? The roots for pay inequity run deep. And with a multitude of contributing factors, unraveling and addressing the issue is complicated.

Studies show the notorious second shift plays a part. According to Stats Canada, women spend an average of six hours a day doing childcare and housecleaning while men spend less than three hours.

“Women do a large share of unpaid work. This constrains their time for paid work hours so we see women taking part-time or shift work with flexible hours. These typically have lower wages,” said Kate McInturff, Ph.D. Senior Researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

In 2013, 70 per cent of part-time, minimum-wage workers were women—a proportion that has not changed in 30 years.

The mommy penalty is another contributing factor. Research conducted at Cornell University by Shelley J. Correll found that working mothers were consistently rated as less promotable, offered lower starting salaries, viewed as less competent, less qualified, more distracted and less committed to the job.

Michelle Budig, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts found similar results in her 15-year study into the parenthood gap. Having children actually boosted a man’s earnings by six per cent, while decreasing a woman’s salary by four per cent for each child. The research company Payscale found women’s salaries stall at age 30—about the same time women start their families.

Another problem is the clustering of women into particular fields with chronic low pay—a phenomenon sometimes referred to as pink-collar work, or the Pink Ghetto. Typically health, education, management, public administration and social sciences all offer lower salaries than architecture, engineering, technology, mathematics, computer, and IT industries. Women make up only 9.2 per cent of those higher paying sectors.

“It’s hard to determine if these fields are underpaid because we undervalue the profession or if the low wages are because women are doing the work,” said McInturff.

Education doesn’t seem to be solving the problem either. The average a construction worker with a high school diploma (another male-dominated field) earns $44 thousand annually while an early education worker earns $20 thousand after completing a two-year degree.

According to the Council of Canadian Academies, women outnumber men as undergraduate and masters students and represent nearly half of all PhD students. However, they make up only 32.6 per cent of all faculty members and earn 4.5 per cent less than male professors.

While the disproportionate share of unpaid work, choices related to motherhood, and the Pink Ghetto all have a major impact, these factors aren’t enough to explain widespread wage inequality. Another cause has been singled out as deserving some blame: women themselves.

Some experts place the pay gap on the shoulders of women because we don’t negotiate for higher wages. The US National Bureau of Economic Research found that women only negotiate salary when it’s specifically stated in a job application whereas men negotiate for more money whether or not it’s an option.

However, salary negotiations may not be as straightforward for women as they are for men. Women working for minimum wage don’t have the luxury of negotiating a pay raise. Research at Harvard conducted by Linda Babcock found that female candidates were consistently penalized for starting negotiations. While men asking for raise were congratulated for being “straightforward leaders,” women were labeled “bitchy, aggressive, and greedy.” After negotiations ended, the women were often given lower work evaluations. Women who put the needs of the organization first while taking on the same outlook as their bosses were the most successful since they were perceived as “nicer and more caring.” Hannah Riley Bowles, a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School, also found there were potential consequences for women when they do negotiate a raise—people don’t want to work with them.

“I don’t think we can shut down the gender pay gap by just focusing on individual women and their negotiating skills,” said Alex Johnston, Executive Director, Catalyst Canada. “The focal point has to be the organization and corporate culture.”

McInturff agrees it’s too much to ask young women with an entry-level position to bring up the gap. “It’s got to come from the company itself and senior women in a position to make policy,” she said.

Change may come because the gap is getting harder to ignore. In 2013, Catalyst published a report on MBA graduates from top business schools around the world after following their careers for several years. There was an undeniable global pattern: female MBAs automatically receive $4 thousand less than their male counterparts despite having the same degree, skill sets, and experience. In Canada the news was even more shocking. Our female MBAs earn $8,167 less, start out at lower job levels with fewer opportunities for mentoring, and receive fewer high-profile international postings.

Despite this dismal news, Johnston is optimistic about closing the gender pay gap in Canada. In fact, she believes we are closer than we have ever been.

“The conversation is much different that it was 20 years ago. We have the hard evidence and what are we going to do about it? There’s never been a better time for change with so much discussion going on. We’ve never been more aware of unconscious bias and patterns,” said Johnston.

While not a silver bullet, unconscious bias training is being touted as the best solution to the gender pay gap. It involves getting managers and bosses to recognize their blind spots when it comes to the workplace, pay, and evaluations.

“One reason there has been so little progress is that you first have to know that the problem exists. We see nice people making discriminatory decisions reluctant to admit to the problem,” says McInturff.

The Royal Bank of Canada, BC Hydro, and Deloitte are just a few of the companies offering the training. Perhaps, just as environmental responsibility became a cornerstone for healthy corporations, so to will programs tackling unconscious bias. Companies are realizing closing the gender pay gap creates a more productive work place.

Pay transparency is another solution being brought to the table. Opening up the books to see the black and white figures tends to bring change quickly. When McMaster University completed its two-year pay study, each female faculty members received a cheque for $3,515—the difference in pay.

Until the culture catches up, what can individual women do? Mostly stay positive. Both Johnston and McInturff agree playing the blame game is not productive.

“No high-functioning business can ignore this issue,” Johnston maintains. “It’s about pointing out the patterns and turning them into teachable moments to create inclusive leaders. Change is happening.”

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