How the leaders of Scotiabank’s Black Employee Resource Group are championing diversity from the middle


Molara Awosedo and Vernette Eugene work in different divisions of Scotiabank at the managerial level. A year ago they co-founded a Black Employee Resource Group, advancing diversity and inclusion and developing high-performing Black employees.  

By Shelley White


For Molara Awosedo and Vernette Eugene, Black History Month is a time for reflection and celebration.

It’s about recognizing the accomplishments of Black leaders in the past while keeping an eye towards the future, says Molara, Communications Manager within Global Finance at Scotiabank.

“It’s about seeing representation,” she says. “For me, growing up, I didn’t see a lot of Black leaders. Black History Month is a time to see that there are strong, powerful, Black leaders in the community.”

Adds Vernette, Senior Manager, Enterprise Productivity at Scotiabank: “Black History Month is a time to be reminded of the great things men and women have done and how that has created a space and an opportunity for me today. But as much as it’s about history, I think it’s really important to highlight the work that’s currently underway and the work that’s still to be done.”


“Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of Black leaders. Black History Month is a time to see that there are strong, powerful, Black leaders in the community.”


One of the ways Vernette and Molara have been continuing that important work is by co-founding Scotiabank’s Black Employee Resource Group (ERG) a year ago. The group, which is headquartered in Toronto, aims to advance diversity and inclusion within Scotiabank, plus help to grow and develop the base of high-performing Black employees working at the organization.

“The Bank has done an awesome job in championing diversity and inclusion,” says Vernette. And we think, as employees, we can help advance those goals.”

To celebrate Black History Month, the ERG will host an internal event at Toronto’s Scotiabank Centre on February 21. A panel of speakers will discuss their experiences as Black people in corporate Canada and celebrate the recent federal initiative that put Viola Desmond on the $10 bill. If you don’t know her story, you should: Viola Desmond was a Black Nova Scotian businesswoman who, in 1946, refused to leave a “whites-only” section of a cinema in New Glasgow, N.S. Her actions helped spark the modern civil rights movement in Canada.

“We want to recognize the work that she’s done and why it’s important to have a black woman on an instrument like that,” says Vernette.

Another aim of Scotiabank’s Black Employee Resource Group is to foster a sense of belonging amongst Black employees, notes Molara.

A lifelong extrovert who spent most of her childhood in Brampton, Ontario, Molara says she “fell in love” with communications as a student at Montreal’s McGill University. She graduated in 2012, and says that throughout her blossoming career in the banking and insurance industries, she’s often found herself one of the few Black employees in the office.

She’s also experienced challenges. At a previous employer, Molara remembers being promoted into a management position after a year with the organization, an impressive accomplishment she should have been able to relish.

“A colleague said to me, ‘You only got the role because you’re Black,’” recalls Molara. “I thought, ‘Wow, you really have some gall to say this out loud to my face.’ And it was like, are we not going to acknowledge the good work that I’ve done on the team? Even though I showed you the work, it was still not good enough for you to say, ‘You’ve done a good job and that’s why you deserve it.’”

Vernette, who grew up on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia and moved to Canada to attend university, says she’s also experienced challenges in the workplace, but in subtler ways. Instances of unconscious bias against people of colour can be hard to pinpoint, she notes, but can also be keenly felt.


“Viola Desmond was a Black Nova Scotian businesswoman who, in 1946, refused to leave a “whites-only” section of a cinema in New Glasgow, N.S. Her actions helped spark the modern civil rights movement in Canada.”


It’s critical that organizations create inclusive environments so that all employees can bring their “true selves” to work, says Vernette. “Because if you’re coming into the workplace and you’re always on guard, you’re not being as productive as you can be.”

Both Molara and Vernette say the support of their personal and professional networks has been important. They plan to introduce a mentoring component to their ERG to both develop supportive networks and help talented Black employees excel.

As someone who has benefited from mentoring relationships, Vernette says she feels compelled to pass that along to the next generation. To that end, she’s taken part in the Confident Leader Conference in Toronto, a leadership development program for African-Canadian kids in elementary school, as well as Imani, an initiative based at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Through Imani, Black professionals mentor Black university students who, in turn, mentor Black high school students.

“We have that circle of encouragement and that circle of inspiration,” says Vernette of the Imani program. “I jump at any opportunity to share my journey of self-confidence as a leader.”

When it comes to young women of colour hoping to emulate her success, Molara has this advice: Take control of your career.

“I think a lot of times women — Black women and women in general — we kind of wait to be tapped on the shoulder for the next promotion,” says Molara. “But I just kind of ask for what I want. I think when you show that you have the ability to recognize your strengths and bring those strengths to the organization, the sky’s the limit.” She also encourages women to “Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and do something that scares you every day.”

Vernette notes that when it comes to confidence in the workplace, resilience starts from within. “Having allies and having training for our leaders and promoting inclusion is important,” she says. “But I can honestly say that the work starts with the individual and being okay in your skin, because no one else can do that for you.”



It’s in her nature: Why Allison Christilaw chose serial entrepreneurship over partnership in a professional services giant

When Allison Christilaw and her husband sold their successful management consulting firm to Deloitte, she was taken on as a partner in the firm. A few years later she was striking out on her own path to create Reddin Global — and she’s still on that journey today.  




By Shelley White


Allison Christilaw is a born entrepreneur.

She and her husband, Doug Emerson, successfully ran a management consulting firm, Managerial Design Corporation, for 18 years, helping leaders across five continents run their own organizations more effectively. When they sold their company to professional services giant Deloitte in 2011, Allison joined Deloitte for a few years as a partner. Deloitte was a great company, she says, but the fit just wasn’t right for her.  

“My sister-in-law at one point told me, ‘You’re a terrible employee,’ because I just kind of like to do my own thing,” laughs Allison, now CEO of Reddin Global in Oakville, Ont. “I work well with my partners. And in a smaller business you can you have a huge influence over the organization, whereas you feel like just a number in a large organization. I like to strike out on my own path, and my husband’s the same way.”

After leaving Deloitte, there was only one thing to do: start a new business to develop and grow.  

“As entrepreneurs, you don’t ever say, ‘Let’s just go to the beach,’” says Allison. “You say, ‘What do we do next?’”

Allison and Doug created Reddin Global in 2015, with the aim of creating tools to help managers run their teams more effectively. Doug has largely left the business to do consulting, and Allison is at the helm of Reddin Global as CEO. The company’s main product is the Emerson Suite, a SaaS mobile platform that helps companies manage their teams more collaboratively, with objective-setting, action-planning, time management and other prioritization tools at their fingertips.

“It’s designed so that there’s transparency across the team,” says Allison. “So if you and I are teammates, we can see each other’s objectives. It’s a tool to get everyone focused on the right things and holding each other accountable.”

Allison says their clients tend to be medium-sized organizations, though they work with some smaller and larger enterprises as well.

“We’re still new, so we’re still trying to get our marketing and targeting right,” she says. “It’s hard starting a business and getting all those things clear. It’s an ongoing journey of learning and pivoting while trying to keep investors happy.”

One big source of support for Allison in her entrepreneurial journey has been BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada). She first got involved with BDC when she and Doug were looking for some funding for Reddin Global in the first year of the business, says Allison.

“We took a loan out from them, and the terms were very favourable for us given where we were as a business,” she says. “And I must say they’ve been great about staying in touch and keeping an open door. They’ve been quite supportive.”

On recommendation from BDC, Allison got involved in the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle (WEC), an initiative that aims to help women become more successful entrepreneurs by addressing some of the obstacles they face. According to Industry Canada, female-owned SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses) exhibit lower growth than male-owned SMEs. And the 2013 Gender Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI) showed that the majority of women founders struggle to access the capital, technology, networks and knowledge they need to scale their business.

Allison is participating in WEC’s Circle of Innovation program, which pairs female entrepreneurs with engineering students from the University of Waterloo in order to help them build their digital strategy and scale their business.

“It was a great opportunity for us,” says Allison of being involved with the Circle of Innovation program. “I’m also a huge believer in supporting young people and helping them get started in their career the right way. It felt like this was a good thing for us, but also for the student that we are bringing on.”

They’ve been working with their intern, 19-year-old engineering student Kira Wadden, since May, and Allison says it’s been a positive experience for all. “She’s fantastic,” says Allison. “We’ve had her working primarily with our UX [user experience] developers and she’s very capable. Without a lot of direction, she’s undertaken some projects, such as an accessibility audit of our website, and she’s done some really great work for us.”

Allison says she would definitely recommend the program to other entrepreneurs.  

“If all of the students are like Kira, you have nothing to lose,” she says. “And it’s great to have a young person on the team, sitting in on conversations, contributing their views on the product.”

As for Allison’s future plans for Reddin Global, she says they will continue to grow the business and expand their client base. She says the support of organizations like BDC and Cisco has been important, especially as she navigates the many challenges of marketing and scaling a growing technology company.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s fun too. I wouldn’t change anything,” says Allison. “I remember when I was leaving Deloitte, one of the partners said to me, ‘Are you nuts? Why are you giving this up?’ But I need that freedom of driving something forward, and knowing that it’s mine to drive.”



The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles women-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.

How Scotiabank and Shirlie Delacherois are empowering Canada’s Aboriginal community

As a young girl, Shirlie Delacherois was aware of her Aboriginal heritage, but didn’t fully appreciate its value until much later in life. It was after a 20-year career at Scotiabank that Shirlie had the opportunity to continue the bank’s long history of supporting Aboriginal Peoples — by stepping into the role of Senior Aboriginal Recruitment Consultant. She has been connecting Aboriginal Canadians to career opportunities at Scotiabank ever since.



By Shelley White


Shirlie Delacherois remembers the day she discovered her passion for Aboriginal recruiting.

While working as a manager with Scotiabank’s Western Canada Recruitment Team, Shirlie’s boss suggested she go to Inclusion Works, a national Aboriginal career fair in Saskatoon. Shirlie was managing the Scotiabank booth at the fair when a young Aboriginal woman shyly approached.

“She was staring down at her shoes, not sure if she should talk to us,” recalls Shirlie, now Senior Aboriginal Recruitment Consultant for Scotiabank. “I asked if she had any questions about a career in banking, and I remember the look on her face when she said, ‘Oh no, I could never work in the bank. I don’t have a degree.’”

Shirlie says she recognized a little bit of herself in this young woman.

“I took the opportunity to share my story with her and explained that people who work at Scotiabank come from many diverse backgrounds with their own unique skills and education. If you are determined enough, you can do anything.”

It felt good to share her story with someone and inspire them, says Shirlie, a feeling she’d not felt before. “And from there I wanted to do more. It’s rewarding to give somebody the same opportunity that someone gave to me.”

Shirlie grew up with her mom and two sisters in Vernon, B.C., located in the province’s lush Okanagan Valley. Her paternal grandmother was a member of the nearby Westbank First Nation (WFN), but had given up her land and Indigenous status when she married. Because of that, Shirlie didn’t know much about her Aboriginal heritage growing up.

“To be honest, I’m still learning about my community and my culture,” says Shirlie, who now lives in Salmon Arm, B.C., which is about 1.5 hours from WFN. “I grew up my whole life not knowing where I belonged or what it means to even be First Nations. It’s only been in the last few years that my dad has started to open up about his life being a young native boy.”

As a high school student, Shirlie excelled in her studies, winning scholarships that would have helped pay for post-secondary education. But she says she lacked the confidence or support to take advantage of those opportunities.


“I grew up my whole life not knowing where I belonged or what it means to even be First Nations.”


In 1994, she applied for a position as a bank teller with a Scotiabank branch in Penticton, B.C., and was thrilled when she got the job.

“I still remember asking my first supervisor, an amazing woman named Stella, ‘Why did you hire me?’ I was young, and nothing on my résumé shouted banking by any stretch. Stella said, ‘I had a gut feeling, and it’s never been wrong yet.’ She believed in me even when I didn’t.”

That was the beginning of a nearly 25-year career at Scotiabank. Shirlie worked her way through various roles at the Penticton branch and in Williams Lake, B.C., and then jumped at the chance to move into a recruiting role.

During that fateful experience at the Inclusion Works career fair in Saskatoon, Shirlie met Scotiabank’s National Director for Aboriginal Financial Services. “She had been putting together a case for Scotiabank to have an Aboriginal recruiter, and so my timing to meet her was perfect,” says Shirlie.

In 2013, Scotiabank created the role of Senior Aboriginal Recruitment Consultant for Shirlie, with the goal of attracting and hiring more Aboriginal talent for the organization. In her role, Shirlie travels to events, organizations and schools across Canada to promote Scotiabank as an employer of choice within Aboriginal communities. She also runs a microsite for job candidates who want to self-identify as Aboriginal, giving them one-on-one recruitment support such as résumé reviewing and mock interviewing. She co-runs a diversity internship program to provide meaningful employment opportunities at Scotiabank for Aboriginal people.

Scotiabank has long been recognized for its positive relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal community, including receiving the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) Gold standing from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB). Some of the Bank’s initiatives include providing scholarships and bursaries to Aboriginal students through the INDSPIRE program and sponsoring Aboriginal youth sports teams and cultural events. Shirlie says Scotiabank understands that building trust is important when working with Aboriginal communities.

“Sponsorships and philanthropy are part of that process,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to have our employees in the community actively participating in the events, growing that relationship organically.”

Shirlie points out that the Aboriginal population is the fastest-growing demographic in all of Canada. “They really are going to be the next leaders in our country and a huge stimulus to our economy going forward,” she says.

At the same time, Shirlie notes that Aboriginal students can face barriers on the road to their careers. The high school graduation rate of Aboriginal youth in Canada is lower than non-Aboriginals (though it is rising). “We do presentations to the broader Scotiabank recruitment teams once or twice a year as a reminder of the struggles and the barriers that Aboriginal Peoples face,” says Shirlie. “A candidate’s resume may not look the same as some of the other candidates in the pool, but you have to consider transferable skills.”

When it comes to the advancement of Aboriginal employees within an organization, companies can reduce barriers by creating mentorship programs and employee resource groups (ERGs), says Shirlie. Organizations should also learn as much as they can about their local Aboriginal community by researching and volunteering.


“I can’t really put into words what it’s meant to me to have this opportunity to gain this knowledge and meet these people, to hear their stories.”


“Sometimes, it can be something as simple as displaying local Aboriginal art in the workplace, which can really help an employee feel welcome and included,” says Shirlie, “Or even providing Aboriginal employees a place to smudge.” (Smudging is a spiritual cleansing ceremony involving burning sacred plants, practiced by some Aboriginal peoples.) In the Toronto headquarters of Scotiabank, you’ll find a Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Legacy Room — a space where non-indigenous and indigenous people can talk together about their different experiences and further the aim of reconciliation.

If an employee feels safe and appreciated, they’re more likely to stay, notes Shirlie. They’re also more likely to refer family or friends to work for a company, or perhaps become a customer. “It’s good business sense,” she says.

Of all her responsibilities as Senior Aboriginal Recruitment Consultant, Shirlie says the best part has been travelling and meeting Aboriginal people across the country.

“I owe a lot of my reconnecting to my past and culture to my job,” she says. “I can’t really put into words what it’s meant to me to have this opportunity to gain this knowledge and meet these people, to hear their stories.”

She’s continuing to explore her roots and getting to know Westbank First Nation better.

“It’s a beautiful community – I love where we’re from,” she says. “In 1992, my dad moved back, and slowly the rest of our family started to move back and get involved in the community. I think I’m one of the only ones that doesn’t live there yet. But I’m getting closer,” she adds with a laugh.


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.

Building a Better Ladder: How Scotiabank fosters female talent through sponsorship



Not having a sponsor is a key reason many talented women never reach their potential. That’s why up and comer Alana Riley was paired with Alex Besharat, Senior Vice President & Head, Canadian Wealth Management through Scotiabank’s Canadian Banking Sponsorship Program. With a senior leader advocating on her behalf, there’s no telling how far Alana’s career will go.


By Shelley White



Sometimes the best way to grow as a leader is to jump out of your comfort zone, says Alana Riley.

Alana first joined Scotiabank as a District Vice President, followed by the role of Regional Director, Scotiatrust for Western Canada. She recently completed her MBA through Dalhousie University’s distance program, balancing studying with leading a team of 500 people at work and being a wife and mother of three at home. It was a challenge Alana took on with gusto.

“Quite frankly, I don’t want the participation ribbon,” she says with characteristic enthusiasm. “You might say challenge, but I say, ‘Bring it on.’”

It’s this kind of drive that made Alana a natural fit for Scotiabank’s Canadian Banking Sponsorship Program. In order to promote gender parity and mitigate the barriers to advancement that women might face, Scotiabank’s Canadian Banking division implemented the innovative program five years ago.

High-potential women are paired with influential senior executives as a way for them to build networking relationships, better understand their strengths and weaknesses, and accelerate their career aspirations. The sponsors benefit from the program as well, by enhancing their coaching skills and interacting with diverse talent at the Bank.

This past summer, Alana was paired with Alex Besharat, Senior Vice President & Head, Canadian Wealth Management at Scotiabank. For the past six months, the two have been meeting bi-weekly. Alex says he wanted to take part in the program because of how he benefited from these types of relationships over the years. “I’ve had great mentors; people who helped me formally and informally through my career,” he says. “The advice, the counsel, the insights, challenging your thinking — those have been key things for me. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am without it, and I wanted to pass that on.”

Alex notes that the low ratio of women in senior leadership roles across countless industries is an issue that needs to be addressed. According to the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), as of 2016, women occupied 49.8 per cent of middle management positions and 36.2 per cent of senior management positions.

“One part of the solution is to make sure that people who have real talent are exposed to and benefit from the same opportunities as their peers,” he says. “It’s very easy for jobs to be all-consuming. Without these kinds of sponsorship programs, it’s incredibly difficult to take yourself out of the fray and really think strategically about your approach to things, how you’re evolving, and how you’re going to reach your maximum potential in a leadership position.”

Alex and Alana say their dialogue ranges from discussions on specific projects, challenges or job opportunities, to more high-level discussions of personality traits and leadership style.


“Without these kinds of sponsorship programs, it’s incredibly difficult to take yourself out of the fray and really think strategically about your approach to things, how you’re evolving, and how you’re going to reach your maximum potential in a leadership position.”


“I can dig deep into my 30 years and see if I can find situations where I can say, ‘I’ve dealt with this, or I’ve had this challenge myself and here’s what I did,’ good or bad, and hopefully that provides Alana with some learning,” says Alex.

Alana says she’s learned a great deal throughout the journey she and Alex have been on together.

“How can I leverage my strengths and where are the areas I need to develop?” she says. “I know Alex is invested in my success and that’s been key. He can be my advocate, knowing what I’m capable of delivering. And from a personal perspective, it has me thinking more strategically, and has increased my confidence.”

Both Alana and Alex note that an important part of the success of their partnership has been keeping in consistent contact and maintaining their bi-weekly meetings, “rain or shine.”

This kind of sponsorship program can be well worth it, says Alex, but it’s not something to be taken lightly.  

“For it to work well, it requires both people to be committed to it. Not just to make appointments and times, but to be emotionally ‘all in’ and honest, and have a very open attitude towards it,” he says.

“What you put in is what you get out of a program like this,” Alana adds.

Alana says she’s also developed a close network with the other women taking part in the program. “There are a core group of us that have really built our relationship and hold our own bi-weekly calls together,” she says. “So this journey with Alex as my sponsor has had a significant impact for me in terms of my personal development and career advancement strategy.”

When it comes to where she wants to take her career, Alana says the sky’s the limit. As Chair of the Prairie Regional Women in Leadership committee at Scotiabank, Alana looks to company executives like Barbara Mason, Maria Theofilaktidis and Gillian Riley for career inspiration.

“I think they are transforming our industry in terms of discussing unconscious bias that may have prevented women from taking on leadership roles in the past. So I hope to carry that torch forward,” she says. “I hope by the time my daughter is in her career, we will no longer need a committee to encourage leadership diversity.”


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.


Guiding the Giving: How Jacquie Ryan’s unorthodox career path led her to her dream job in sponsorship and philanthropy at Scotiabank

Jacquie Ryan wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after she graduated university with a degree in English and Film Studies, so she headed to Banff to coach skiing. The short-term job set her on a path to a long-term career, and she’s continued to let her passions guide her profession ever since.


By Katy Paul-Chowdhury



Are you an arts enthusiast, hockey parent, or marathon runner? If so, you have probably noticed that Scotiabank sponsors many of the events you love. Behind that powerful presence is Jacquie Ryan, the Bank’s vice president of sponsorship marketing and philanthropy.

Jacquie joined Scotiabank five years ago with the goal to focus its sponsorship program. Under her leadership, the Bank has been frequently recognized for its acclaimed programs including the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Scotiabank Community Hockey Sponsorship Program, and Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada. Over the past year, Jacquie and the team have focused the Bank’s Philanthropy efforts on young people in the community, including launching a research initiative that provides greater insight into the current state of young people in all areas where the Bank operates.

Jacquie’s route to her ground-breaking role in sponsorship marketing was not traditional. Unsure of the career she wanted to pursue, Jacquie headed to Banff to coach skiing after graduating from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in English and Film Studies. Of this experience, Jacquie says, “Skiing is my favourite sport. I love everything about the outdoors and became interested in the ski industry — PR, marketing, sales. This led to nine years working in Banff, New Zealand and Whistler. When I wondered if I should pursue a more traditional job my father said, ‘Bay Street will always be here. Focus on what you love and come back when you’re ready.’”  


“When I wondered if I should pursue a more traditional job my father said, ‘Bay Street will always be here. Focus on what you love and come back when you’re ready.'”


Jacquie eventually returned to Toronto to enroll in the George Brown College, Graduate Sports and Event Marketing program. During an internship at a sports marketing agency, she became excited by the opportunities she found in sponsorship and community marketing. Over the following years, Jacquie took on a series of agency and corporate positions where she was able to tackle increasingly complex and high-impact projects, including General Motor’s ski properties, RBC’s Olympic Program, and the RBC Foundation.  

Reflecting on her career path and the lessons she’s learned, Jacquie says, “Passion is my compass. It has taken me through every job I’ve had, and it’s what drives my best work. Find what is meaningful to you and use it to guide your career. You’ll get up every day wanting to learn and be happy to work hard. You’ll build your resume, your network, and a tremendous opportunity to give back to the next generation who are coming up behind you.”


“Passion is my compass.”


When she arrived at Scotiabank, Jacquie found a company that supported many programs, but wanted to make a deeper impact. “We decided to focus our resources in a few key areas that matter most to our customers: hockey, arts and marathons. That focus has substantially strengthened our brand equity. People know what we stand for. And now we are embarking on that same journey in philanthropy.”

Last year Scotiabank gave over $70 million in donations, sponsorships and other forms of assistance globally. Investing in communities has been a priority for Scotiabank for over 180 years, however the Bank saw an opportunity to be more focussed in its efforts to drive deeper impact. “We realized we could have the greatest impact on communities by investing in young people, particularly in their health, well-being and education.”

The principle of shared value says that a business’ competitiveness and the health of the surrounding community are mutually dependent. “In addition to Canada, we operate in many developing countries. Children are the path to social and economic prosperity and by investing in their health, well-being and education, we help build communities in which we will all thrive.” To guide its philanthropic giving, Scotiabank has created the Young People in the Community (YPC) Index, a scorecard of nineteen indicators that assesses health, wellbeing and education by country, and identifies the highest-priority investments with the greatest possibility of positive impact in each region.

The potential to help improve the wellbeing of so many is what energizes Jacquie after a lifetime of following her passions. “Working at Scotiabank on sponsorship and philanthropy is a very rewarding career, which I am thankful for every day.”



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.”




The Case for Why Companies Should Recruit More Military Veterans

There is a key recruitment channel that employers and recruiters may not be tapping – military veterans. Many have the skills and experience organizations need, but it’s up to executives like Maureen Neglia, Vice President, HR, Global Recruitment at Scotiabank to read between the lines and see how veterans can strengthen both a company’s bottom line, their diversity and inclusion efforts, as well as veterans’ transition to the civilian sector. Bob Berube, former military director and now Director, Channel and Executive Operations at Scotiabank is a perfect example. Here’s his story.


By Shelley White


When Bob Berube decided to leave the Canadian military after 25 years of service, he spent two years preparing for his transition to the private sector.

Bob had joined the military in 1989 at the tender age of 19, and for most of the next 25 years, he was deployed to operations in far-flung locations, from Germany to the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan. But despite his wealth of experience and successful record in the armed services, Bob realized that he would need to “re-educate” himself if he was to thrive in the private sector.

“The challenge was understanding where my skills would be best applied, in what type of industry and at what level,” he says. So Bob hired a career coach and began making connections with non-military business leaders from a variety of industries.

“Tapping into networks was vital for me to really understand how I could work in the private sector.”

Bob’s preparation helped him successfully transition out of the military and into a robust private sector career – he is now Director, Channel and Executive Operations at Scotiabank. Making this sort of career transition can pose some challenges for veterans.


“Tapping into networks was vital for me to really understand how I could work in the private sector.”


Because of the rules and regulations governing fitness requirements in the military, Bob points out that most members have a set end date for their careers.  The majority are required to retire at age 55, leaving them to either find other employment in the private sector or rely on their military pension. And many will leave the military before retirement age.  It can be a challenge for veterans to make the transition to careers in the private sector because employers and recruiters may not realize that veterans have the skills and experience they need in their organizations.

“My experience has been that the civilian sector speaks in a completely different language,” Bob explains. “Because the military is a very unique organization – has its own policies, has its own procedures – a lot of the certifications or experience levels that the private sector might be looking for may not be required for a profession in the military. A recruiter might not be able to understand how someone’s military experience would actually be a huge benefit to the organization.”


At the same time, military people may have difficulty presenting their skills and experience in a way that private-sector employers will understand, says Bob.


“Many veterans don’t really prepare themselves for the cultural shock that they’re going to face. They don’t transform their language,” he says. “They may be articulating in their own military jargon a high level of skill that would be perfect for roles that they’re applying for, but it’s not understood at all because they’re speaking in military acronyms that mean nothing in the corporate sector.”


Helping military servicemen and women transition to a successful civilian life has been a priority for many years for Maureen Neglia, Vice President, HR, Global Recruitment at Scotiabank. It’s part of her commitment to ensuring a diverse and inclusive strategy when attracting talent to the bank, she says.


“Most organizations recognize that the more diverse and inclusive the workforce, the stronger the results are for the organization.”


Veterans and reservists – who are members of the military reserve force and carry on civilian lives in peacetime, “offer a unique set of skills and experiences that shouldn’t be overlooked,” says Maureen.


“Members of the military are often in roles where they need to be strong, strategic thinkers and leaders. They’re doing a lot of their work under pressure. They’re often managing big, complex projects. And in many cases, they’re having to be leaders at a very young age. They’re having to mobilize and engage teams of people on a regular basis. We find that they can be very successful in project management-type roles, people leadership roles, operations roles and engineering,” says Maureen.


Scotiabank supports veterans and reservists in a number of ways, notes Maureen. The company sponsors organizations like True Patriot Love, a national charity that provides mental and physical health support to veterans and their families, and Canada Company, a charitable organization that helps connect business, community leaders and the Canadian military. In September, Scotiabank sponsored an event at the Scotiabank Conference Centre in Toronto called Vets on Bay, bringing together military reservists and veterans with business leaders from leading Canadian corporations.


When it comes to recruiting, Scotiabank recently launched a page on their career site that targets veterans and reservists, profiles former members of the military within the organization and gives them a direct line to the Scotiabank recruiters.  


“We’ve also hired reservists on the Scotiabank recruitment team who are well-versed in the lingo that you might see on a military resume, because military resumes look very different than civilian resumes,” says Maureen. “When we do bring those individuals into the organization, we try to make sure they have coaches and mentors that have had similar backgrounds to help them make the transition.”


“We need to have better conversations on both sides in order to help veterans and reservists succeed.”


Bob is also an integral part of Scotiabank’s commitment to recruiting veterans and reservists. He has partnered with Maureen and the recruitment team to identify and channel key military talent for the organization.


As well, in 2016, he founded and is the president and CEO of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment Association, which helps people from that military unit to prepare for civilian careers.


“There is some amazing talent and disciplined individuals, some really motivated people,” he says of his military compatriots. “I look at the struggles that some of my former colleagues have faced on the path to success in the private sector, and I can see why we need to have better conversations on both sides in order to help veterans and reservists succeed.”



Maureen notes that in addition to the tremendous value military personnel can add to an organization, there’s another important reason for Canadian organizations to recruit them.


“It’s a group of individuals, men and women, that often pay a very heavy debt to society,” she says. “In many cases, they put their lives on the line when they join the military. So I think corporations have an obligation to, at minimum, be looking at their resumes, to better understand how their military skill set could benefit the private sector. In my experience it has been a win-win for all parties involved.”



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.”



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?”

From COO of Scotiabank Puerto Rico to Toronto: Meet Enid Pico

By Shelley White


Enid Pico has never been afraid to make a big career move.

In 2010, she made the leap from a top job in her home country as President and Chief Operating Officer of Scotiabank Puerto Rico to a challenging new role 3,000 km away in Toronto.

“It was a big risk and looking back, I totally underestimated the degree of change,” says Enid, Senior Vice President and Head of International Operations and Shared Services at Scotiabank. “Coming to Toronto, it was a different culture, work environment, and climate.  I arrived in October and was so excited to be here. On the first day, I remember looking out my window and seeing snow. I didn’t have a coat or boots. The only things I had were high heels and dresses, but one learns fast!”

Despite the drastic change in climate, Enid thrived in her new environment.

“At that point, my attitude was, ‘I’m going to succeed no matter what’. So every time anything came up, I’d say, ‘I don’t care, I’m going forward,’” she says.

Now, Enid oversees critical operational and compliance risk management for all of Scotiabank’s international retail and commercial operations, which serve 13 million customers in over 30 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean and Central America.

“I come from a pretty remote area of Puerto Rico, the western part of the island, two hours away from the capital, so for me to even move to the capital to work in banking was a big thing,” she says. “I never dreamed that I would be in Toronto and looking after the international operations of Scotiabank.”

Enid’s journey to success started as a sports-crazy kid in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Growing up with an art teacher mother and a university professor father, education was a focus. “In my family, you could go without a lot of things, but not without an education,” she says.

Her grandmother was a major role model.

“Like in a lot of Caribbean or Latin American countries, she was the matriarch of the family so she taught me the meaning of family, how important it is to be connected,” says Enid. “Also that things don’t always go the way you want them to, but you have to be strong enough to accept it and make the best out of it.”

Outside of her family members, Enid says she looked up to powerful figures like U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher and basketball star Michael Jordan. “How [Jordan] alone could make a difference in a game, it was so incredible, and also to see that he took on all that responsibility. He was accountable for it, but also he had a way of making everybody around him be better.”

Though she had an early dream of sportscasting (“There was no ESPN at the time, so I had no career path,” she laughs), her love of numbers led her to pursue an accounting degree. Enid joined Scotiabank Puerto Rico when a job in the finance department opened up.

She recalls her early days as a working mom, when she had to learn how to combine caregiving with a demanding job as Vice President of Finance.

“I remember saying, ‘How am I going to balance everything?’, because a lot of the meetings were at 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. and I had to go pick my son up [at school] at 5:15 p.m.,” says Enid. “I remember at that point [my superiors] saying, ‘Enid, don’t worry we will accommodate you.’ They remodelled my office and I had a table for my son. If there was a meeting, I would say, ‘Excuse me, I’ll be right back,’ I’d pick him up, then he would do his homework and I would continue with the meeting.”

“Even then, the Bank looked for ways to accommodate me. And if my boss at that time wouldn’t have done that, I probably would have had to leave the Bank to take care of [my son]. So I try to pay it forward.”

After 20-odd years of rising in the ranks at Scotiabank Puerto Rico, Enid made the move to Canada in 2010 when an opportunity came up to be in charge of shared services for the Bank’s operations in the Caribbean and Central America.

Enid says an important part of her decision to take the job was that she reached a point in her personal life where she was very comfortable making the move. Her son had graduated from high school and decided to pursue acting in New York City, which made moving to Toronto all the more appealing. “Everything lined up,” she says.

In the years since that big move, Enid’s impact on Scotiabank and the larger banking world has continued to grow. In addition to her current role as Senior Vice President, Enid sits on the Inclusion Council at Scotiabank and is the Executive Champion for HOLA (Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement) Scotiabank, an employee resource group focusing on Latin cultures and Latin markets expertise.

Enid says that she’s honoured to take on a role that promotes diversity in her industry. In her view, championing inclusion is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

“We have to reflect our clients. In International Banking, we have over 13 million clients, so we have to make sure our people and our staff know those clients so they can serve them better. If you have a diverse client base, you need a diverse staff base,” she says.

“And it’s been proven time and time again, when you have diversity of thoughts, you are able to be more efficient, more productive and more effective.”
Enid says it’s been an “awesome ride” to see how Scotiabank’s international presence has grown over the years. When she first started at Scotiabank, they did not have a significant ownership position in any bank in Latin America. Now, over 50% of Scotiabank’s more than 89,000 employees are working in our international operations. She’s also proud of Scotiabank’s commitment to the advancement of women in the workforce.

“When I started working, I’d go to meetings and my bosses were always men, my peers were always men,” she says. “When I look at the Bank now, we’ve made tremendous strides. Here in Canada, my boss is a woman. When I go to a meeting today, 50 to 60% are women.”

When it comes to advice for young women looking to succeed in their careers, Enid’s message is characteristically bold.

“Take a risk and be fearless,” she says.

“You have an opinion, voice it. Take a risk, be relentless and be confident that you bring to the table a perspective that nobody in that room has.”

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.”