There’s a wonderful Chinese proverb that goes: The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago – the next best time is today. That was the bank’s approach as they brought me in four years ago.
We put together a five year Diversity and Inclusion strategy, literally from ground zero. Within my first month at the bank, data and numerous conversations confirmed that we ‘had a problem’ – or as the optimist like to say, we ‘have an opportunity.’
Data speaks for itself (when captured and used appropriately) and that’s where our journey began…
- Fact number one: Our overall representation of senior women had considerable room for improvement.
- Fact number two: Our pipeline of mid-level female managers was depleting at a faster rate than we were hiring them into the bank.
- Fact number three: Our Aboriginal/Indigenous strategy – we needed one.
The perspective, life experience of women and Indigenous/Aboriginal Peoples were being left out of our ability to innovate and deliver for our customers. This was clearly unacceptable from a business, human capital and talent perspective.
Going into triage mode to stop the bleeding/loss of female talent was our first milestone and defining moment for the diversity and inclusion program. We needed to demonstrate recognition and investment of our female top and emerging talent.
- Our approach: develop a robust suite of leadership development programs for this specific group.
Minerva was our primary partner of choice – their customised programs meant that we could put over 40 of our BC-based top and emerging female talent through a series of programs over an 18-month period.
The results were measurable. Two years into our tenure the bleeding had stopped – triage was working. And not to reinforce a stereotype, but these 40 women talked – talked to their peers who in turn saw the bank acknowledged their contributions and potential. What stands out is these women have gone on to empower themselves both personally and professionally.
We don’t do this because it’s the right thing to do – although it is. We don’t do this because I like talking about this – although I do. We do it because we believe that inclusion brings only benefits for our clients, our business and our people.
As they say, tell a human being they are valued and they will respond with loyalty, higher levels of performance and engagement.
2013 was a year where we measured our return on investment. A Global People Survey delivered the results we kind of knew were coming. For the first time in our history, women were more engaged than their male counterparts. Leadership and development were prominent in the survey’s feedback – thank you, Minerva.
Gender representation on boards is a hot topic these days – and with courageous integrity we attained gender balance on our board early last year. This year we ramped up our Diversity Internship program, focused on bringing in talent from the Aboriginal/Indigenous community across Canada. The six-month internship allows new graduates and professionals to demonstrate their capabilities and values to a business or function with the bank. Pending a successful internship, they are converted to fulltime regular employees. Year to-date we have brought eight young and professional Aboriginals into our bank.
Since the D&I program has formally been established, we have come a long way. We’ve made inroads that started with mandatory web-based training, moving to customised leadership development programs for mid to senior women and most recently a series of national mandatory Open Mindedness workshops – to over 800 mid to senior people managers. They were given a 21st century lens on diversity; specifically that diversity is not the problem – closed mindedness is.
We don’t do this because it’s the right thing to do – although it is.
We don’t do this because I like talking about this – although I do.
We do it because we believe that inclusion brings only benefits for our clients, our business and our people.
Finally as you probably gathered, I like my quotations – so it’s fitting that I finish with one that compliments why we are gathered today and what I believe Minerva stands for…
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.
And this describes perfectly the collective potential in this room today. Thank you to Minerva for inviting me to speak today – as I said before, this is a high honour.