The diversity advantage:
Building bridges with women and aboriginal peoples
Executive Vice President
RBC Financial Group
Women's Network Luncheon
International Finance Corporation, The World Bank
Washington, DC, USA
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
Amanda, thank you for the warm introduction
I can only
imagine what you'll do for an encore at the session later
this afternoon! As most, if not all of you know, Amanda and
June McCabe co-authored Woman2Woman, a "book that
shows women how to analyze working styles, goals and values.
Being honest about what they are good at, having discovered
what drives them and armed with the practical tools in this
book, all women can, as New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen
Clark says in her preface, see what's possible with will,
desire, and a belief in yourself."
I witnessed this will, desire and belief in oneself during
the Global Banking Alliance (GBA) for Women meeting this morning.
We had lively discussions about global financial markets,
the women's development bank etc. I met some very impressive
women, with equally impressive credentials. It was a small
group in size but a big group in will, desire and beliefs.
Prime Minister Clark got it right, as did Amanda and June.
I'm pleased several women from this meeting are in the room
right now, including our luncheon host Dorothy Berry, Georgina
Baker and other members of the IFC team, as well as two of
my RBC colleagues - Kristina Depencier, RBC Royal Bank's recently
appointed director of women's markets and Verna Gessaman,
senior manager, community and government relations for RBC
It's a great pleasure to join you today and to visit Washington
again. I'm also delighted to share the speaking stage with
the likes of Bernadette Moffat and Sonja Sebotsa. Yes, we're
celebrating International Women's Day around the world, although
some countries and cities got a head start on the weekend.
The streets of Toronto welcomed close to two thousand marchers
on Saturday (March 5). This year's theme was "No to Violence,
No War. Yes to Justice, Equality for All." In Trinidad
and Tobago the theme is "Gender equality beyond 2005:
building a more secure future." In Jamaica, the theme
is "Women's Rights are Human Rights." And right
here on Pennsylvania Avenue - at events throughout the day,
the focus is on gender equity. No matter what the setting,
"International Women's Day marks a celebration of the
economic, social, cultural and political achievements for
women." IWD is an "international celebration of
education and empowerment."
I've been asked to talk about RBC Financial Group's leadership
in career advancement for women, aboriginal banking, as well
as the role of senior executives in supporting these initiatives.
I'll also mention an amazing story from Tanzania; so let's
get started with what I'm pegging the 10-minute diversity advantage.
The idea that people of various backgrounds can build a nation,
build a community - or build an organization like ours at
RBC - based on mutual respect and inclusion - is very powerful.
Diversity is simply good business - smart business. Our commitment
to diversity is guided by the continually changing expectations
of our employees, customers and communities. It's no accident
that diversity for growth and innovation is one of our core
We recognize that providing an equitable workplace where
people understand and respect diversity is key to attracting,
retaining and engaging employees and to effectively serving
our clients. Employment equity practices, procedures/accountabilities
and special projects are integrated into our business strategies
and action plans. Women and aboriginal peoples are very much
part of our diversity advantage.
In today's competitive workplace, diversity plays a significant
role in being considered the employer of choice - in attracting
top talent. Currently, women fill 32% of our executive positions,
while 55% of our women employees occupy management positions.
In 2002/2003, the RBC Diversity Leadership Council focused
on the development of goals above the workforce availability
level to increase the representation of women at senior levels
of the organization. The annual Talent Planning and Review
process, undertaken by our businesses, continues to ensure
that women and designated groups are included and have equitable
access to developmental opportunities. Coaching and mentoring
supplements learning and career planning.
In addition, we are members of Catalyst (a "leading
research and advisory organization working with businesses
and the professions to build inclusive environments and expand
opportunities for women at work"), the Conference Board
Effective Work Environments Research Centre and The Canadian
Work/Life and Well-Being Network
RBC is also a founding
member and sponsor of Women in Capital Markets, a volunteer
organization that promotes the entry, development, advancement
and networking of women. Please check out our web site for
more information about women and careers: http://www.rbc.com/uniquecareers/diversity/ee_report.html.
Aboriginal peoples are a key component of our diversity advantage.
The economics of ensuring a better focus on aboriginal Canadians
should not and must not be lost in the private, public and
not-for-profit sectors. The aboriginal unemployment rate in
Canada is double the Canadian average. Average earnings are
only two-thirds the non-aboriginal average. Dependency on
social welfare is very high. These factors are linked to chronic
health and social problems in many aboriginal communities.
If high numbers of working-age aboriginal people fail to get
jobs, the rapid increase in the aboriginal population by 2010
will extract a substantial charge on the public purse. Aboriginal
women represent a good portion of the challenge and the opportunity.
I can tell you that RBC has developed complete financial
services for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples,
as well as for small, medium and large sized aboriginal businesses
and organizations. We're also focused on recruitment, training
and individual/community support initiatives. We're involved
in the Aboriginal Human Resource Development Council of Canada
(AHRDCC), a council that fosters partnerships among industry,
government, and aboriginal peoples - for which I'm co-chair
of the Champions. And we're involved in Aboriginal Business
Canada, as it plays a major role in creating and supporting
aboriginal-owned/operated businesses. The National Aboriginal
Economic Development Board (NAEDB), which oversees Aboriginal
Business Canada, continues to make a tremendous contribution
to the growth of aboriginal business opportunities and the
workforce. I'm proud to serve as vice-chair, because RBC wants
to push the envelope on "re-building the aboriginal economy"
and corporate/aboriginal relations. Once again, please follow
the link at http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/aboriginal/
if you're interested in learning more about our story.
Senior management leadership is visibly evident at various
levels. The Diversity Leadership Council, mentioned earlier,
is comprised of executive champions from all the businesses
and functions and is chaired by Gord Nixon, our President
and CEO. A number of senior management officers (including
yours truly) are champions for specific designated groups.
Embracing diversity supports the cultivation of leaders,
leadership, innovation and growth. The capacity and freedom
to think differently and openly, to see beyond biases and
stereotypes, becomes part of our competitive advantage.
In closing, I want to share this story with you. "Equal
Opportunities for all Trust Fund Chairperson Madame Anna Mkapa,
Tanzania's First Lady, called upon women in the country to
register in the permanent voters' register in large numbers
and contest for posts in the forthcoming general election
if they want to improve their lot. The First Lady said women
had the numerical advantage that they could use to improve
their bargaining power in the government if they put it to
good use by voting for visionary leaders." At a women's
trade-fair on March 4, she said: "women should not just
be content with the peripheral positions usually reserved
for them in parliament and other decision-making bodies. Instead,
they should go for some of those positions to change the perception
that women were incapable of leading the country
you like it or not, the development of any country is impossible
to achieve without women's participation." The first
Lady knows what she's talking about
In closing, has RBC done enough for and with women in our
organization and aboriginal peoples? The answer is no. That's
why it's important to maintain focus on diversity over the
long term. None of us can afford to just focus on what has
always worked and on what we've always done. Today, a company
- an organization - simply cannot survive without the diversity
advantage. There's much work to be done for women, for
and other groups as well. What we're
doing is documented in our 2004 Corporate Responsibility Report.
It can be found at: http://www.rbc.com/community/rbc_community/
community_reports/index.html. I also brought a few copies
I encourage you to share stories, build bridges, forge new
partnerships and think out loud. Much like the Global Banking
Alliance (GBA) for Women, consider yourselves an "incubator
of ideas and promising practices" for good business and
the diversity advantage. We must continue to learn, network
to lead globally!