RBC Wealth Management marks International Women’s Day with events from coast to coast that range from career workshops to networking opportunities to inspirational speakers. This year represents a milestone in terms of cross-Canada participation and sheer variety of events: on March 8, 2017, almost 600 RBC employees participated in celebrations at 25 branches across the country, from Kamloops to Halifax, and many places in between.
Why? Because RBC is committed to gender diversity in the workplace, and to helping women empower themselves to attain their professional goals. “It’s really important for RBC to have an inclusive culture,” says Jennifer Lemieux, Vice-President and Branch Manager at RBC Dominion Securities Inc., in Kingston, Ontario. “It’s a critical part of driving our organization forward,” says Lemieux, who helped found RBC’s Women’s Advisory Board in Canada.
The goal for this year’s celebrations was twofold: to give back to local communities in meaningful ways, and to bring ideas and inspiration to RBC’s clients and staff. “Our events are powerful, and they mean a lot to our staff and to the women in our community that we’re supporting,” says Lemieux. RBC further demonstrated its commitment to helping women achieve their career aspirations by donating $50,000 to Dress for Success, a national non-profit organization that provides work-appropriate attire, job interview preparation and skills training to women. In doing so, it fosters women’s continued development by providing a network of support and career tools to ensure they remain employed and continue their professional growth.
In Kingston, which held its International Women’s Day program for the second year, Lemieux organized a panel discussion with three RBC women who shared their experiences of overcoming barriers to get to where they are today. “Every one of them had to deal with adversity along her career path,” she says. “They encountered voices that said ‘No’ to them, or somehow limited their potential. But in each case, they rejected that negativity, followed their own confident inner voice, and achieved their goals,” says Lemieux.
The panel was followed by a session with confidence coach Carolyn Martyn, who spoke about the importance of being true to one’s voice. The Kingston branch also held a clothing drive for its local Dress for Success chapter, as well as presenting the organization with a $5,000 donation. “It was an outstanding day,” says Lemieux.
In Kamloops, British Columbia, RBC invited clients and employees to a wine and cheese event to hear Paulina Cameron, Director of Futurpreneur Canada, talk about the rising number of women entrepreneurs and share some of their strategies. The branch also had a guest speaker from Lizzy’s Closet, an organization that provides business attire to female job seekers at no cost.
The best part, though, may have been the networking, where more than 50 women – accountants, lawyers, advisors and other professionals – had the opportunity to meet other women in their community and share ideas. “Our goal was to promote women who work in the financial services industry and facilitate new connections among them,” says Mike Edwards, Vice-President and Branch Manager at RBC Dominion Securities Inc., in Kamloops. “It was a great experience to see them network, chat with each other, and learn about what they do.”
One the other side of the country, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Wafaa Abousamak planned something a little different. The branch administrator brought a dozen RBC staff to the nearby Dress for Success chapter, where they met with volunteers, shared their career stories, and learned how the organization makes a difference to women in their community. The RBC team gave a presentation on financial literacy, with useful tips about budgeting, saving and managing debt. The team also organized a sale of donated clothing, the proceeds of which went to the local chapter, along with a $5,000 donation from RBC.
“Our goal is to help clients thrive and communities prosper, and the prosperity of our communities begins with diversity, including gender diversity,” says Abousamak. “I’m pleased to be working with colleagues of different backgrounds and diverse cultures who believe so strongly in supporting such initiatives.” It was also important to raise awareness of the work that Dress for Success does: how it helps women prepare for job interviews, gives them a support network, and even provides them with complimentary haircuts.
For most branches, this was the first or second year of hosting an event, and David Agnew, CEO of RBC Wealth Management Canada, anticipates that participation will keep growing year to year. “We need to continue to raise awareness and show our support for empowering women to help break down the barriers they may face in the communities we serve,” he says. “We’re pleased to partner with many women-focused charitable organizations in recognition of International Women’s Day.”
Lemieux also believes that momentum will continue to grow, with more branches getting involved and more Canadian women benefiting from the message of empowerment. “The women who attended this year’s events felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and pride,” she says. “International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our leadership in the community, and to show, at a grassroots level, that RBC is committed to addressing the needs of our female clients.”