If you worked in an environment where you felt safe, valued, and respected—wouldn’t you be inclined to produce your best work? Scotiabank thinks so. We chatted with executive champion Marianne Hasold-Schilter, of Scotiabank Pride—one of Scotiabank’s 11 employee resource groups—about Scotiabank’s commitment to the LGBT+ community, and her experience marching in Toronto’s Pride parade with her three daughters.
By Shelley White
To be a truly inclusive workplace, you’ve got to walk the talk, says Marianne Hasold-Schilter.
That’s why Scotiabank’s global executive champion for Scotiabank Pride—one of Scotiabank’s 11 employee resource groups—marched in Toronto’s Pride parade last year. It’s an activity that is both emblematic of Marianne’s commitment to inclusion in the workplace and a fun way to celebrate with the city’s vibrant LGBT+ community.
“Last year, my three daughters walked with me and a big contingent of Scotiabankers. It was a great experience!” says Marianne. “Walking in that parade, you see so many people lined up, there’s every age, every nationality, and the emotion and the support coming from the sidelines is quite overwhelming.”
As a long-time supporter of gender equity initiatives at Scotiabank, Marianne says she jumped at the chance to champion the LGBT+ community when the position came up with the bank’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) a year and a half ago.
“I’ve been an ally of the LGBT community from the time I was a teenager because of friends and family, and I’ve been a big supporter of diversity and inclusion, whether it’s gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. After the tragic recent events in Orlando, we see that the need for inclusion, respect and support of the LGBT community is more important than ever,” says Marianne. “I believe that you should always try to make a difference and help people reach their potential and help them be heard. That’s the power of being an ally.”
As executive champion of Scotiabank Pride, Marianne says her role is to promote that message of inclusion to both employees and customers, in Canada and abroad. The goal is to foster an environment where employees and customers of the LGBT+ community and their allies feel safe, valued, and respected.
“It’s about diversity of thought and making sure everyone has a voice,” says Marianne. “You get the best solutions and more innovation if you have diversity of thought around the table, so there’s a really compelling business reason for doing it.”
This month has been a particularly busy one for Marianne—in May, she was on the keynote panel with senior executives from IBM, Accenture and Dow at the first ever Pride summit in Mexico (hosted by Pride Connection Mexico; a group of 20 companies with Scotiabank as a founding member) and spoke at an LGBT+ women’s panel in Toronto discussing the art of networking in partnership with Out on Bay Street—an organization that facilitates the professional development of LGBT+ students and young professionals. She’s also a vital part of Scotiabank’s Pride activities in Toronto, helping to kick off Pride month outside Scotia Plaza at the beginning of June and hosting an LGBT+ focused client event at the Spoke Club.
“These are all initiatives that show visible support to our employees, our customers and our community,” says Marianne. “This year we are going to be more focused on our customers, because we built a lot of momentum last year and we want to continue that momentum.”
She says some of the most rewarding activities she’s taken part in this year have been with Scotiabank’s International Banking division. Her day job is EVP and Chief Administrative Officer, International Banking and she makes a point of advocating inclusion as part of her executive mandate.
During a recent trip to Costa Rica, Marianne says she was pleased when one of the bank’s senior management approached her about starting a Pride group there. “I have been proud to work with him and our Canadian and Mexican Pride ERGs that reached out to help accelerate the launch,” she says. “The country head [in Costa Rica] has been totally supportive of it too. In fact, it turns out that he was the first manager in the bank to support an employee to apply for same-sex benefits, and he was also the very first man to take paternity leave. So clearly, we’ve got an ally and a trailblazer there,” she says. The Pride group in Costa Rica was launched at the beginning of June and there are plans to launch in Panama.
Although international markets do present challenges—in some of the countries where Scotiabank has presence, homosexuality is illegal—Marianne says she is heartened by the progress they’ve made.
“We have over 80,000 employees and we’re in over 50 countries. Our employee values apply to all 80,000, whether we’re in Mexico or Puerto Rico or Colombia or Thailand,” she says. “What we’re trying to do as an organization is say, ‘These are our values, we have very visible support for inclusion. We want to make sure that people understand that this is part of our corporate culture and values. ”
That kind of top-down, visible support is crucial to making a difference when it comes to LGBT+ inclusion, says Marianne. Here in Canada, she’s seen how support from the top can have a positive, trickle-down effect on employees.
“Being involved for this last year and a half, I have had so many young people come up to me saying, ‘I’m thinking about coming out,’” says Marianne. “I’ve got a network of very senior people who have come out, both male and female, and I’ll always say, ‘It would be good for you to speak to someone who’s lived it and done it,’ and I pass them on and they get really solid advice and direction.”
Marianne says she would love to see the day when LGBT+ people have equal rights by law in all countries. “We’re so lucky to live in Canada and Toronto is just such a great diverse, inclusive city, it would be great to see that in all of our countries,” she says. “And I’d like to see it where everyone can bring their authentic self to work every day, where we have lots of visible role models and where we are authentic as we deal with our customers.”
Even when the Pride parade has ended and the rainbow flags come down, Marianne is optimistic that the momentum will continue to build both here and abroad.
“People are passionate about this and as I’ve expanded my network, more and more people are putting their hands up, saying, ‘Let me know what I can do. How can I help?’” she says.
“The visible support is contagious, and you can really feel that people are on board and really want to make a difference. Pride month is a time for celebration—but an inclusive culture is the value we all need to live 365 days a year!