Gayle Pazos - Senior Vice President and Head, Caribbean South & East and Managing Director, Trinidad & Tobago, Scotiabank
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m so happy to be here this morning for what is now
Scotiabank’s 9th year as lead sponsor of this fantastic Women’s Leadership Conference.
Over the years, many women (and men) have attended and benefitted from the insights shared and I am proud that we continue to work with AMCHAM on this initiative.
It is great that we can all be here in person today, to fully engage with each other, share ideas and experiences, advocate for the advancement of women, and share best practices on diversity and inclusion.
Our conversations today will focus on the 2023 International Women’s Day theme – Embrace Equity. Quite fitting as inequality and gender bias are challenges women continue to face. It’s important that we work together to remove barriers, increase opportunities, and improve representation for women.
As we all work to improve equity, it’s important that we acknowledge that there are indeed
barriers or circumstances that have prevented certain individuals from involvement and
advancement. Certainly, as a banking professional, a leader, and a parent, I do my best to call out discrimination, stereotypes, and exclusion.
To embrace equity means to acknowledge there isn’t always a level playing field. We have
different backgrounds and experiences that must be taken into consideration when determining the unique resources and support each of us need to succeed. One size does not fit all. Equity addresses the systemic and societal systems that create obstacles that make it more difficult for some to succeed. As leaders of organizations that work to attract, develop, and advance talent, we can use our platform to increase awareness of the disparities and address the imbalance to level the playing field. Equality is the goal—how we get there is through equity.
I am a parent of 2 teens, great kids, a 16-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter, they share similar characteristics, both tall, both lean, they somewhat resemble. Where am I going with this?
It ends there … these kids are so completely different otherwise, they think differently, they
communicate differently and most importantly they have different needs. Embracing equity at home I believe requires a lot of observing and listening to them to truly see them, - celebrating their uniqueness and giving them the support they need on an individual basis to thrive.
Embracing Equity also means setting the right example and modeling how I treat with bias,
stereotypes, and discrimination.
[Role of Diversity and Inclusion]
We cannot expect to advance Diversity and Inclusion without guaranteeing fair treatment,
access, and opportunity for all. We need to do this collectively in the workplace and examine systems, processes, and norms that may prevent the full participation. It’s about creating a culture where people are comfortable being their true selves, feel included, have a sense of belonging, and do not feel they have to fit a “norm” to command attention and respect.
Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with, and learning from, people from all backgrounds and walks of life. while we were indeed different in many ways we also found some significant commonalities. As leaders we must ensure women can lead, be heard and succeed equally within their organizations.
Here are a few ways we are embracing equity at Scotiabank that may be very useful to others:
Schedule mandatory and continuous diversity and inclusion training for people leaders.
LinkedIn Learning has a vast array of courses everyone can benefit from. Building awareness is key.
Ensure your compensation packages are fair
Avoid making assumptions. Recognizing unconscious biases is one of the first steps leaders can take in promoting equity among their teams. Having women and other diverse voices in leadership roles is good for business. It promotes greater innovation, improved performance and helps attract and retain top talent.
Create a safe space for your employees to be heard and feel seen. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are a great way for people leaders to create an inclusive environment for team members.
Continuous Learning. Applying diversity and inclusion into the recruitment and hiring process is not new, but the way in which we do so is continuing to evolve and it’s important to learn where we can connect with talent, what resonates and how we can create an equitable interview process that embraces diversity.
I’m pleased that our dedicated action has resulted in progress:
• Globally - 31% of Vice Presidents and above are women while in the Caribbean and Central
America - women make up almost 50% of the Executive Office pool.
• Additionally, Unit Directors within the region stand at 54% representation by women.
• Focusing now on Trinidad and Tobago - 57% of our senior management team are women
and we have 50% female representation at the Unit Director level.
• Also happy to report that Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago has 60% women on its Board.
We’ve also made some bold moves in recent times in advancing our diversity and inclusion
• Employees’ insurance medical benefit was extended to same-sex partners, making
Scotiabank the first in the region to introduce this for employees.
• We’ve introduced a new global standard for parental leave. The expanded policies for
Trinidad & Tobago include the following major changes (first in the industry):
✓ Maternity Leave was extended from 14 weeks to 16 weeks
✓ Paternity Leave offering now at 4 weeks, up from 3 days
✓ Adoption & Gestational Surrogacy Eligibility
How do we measure impact?
Through employee feedback, and in our most recent survey, 93% of our employees believe that the Bank is building and supporting an inclusive workforce.
We’ve also been named one of the Caribbean’s Best Workplaces, by the Great Place to Work
further testimony that our employees feel that we are continuing to listen to their feedback and needs, and are building an environment that’s inclusive. One where they feel respected and valued.
Allyship is also important. We need to come together to be active allies for women.
Everyone can be an ally, and everyone can benefit from allyship. By dedicating yourself to
education and action, we can learn how to stand up for our colleagues and to take accountability.
We are stronger together, when we advocate for each other, we rise together.
[Consideration for Future Generations]
In rising together today, it is necessary to also think about future generations, as was done for us, by generations before – actively supporting change and embracing equity. Maya Angelou said “When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time” Also - “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and sheroes.” Mahatma Ghandi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you Win”; “No two leaves are alike and yet there is no antagonism between them or between the branches on which they grow”.
As professional women, mothers, sisters, and allies we must as well leave a legacy for those that follow.
In closing, I urge you all to advocate for women, for equality, not just during this International Day/Week but, also on every other day of the year. We've made progress, but there's still more work to do. Let’s, continue to pursue equity for this generation and future generations.