It was the dynamic nature of banking and finance that drew Gabriella Quesnel to a career in the field. Her interest was piqued when she took her first finance class in CEGEP in Quebec.  

Quesnel, who is now in the third-year of the business program at HEC Montréal specializing in finance, says she hopes to work in investment banking.

“I’m someone that’s curious and thrives on challenges so the field, particularly investments, really resonates with me. It’s a field that incorporates so many others, such as behavioural economics and politics. It’s always changing, and so it’s something that also really interested me and that drove me to ultimately register at HEC and pursue a career in finance.”

When Quesnel (pictured above) graduates in December, she will be one of a relatively small group of women to complete their studies in finance at the Montreal-based university. While the graduation rate of women students at HEC has been higher than that of men in general over the past decade, women remain underrepresented in financial specializations – for the 2019-2020 academic year, that proportion stood at roughly 33%.

Scotiabank donated $750,000 over a three year period to the HEC Montréal Foundation and Alumni Relations. Of that amount, $600,000 will fund an international social entrepreneurship competition while $150,000 will go towards the establishment of the Women’s Banking Sector Scholarships in an effort to encourage more women to enter this field.

The first five recipients of the merit-based scholarship of $10,000 were awarded in the spring to students from HEC Montréal. The students were Christina Aladas, Maëlle Farley, Marika Grenier, Quesnel and Elisabeth Viau.

“Women remain under-represented in decision-making positions in the finance sector and on boards of directors. By launching these new scholarships, Scotiabank hopes to support the women leaders of tomorrow and highlight the many career opportunities that financial institutions have to offer,” said Geneviève Brouillard, Senior Vice President, Quebec and Eastern Ontario Region, Scotiabank.

As of 2019, women held 37.9% of senior management positions and 49.1% of all middle management positions at Canada’s six largest banks (excluding subsidiaries), according to a recent study by the Canadian Bankers Association. Those figures exceed the Federal government’s benchmarks at both levels, but banks are continuing to work to increase the representation of women in senior roles, the CBA said. Those efforts include training for employees on combatting unconscious bias and identifying the levels at which women are exiting the pipeline and creating programs to mitigate potential trends, it added.



Women remain under-represented in decision-making positions in the finance sector and on boards of directors. By launching these new scholarships, Scotiabank hopes to support the women leaders of tomorrow." 

   — Geneviève Brouillard, Senior Vice President, Quebec and Eastern Ontario Region, Scotiabank

The donation is part of Scotiabank’s ongoing commitment to advancing gender equity within the organization, where women hold 40% of the positions VP+ and higher in Canada, and 36% globally.

“Thanks to Scotiabank’s generous support, the HEC Montréal Foundation aims to encourage more women to pursue university studies in finance and to change this trend in the long term,” said Michel Patry, President and CEO of the HEC Montréal Foundation.

The donation is also part of the Bank’s broader ScotiaRISE initiative, which earmarked $500 million over the next 10 years to help foster economic inclusion and resiliency among disadvantaged groups. One key aim for ScotiaRISE is to remove barriers to career advancement for disadvantaged or underrepresented groups, including women.

“Whether it’s helping women carve out a place for themselves in the banking sector or working to improve the future of less fortunate groups in our communities, these initiatives are helping to break down the barriers that still exist in our society,” said Brouillard. “By promoting the financial health of households, we hope to improve our economy and opportunities for everyone.”

Quesnel found it gratifying to have all her hard work recognized and to be a recipient of a scholarship that encourages women to pursue a career in finance. “It’s a cause that’s important to me,” she said.

Quesnel said her finance classes at HEC are comprised of 65%-70% men and 30%-35% women, but it is getting better.

Providing mentorship and building a community for women who are pursuing a career in the field, to help each other prepare for job interviews and networking, could help boost representation in the future, she added.

“It’s a cycle. Because there’s not a lot of women in the field, there’s not a lot to help others. But at the same time, it’s improving,” Quesnel said. “If I look at the investment club that I’m in, there’s a lot more women and so we’re able to help each other out. I think that it’s just a gradual process. When there’s more in the field, it’s going to be able to help.”