In just one year, Lily Macream’s career has accelerated immensely.

She has worked for Scotiabank for 24 years, working her way up from personal banking officer to leading a contact centre in Cornwall, Ontario to her current role as Senior Manager, Customer Care Consultants and Mid Office. She wondered what she could do to advance to the next level.

Lily Macream headshot

Photo: Lily Macream

Last March, Macream got the opportunity to participate in the Bank’s new Global DEI Sponsorship program, where she was paired with a senior executive as her sponsor. The aim of the program is to go beyond mentorship —  sponsors advocate for protégés in order to advance their careers.

Through the course of the program, not only has Macream’s network expanded, so has her confidence and voice through coaching and support from her sponsor.

“It's definitely given me more visibility, but it has also given me the freedom to not only be at the table, but to participate and to share my ideas,” she said. “What I have learned from the program has definitely expanded my horizons.”

Macream was one of 60 protégés to take part in the Bank’s program, first launched in 2022.

In 2020, Scotiabank renewed its DEI goals with a focus on supporting members of equity-deserving groups in advancing to leadership roles.

The Global DEI Sponsorship Program was launched as part of supporting these goals and advancing the Bank’s Global Diversity, Equity and inclusion strategy. It was developed over six months, a process that included consultations with various stakeholders such as employee resource groups and executives to determine how best to cultivate a pool of talent with diverse representation at all levels of the organization.

Mentorship, where an experienced person in a company or other institution provides guidance, has long been commonplace. But sponsorship is where a person takes an active role in pushing for their protégés’ career advancement, leveraging their own social capital and influence to do so.

Statistic graphic indicating 94% of protégés surveyed  believed the program had  a positive impact on their  career and personal development

Source: Global DEI Sponsorship Program


“The sponsor is that person in a protégé’s life who will raise the visibility of the protégé, talk about them when they are not in the room,” said Dr. Shyama Venkateswar, Senior Director, Learning at Seramount, a DEI consultancy that works with Scotiabank on the program. “The sponsor makes things happen.”

This is critical for employees from underrepresented groups — such as Black people, People of Colour, People with Disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, , or from the LGBT+  community and women — because they don’t typically have access to those key networks of people who hold power, she added.

Data show that talent from equity-deserving groups sit outside of that circle.

“How do you break through the ranks and insert yourself? It can only happen through sponsorship and through greater visibility. Somebody reaching out for your hand and saying, ‘OK, I’m pulling you in,’” Venkateswar said.

People typically find mentors and sponsors through colleagues they know or connect with organically, thereby limiting who gets access to those networks.

A 2020 study by Coqual, a global non-profit think tank founded to address bias and uncover barriers to advancement for underrepresented groups, showed that 71% of sponsors are the same gender or race as their primary protégés.

It’s what the think tank referred to as “mini me” syndrome, where sponsors are more likely to select protégés who feel familiar.

Statistic graphic indicating 92% of sponsors surveyed felt that this program provided opportunities to learn, strengthen and further their skills as an effective ally

Source: Global DEI Sponsorship Program


Scotiabank’s sponsorship program aims to disrupt this pattern of bias by using data to match executives with high-performing talent from equity-deserving groups.

Protégés are selected through a data-focused approach, utilizing data from Scotiabank’s Global Diversity Survey. This voluntary survey aims to better understand the diverse representation of employees in each region of the Bank’s markets. Also, as part of the survey employees can opt-in to be part of inclusion initiatives.

Sponsors and protégés then answer a series of questions about goals and values to find a match based on those parameters, rather than similar backgrounds or demographics.

“This is being intentional and getting people paired with someone who doesn't look like them but holds this position of power at Scotiabank,” said Denine Das, Scotiabank’s Vice President, Global Inclusion.

Mentorship remains important, particularly at earlier stages of a person’s career. But that alone has not been enough as diversity gaps remain stubborn, she added.

“Sponsorship is now seeing its day in the sun because mentorship only gets somebody so far. Mentorship didn't move the needle in the way it had promised it would,” said Das. “But we know that sponsorship does, because it opens the doors and provides the access that we didn't even know existed.”

For example, Coqual’s research shows that among People of Colour, 34% without sponsors said they were satisfied with their rates of advancement, compared to 56% with sponsors.

So far, Scotiabank’s sponsorship program has protégé participants from Global Wealth Management, Canadian Banking and Global Operations. Another cohort of sponsors and protégés in each business line will participate in the program later this year.

Statistic graphic indicating people of colour in large companies who are satisfied with their rates of advancement: 34% without sponsors versus 56% with sponsors

Source: Coqual


In addition to regular meetings between sponsors and protégés, the program includes educational sessions. For example, protégés learn skills such as how to do an elevator pitch and network virtually. Sponsors learn about topics such as cultural competencies and how to be an effective ally.

“We’ve given both sponsors and protégés all of the resources they need to feel fully confident going into those conversations,” Das said.

Early surveys of participants show some promising results. Among protégés in the Global Wealth Management cohort, 31% say they have since received promotions. (Data for Canadian Banking and Global Operations participants will be available later this year). As well, 94% of protégés in the overall program said it had a positive impact on their career and personal development, while 81% said their sponsor advocated for them, made connections on their behalf and promoted their visibility. It was of benefit to sponsors as well, with 92% saying the program provided opportunities to learn to be a better ally.

What’s more, 92% of participants said their pairing was well-matched.

At first, Macream was unsure about the fit with her sponsor, Scotiabank Vice President of International Banking Fraud Fabian Goncalves Ambielle.

“What does he have in common with me?” she said of her initial impressions. “My challenges as a Black woman were just different. I thought the feedback I got would not be heartfelt.”

Fabian Goncalves Ambielle headshot

Photo: Fabian Goncalves Ambielle

Turns out, they have quite a bit in common. For example, both were completing their MBAs at the same time during the sponsorship program, which brought them closer, she said.

”Fabian listened more than he spoke, and when he spoke he made it count. It has been amazing.”

Goncalves Ambielle, who has worked for Scotiabank for 22 years, put his hand up to be part of the Global DEI Sponsorship Program because he wanted to give back to others. While he has had mentors, he did not have access to a sponsorship program like this, he added.

“I need to try to make things different for the ones that are coming after me,” Goncalves Ambielle said. “That was my motivation.”

When he was paired with Macream, he was unsure whether it would work, at first.

“I’m a Latino guy in Canada, and my whole life I’ve been working in International Banking,” he said of his initial thoughts. “I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to provide something that is going to be useful for Lily. But I was completely wrong.”

Over time, the pair built a strong bond and are in contact often, even after the nine-month program was completed.

“I've never before this program had somebody talk about me in a room, or understood the importance of that,” said Macream. “It was a phenomenal experience.”

Scotiabank plans to roll out the program more widely across more of its business lines.

“We are giving time to individuals that maybe have never been given that time before, or should have been given it but were not,” said Das. “In addition to career advancement, it increases employees’ sense of belonging and that increases retention.”

The ultimate goal is to have sponsorship be fully embedded in the company’s culture, said Das.

“My dream is that when I look at all the sponsors of the program in future years, they’ll look like the protégés.”