At Scotiabank, we strive to create an inclusive culture where every employee is celebrated and respected for who they are and empowered to reach their full potential. Scotiabank’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are grassroots initiatives that celebrate diversity and foster equity and inclusion by providing all employees with opportunities to learn, grow and communicate. One of the ERGs is the Scotiabank Black Employee Network (SBEN), which aims to showcase Black excellence and develop high-performing BIPOC leaders.

SBEN exists to advance the Bank’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, to inform and drive organizational change, and to develop high-performing leaders who reflect the communities we serve. Launched in February 2019 during Black History Month, SBEN’s strategic objectives are to:

  • Champion the professional success of Black employees
  • Attract and promote the upward mobility of diverse talent
  • Partner with executive leaders at Scotiabank to promote D&I
  • Nurture and foster innovation within Black community groups 

To achieve these objectives, SBEN created subcommittees focused on actively driving inclusion for Black employees and promoting allyship. These committees include Events, Education, Communications, Community Engagement and Membership Engagement. We caught up with a few of the committee members and the two co-chairs to find out more about SBEN.

  • SBEN Co-chairs: David Huggins and Strive Mazunga
  • Events: Davina Reid
  • Education and Mentorship: Weir Allison
  • Communication: Isha Wallace
  • Community Engagement: Leon Smith
  • Membership Engagement: Anita Anuyah

Orode: How is the Scotiabank Black Employee Network supporting Black employees?

Strive and David: Over the last two years, SBEN has made significant progress in executing our strategic objectives. Our partnership with Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) and McKinsey’s Black Management Accelerator Program are just some of the tangible ways we support professionals in the Black community – bringing the outside in. From an internal perspective, to promote the upward mobility of Black talent, we have built internal mentorship and sponsorship programs, partnering with senior executives who mentor and sponsor young Black talent. One of our recent mentorship programs paired Black female directors with Black VP+ executives for mentorship and sponsorship and these relationships have been a great success for all involved.

Orode: Can you tell me about some of the SBEN events you found to be most impactful?

Davina: Our programming encompasses many different types of events. In 2022, we held Professional Development Lunch-and-Learns, Business Line Show-and-Tells, Black Senior Leadership Conversation sessions, an Everyday Change Leaders Panel, and an event for Emancipation Day. I’d like to think that all our events are impactful, but if I had to choose one, it would be the Emancipation Day event we did in partnership with the Scotiabank Caribbean Network. It was our first hybrid event, and we had an insightful open and honest conversation with two Caribbean executive leaders in Scotiabank and a guest speaker from a community organization called the Black Opportunity Fund. The feedback we received was excellent! Everyone felt it was an extremely candid, vulnerable, and informative session – very relevant for the current times and challenges we face as a community and people.

Orode: What is the role of Education and Mentorship in fostering diversity and inclusion?

Allison: The Education and Mentorship committee provides a framework for managing continuous improvement while creating growth opportunities for Black employees. We support mentors and mentees to foster and sustain successful mentoring relationships built on trust. We are actively building a culturally inclusive environment where there is mutual respect, nurturing relationships, and clear communication to ensure people are heard and valued. This approach is evident in all of our programs, but particularly in the “Learning Circle”, “BIPOC Mental Health”, “Skill-UP!” speed mentoring and network sessions, and the rollout of the SBEN Mentorship Program.

Orode: How does Communications help in promoting inclusion for Black employees?

Isha: The Communications Committee at SBEN actively promotes inclusion by raising awareness about key issues and opportunities in the Black community. The SBEN quarterly newsletter features articles that educate our audience on Black history and highlights recent successes within the community. Our internal social site not only includes positive news stories from the broader Black community but also highlights notable achievements of Black employees at Scotiabank. This celebration of accomplishments by Black people all over the world (including right here in our local communities) enables us to reclaim our narrative and helps promote inclusion for Black employees.

Orode: Who are some of the community partners you have been working with?

Leon: As part of our goal to foster engagement with our community, we have been working closely with two key partners: Imani Black Academic Program (Imani) and the Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals (CAUFP). Under Imani’s Tri-Mentorship series, seven SBEN members volunteered to mentor University of Toronto Imani students between January and May 2022, and also participated in networking sessions during this period. This mentorship series gives Black students a dedicated opportunity to connect with working professionals to ensure they are set up for success and growth at the formative stages of their careers. In addition, four SBEN members participated as guest speakers in the “Driving Better Decisions Through Data” panel discussion hosted by CAUFP earlier in the year.

Orode: How does your team support new and existing SBEN members?

Anita: The Membership Engagement team is the front door to SBEN and our initiatives are usually the first touchpoint for new members. This year, we launched the SBEN Buddy Program to support Black new hires as they get acclimated to the bank. The Buddy Program provides a positive, inclusive introduction to Scotiabank ensuring our Black Scotiabankers feel welcomed and develop a sense of belonging from day one.

We also host a monthly Office Hours meetup, which is a safe space for all members to stay connected. Office Hours features a Leadership Fireside chat series with Black leaders across the bank, ensuring that our members continue to see representation and growth opportunities at all levels.

Through these initiatives and more, the Scotiabank Black Employee Network is actively driving diversity, equity and inclusion across the Bank and actively supporting the Black community.

Learn more about Diversity and Inclusion at Scotiabank.