Scotiabank Women’s Initiative increases commitment to $10 billion to help Canadian women access capital

Published 06-06-22

Proposed by Scotiabank

Originally posted on Scotiabank Media Center

As Canada continues its economic recovery from COVID-19, it is important to support women, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, as they seek to grow, thrive and overcome the challenges of both last years.

Scotiabank Women’s Initiative® (SWI) is taking a big step to support women in this recovery. It will deploy $10 billion in capital to women-owned and women-led businesses in Canada, up from its initial $3 billion commitment announced in 2018.

Insights spoke with Sloane Muldoon, Co-Chair of SWI and Senior Vice President, Retail Performance at Scotiabank, about what drove this increase in funding, the importance of fostering a support network among women entrepreneurs and women in business and why she believes it is important to “pay it forward.”

Q: SWI began by committing to deploy $3 billion in capital to women-led and owned businesses to help break down the barriers women face when seeking funding for their businesses. You have just announced that this commitment has been increased to $10 billion. What caused this?

A: We hit the $3 billion mark before our three-year deadline, and we continue to see that there are women entrepreneurs starting or expanding their businesses in Canada who need financial support. We see this as an opportunity to increase our commitment to women-led businesses across the country and help them grow. They are such a vital part of our economy and they are major employers in our country. And it’s just the right thing to do.

Q: What broader impact do you hope this additional injection of capital and SWI will have overall? Who do you think it will benefit the most?

A: I hope we support women across the country at all stages of their business, whether they are starting or expanding their business. It will contribute to local economies, it will contribute to local employment. And for me, as a senior woman in the organization, it’s an opportunity to pay it forward. To help women who have a passion for entrepreneurship and who in the past have unfortunately had difficulty raising capital and gaining fair and impartial access to capital. It’s also difficult for businesswomen to connect with each other in an organized way because they don’t necessarily have the same amount of time as a male counterpart and they want to connect in different ways. When I attend the Boot camps without mentoring and networking sessions, the power is in the connectivity that is in the room. And some of those connections, we know, have led to relationships and support between women entrepreneurs, and led to referrals to the Bank for additional business. Many customers and we as bankers have stayed in touch. This helped them expand their network among like-minded women.

Q: One of the main reasons for launching SWI was the feedback that Gillian Riley, who founded the initiative, received from female commercial bank clients about the obstacles they faced in obtaining capital. What were these challenges and how did the Bank attempt to address them?

A: When Gillian, who is now CEO of Tangerine Bank, founded the initiative, she heard about women-led businesses of all sizes who were having difficulty raising capital and felt like they didn’t have a fair access to capital. Through our research with Dr. Barbara Orser, we realized that there are real unconscious biases involved in making financial decisions or capital loans for women. And that was something that we wanted, across the organization, to try to break. So we’ve had all of our referees undergo unconscious bias training. If it’s a female-led business that’s turned down, we have a second look at the request, just to make sure we’re making the right business decision and make it a comfortable experience for the women who approach us. for Capital. We know that many female entrepreneurs prefer to borrow from friends or family rather than through a financial institution and we want to change that experience.

Q: How have these challenges facing women evolved over the past three years?

A: The pandemic has really created different challenges for female entrepreneurs. Many, as you know, are juggling a work-life-family balance and during the pandemic, whether it was parents or aging children, the bulk of the workload often fell on women. Additionally, many have had to transform their business and bring it online or digitize very quickly. They were looking for support, so the SWI Digital Hub was born. Meanwhile, some of the industries where typically more women are represented, such as hospitality, travel or personal services, have been hit harder than other industries. Women entrepreneurs really needed support during the pandemic.

Q: What do you think has been the biggest impact of the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative so far?

A: There have been a number of key accomplishments. To date, we have deployed over $4 billion in capital, worked with over 15 organizations, such as the StrikeUp Conference for women entrepreneurs and has expanded SWI beyond Canada to help women-led and women-owned businesses in Jamaica and Costa Rica. I find it super exciting. We have partnered with the Forum for the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative Mentorship Program, which is the largest mentoring program for women entrepreneurs in the country. We launched the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative Digital Hub during the pandemic with partners such as Shopify, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook to help women entrepreneurs navigate these uncertain times. And recently in Quebec, we launched women in auto throttle, a mentorship and networking accelerator program for women in the province’s automotive industry. But the biggest impact, I think, is that we’ve engaged over 13,000 women entrepreneurs from coast to coast and our advisors and business relationship managers have embraced this program. This is a true grassroots initiative. I think that’s one of the keys to the success of the program.

Q: What do you think needs to be done to support women in economic recovery, what some call a Shecovery, as we emerge from the pandemic?

A: We must continue to address these unique and disproportionate economic barriers that women face. Whether you are an entrepreneur or someone returning to the workforce, we need to ensure that we have all the support systems available to them to confidently reopen their business and/or return to work. And at organizations like Scotiabank, we need to provide women with the kind of flexibility they are looking for when they return to the workforce. Additionally, we must ensure that we continue to have inclusive hiring practices and diverse hiring panels. We really make an effort to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in general, but specifically on gender imbalances.

Q: Why is it important to you personally to hold this position at SWI? What speaks to you the most?

A: For most of my career, I have been in contact with customers and enjoy interacting with customers and potential customers. I feel like I have the opportunity to help clients across the country realize their financial dreams and their entrepreneurial dreams. What I really love about the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative, as I’ve mentioned before, is the grassroots energy we feel from coast to coast with our advisors and our relationship managers. Especially when a client shares their personal story of how we as an organization have made a difference in their life and in their business. It’s so rewarding. At a recent event at the Toronto Board of Trade, a woman shared with me the difficult challenges she faced with her business, having to run it on her own as a single mother. When she said that Scotiabank was the only bank that would give her a risk, you know, it really warmed my heart. That’s why we do what we do.

Q: What do you hope SWI can accomplish in the years to come?

A: I’m really proud of how we also have the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative in our Global Wealth Management job and in Global Banking and Markets, as well as in our international banking footprint. I think it’s amazing. Erin Griffiths, Anya Schnoor and their respective teams are doing a great job leading this initiative in GWM and IB. Loretta Marcoccia and Michelle Khalili have done an amazing job preparing some senior women for potential board positions through some educational programs. I’m really proud of how the whole Bank has rallied around this initiative. We want to keep growing. We want to make sure we become the go-to bank for women and help make a difference.

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