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At Hydro Ottawa Ltd.’s third annual International Women’s Day event, employees were invited to solve 15 large puzzles around the room — and think about their own piece in the larger puzzle of working toward gender equality.

International Women’s Day events have been a staple at Hydro Ottawa since 2018, with the company trying to connect their activities to an annual theme. This year’s theme was ‘Each for Equal,’ encouraging people to think about they ways they can contribute to gender equality in the workplace and their personal lives.

The celebration on Friday was headlined by Isobel Granger, the first black woman to reach the rank of police inspector in the Ottawa Police Service. “She has a great story to tell about her career and her life history . . . and the extraordinary accomplishments that she’s had,” says Donna Burnett Vachon, the director of change and organization development at Hydro Ottawa.

Read: Canadian employers lagging in implementing equality measures: survey

The puzzles, and other more interactive activities during the event, also provided women with the opportunity to informally network with each other. “With feedback from our female employees, we’ve tried to create opportunities in that event so people can meet one another,” said Burnett Vachon. “We have people that work in a variety of different roles in the organization, some that tend to work the majority of their time outside . . . so we wanted to create activities where people could interact and engage.”

The annual celebration — which welcomes employees regardless of what gender they identify as — was the brainchild of Lyne Parent-Garvey, Hydro Ottawa’s chief human resources officer. “The #MeToo movement had really picked up steam [in 2018] and I had a moment . . . and thought, it’s time for me to use the role that I’m in, the influence that I have in the organization, to really do something meaningful for our women at Hydro Ottawa,” she says. “I really felt it was my responsibility as a member of the executive management team.”

Read: Employers urged to step up equality, culture efforts: survey

Also on Friday, the Bank of Montreal’s International Women’s Day programming kicked off with a series of breakfasts and other social gatherings for female employees and allies in all of its major locations, including Toronto and Chicago. According to Karen Collins, the bank’s chief talent officer, the events are intended to let female employees know what the bank is doing to support their career development and build their financial confidence, as well as to help them connect with each other.

“We’re giving them the opportunity to network and share stories with one another through informal networking, as well as through panels where we have both women leaders and allies speaking about their experience,” she says. “Really the focus for International Women’s Day is building workplace confidence and financial confidence, [and] how women and allies have overcome challenges to their confidence to be authentic as a leader within the organization.”

BMO also marked the day through internal news items, podcasts from senior leaders, quizzes and more. It also had an employee sharing contest through its mobile app and launched video content around encouraging employees’ confidence.

Read: Culture of equality a powerful multiplier of workplace innovation: study

Going forward, BMO is using the month of March to talk about the stereotypes people have about the way women manage money.

“We’re talking about increasing women’s confidence when it comes to their finances and breaking down stereotypes associated with women not being good with money,” says Collins. “You see these stereotypes in the media — that they’re shopaholics, they don’t know what’s in their bank account. . . . We’re focused on helping our customers, women or allies, increase their financial competence.”

Outside of International Women’s Day, an employee resource group at the bank called Alliance for Women kicked off its 2020 membership program in February. “The thing we found in a pulse survey is women want broader opportunities to have support through mentorship to achieve their personal and professional goals,” says Collins.

Women can sign up to be a mentor or mentee or, in some cases, both. Multiple mentees are paired up with a mentor, who leads group sessions on a monthly basis. This year there are 255 mentees and 63 mentors. Collins, a mentor herself, says the resource group has a toolkit for how mentors can develop trust and confidentiality with their mentees.

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“The first thing I did with my group is give them some things to think about . . . including [their] best and worst mentoring experience, what they hope to get out of this group and what they personally would hope to get from the mentorship relationship,” she says. “We did that as a group together, which helped set up our engagement principles and what we’re going to work on.”

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Yolanda Banks:

Dear Benefits Canada,

Here in Montreal at FinDev Canada, a wholly owned subsidiary of Export Development Canada, we played Unequalopolis, a board game invented by our Marketing and Communications Advisor to highlight inequalities experienced by women in many societies.


Yolanda Banks
Principal Advisor (Corporate Affairs)

Monday, March 09 at 4:15 pm | Reply

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