Wanted: Women for Canada's capital markets; Banks band together to get women to return to the street

The Globe and Mail| September 09, 2014

The effort to convince more women to rejoin Bay Street's capital markets teams after taking mid-career breaks is gathering momentum.

Another bank has joined effort to help a larger group of women wade back into careers in the field if they have taken maternity leave or other time off. Toronto-based industry group Women in Capital Markets (WCM), which co-ordinates the award and internship program called Return to Bay Street, says their efforts are attracting the attention of more financial institutions seeking female executives.

The program that began as a partnership between WCM and BMO Nesbitt Burns has grown to include four major Canadian banks. The number of women receiving the award has also doubled from last year, with six women selected for the four-month paid internship at BMO, RBC Dominion Securities, Scotia Capital or National Bank Financial this year. These positions are called internships, but they're more like career re-launch programs where experienced candidates can update their skills or learn new ones. Mary Anne Mendes, a program participant, had worked for CIBC World Markets debt capital markets team as global head of business intelligence before taking a mid-career break. Ms. Mendes used the program to restart her career, and is now director of operations of client onboarding at BMO.

Along with the internship, these women are connected with a mentor, receive $5,000 towards an education program and a one-year membership to WCM.

Candidates have experience in a wide range of business lines, from debt markets to institutional sales to derivatives, and all of the women that have been been through the program so far have secured full-time positions.

"If we don't modernize our views on career paths, we're letting 50 per cent of the talent pool walk away," says Jennifer Reynolds, president of WCM.

WCM wants to make sure that the investment made by companies and women in their educations and careers isn't wasted, and is looking to remedy the disappearance of women up the corporate ladder. "The reality is that 70 per cent of mothers are working, so they do come back," said Ms. Reynolds said. "The problem is they don't have a good way to come back into senior roles." This is part of an effort by WCM to advocate for women in senior leadership.

Banks are also focused on getting women into management positions, Ms. Reynolds said, and getting experienced women to come back to work is a way to avoid the five to 10 year lag time of developing a younger crop of talent.

"We talk about it all the time, and we wring our hands, but how can we actually fix this problem and create a real pipeline of talent? This program is tangible and I think that's what people like about it," Ms. Reynolds said. She also thinks the program can and should expand beyond capital markets to fields such as wealth management where the number of male advisers greatly outnumbers women, despite the fact that women are controlling a larger portion of investable assets.

The challenge ahead for WCM is to make sure the program is widely known, as it can be difficult to reach women who are outside the workplace. Ms. Reynolds would also like to broaden the program nationally, to make it less Toronto-centric.

What is your reaction to the fact that the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women will be chaired by a man?