WCM | Celebrating 25 Years of Impact

WCM | January 08, 2020

This year Women in Capital Markets (WCM) celebrates 25 years of creating solutions for the acceleration of gender diversity in Canadian finance through advocacy, research, programming and recruitment. 

WCM is the reflection of Canadian financial institutions joining together to collaboratively accelerate gender diversity at an industry level, an approach that is unique to finance, to Canada and something that all WCM partners are intensely proud of. 

Our partners, the major Canadian bank owned dealers, independent and foreign dealers, Canadian asset managers and major pension plans, have been at the root of the solutions WCM has built. While the focus has always centered on growing the pipeline of women, building the industry’s knowledge of diversity, shifting towards more inclusive cultures and management styles, and advocating for change.

WCM is unique for this approach, but also for its history, depth, reach, research and impact. WCM is the representation of professionals in Canadian capital markets that have come together to vote for diversity and progress. Together, we are a community of over 3,500 members (of which 2,000 are professionals, 500 university students, 1,000 high school students), 8,300 newsletter subscribers, 11,000 social media followers and 35 corporate partners from across Canada, which together generates over 40,000 website page views per month. This makes WCM the largest network of female professionals in Canadian finance, with initiatives that have impacted the careers of every woman on Bay Street and beyond.

Evolving over the last 25 years from a small, volunteer-run organization into a large professionally run national not-for-profit has included many changes. Our Board has moved from operational to strategic, and an advisory council was introduced in 2007 to build on the strategic direction. In 2016 we opened our first national chapter with the launch of WCM Montreal and since then we have grown to have full chapters in Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria, with a volunteer base of more than 200 nationally. With our professional governance model, there have been tremendous leadership opportunities for those in our network, including at the Board level, steering committees, sub-committees and individual volunteers.

Holding regular roundtables with executive leaders, Chief HR Officers, sponsor firms and individual investment professionals, informs and inspires our research projects and benchmarking studies. To date, we have published extensive benchmarking studies, including our most recent work in 2019 with the G7 International Investor Leadership Network (ILN).  In 2019, the launch of two major research projects, titled The Inclusion Projects, which assessed culture and progress and recommended action plans for change. WCM’s research has been ground-breaking and offers substantial insights and value to our industry. 

The partnerships that WCM has built amplifies the powerful message that Canada is sending. As an example, the work we have done as a founding member of the Canadian Gender and Good Governance Alliance has yielded two important publications and has impacted how Canada approaches diversity. This gives WCM and our sponsors an important voice in advocacy and the shaping of public policy.

We offered more than 75 national events in 2019, that contribute to awareness-building and education around diversity and inclusion in our industry. Our events are a venue for professionals to learn, but also to build relationships and networks beyond the borders of their individual firms, to be part of a larger community and to celebrate our successes, milestones and commitment as an industry with regards to diversity. 

Separate from our events, our extensive programming is a core pillar of WCM’s multi-pronged approach to impel gender equality. Our professional programs are strategically designed to accelerate the careers of women working in capital markets and increase their engagement and retention. The depth and reach of our programs is significant, and they present an impactful opportunity to feed our industry with a diverse slate of qualified future leaders and ensure that we retain exceptional female talent. A few of our most prominent professional programs include:

  • Mentorship: Launched in 1998, this was WCM’s founding program. As the program gained momentum, we added depth with the introduction of a business personality assessment, three skill builds for mentors and protegees annually; it is now national and we introduced Advancebiliity, a stream for professionals with disabilities. With 2020 as our largest cohort to date, hosting 140 professional pairs, for a total of 280 participants across Canada. Since inception, this program has supported the careers of well over 1000 female professionals.  
  • Return to Bay Street (RTBS): Now in its 10th year, RTBS has provided an on-ramp for 63 talented women to return to the capital markets industry following a period of leave. The commitment of our sponsors has fueled this opportunity, which has garnered significant attention from media, peers and thought leaders, including by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as a thoughtful and progressive initiative with proven results. 
  • Emerging Leaders: In its 7th year, this program has accelerated the careers of 116 mid-senior level women through coaching, career planning, visibility and networking.
  • Executive Leaders: Over the last 12 years, 61 female senior leaders have received high-profile recognition via this award and benefited from six months of intensive executive coaching that has propelled them to the height of their capital markets careers. 
  • WCM Aspire and WCM Elevate: developed to address the high demand for programming for entry to mid-level female professionals. Now in their 2nd year, together these programs have supported the career advancement, visibility and network expansion of 177 women in finance.
  • WCM + CFA Society Toronto's Award Scholarship: Launched to feed the industry with qualified future leaders, this award was launched in 2018; since then, over 30 women have benefited from this unique opportunity, which includes invaluable exam preparation.

To successfully build the pipeline of women, we recognize that starting early is imperative. Twenty-four years ago, WCM and our industry partners launched a grassroots student initiative at the high school level. Since then, WCM has grown its high school and university offerings into robust educational and early-career development opportunities with extensive reach.

  • Job Shadow Day: 16 years of hosting Job Shadow Day in Toronto (and expanding to Montreal in 2019) has provided 2,000 female high school students with unique exposure to careers in finance; career paths that were previously unknown to them. 
  • WCM SheBiz: For 8 years, we have hosted a total of 6,500 high school girls at our annual WCM SheBiz events across Canada, reaching them at a time when they are making career-defining education decisions. The event profiles career paths in STEM and Business and encourages students to pursue university degrees in these fields.
  • University Mentorship: launched in 2016, our student mentorship program has offered guidance and career planning to university students. In 2019 we saw the largest influx of protegee and mentor applications to date, resulting in 106 pairs for a total of 212 participants in our 2020 program.
  • University Event Series: Reaching over 1,000 university students nationally each year, this event series provides an opportunity for our sponsors to engage with students through educational hack-a-thons, workshops, panels, case studies and networking sessions. The goal of these events is to inspire students to pursue careers in capital markets and to equip them with the tools, resources, knowledge and networks helpful in launching successful capital markets careers.

Demand for diverse talent is at a premium, which requires firms to dig deep in their recruitment strategies. We introduced both the WCM Job Board and Board Ready Directories to provide talent solutions.

  • WCM Job Board: Launched in 2012, WCM’s highly trafficked Job Board has become the most-visited page on our website. It’s a valuable avenue for our partners to recruit top female talent, and a place where our members can get a sense of which firms value and are committed to recruiting diverse talent.
  • Board Ready Directory: launched in 2016 to address the under-representation of executive female board members in Canada.  Since inception this list has grown to 62 board ready women and continues to grow each year.  

While there is still a long road ahead, WCM is proud of the financial industry’s effort to accelerate gender diversity. We bring visibility to our partner firms that are truly committed to the diversity journey through two high-profile events.

  • WCM Gala: launched in 2001, this is the industry’s annual evening, bringing together over 800 senior leaders and industry members to celebrate our progress and achievements, our continued, concerted effort and to recognize our Champions of Change – industry leaders who serve as role-models to all.
  • WCM Awards: Inaugurated in 2007 and now in its 12th year, this annual event celebrates and recognizes significant leadership in and contributions to advancing gender diversity, resulting in a total of 50 awards for excellence in a number of categories. 

WCM could not be more thankful and proud that as individual women, allies and firms we have linked arms for 25 years for progress. We look forward to continuing our journey together in 2020.

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?