AMCHAM T&T's WOMEN'S LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE 2021
SPONSOR REMARKS by Anya Schnoor
Executive Vice President Caribbean, Central America & Uruguay, International Banking - Scotiabank
Hello everyone. 2021 is now our 7th year partnering with AMCHAM T&T as the platinum sponsor of the Women’s Leadership Conference. This conference is certainly a great opportunity for us to engage with each other, share ideas and experiences, advocate for the advancement of women, and share best practices pertaining to diversity and inclusion.
Choose to challenge is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day. For me, this means challenging norms and calling out gender biases and inequality. We all share this collective responsibility and it is the only way to bring about change and create an inclusive world where everyone feels respected and valued.
As some of you may know, I had the great privilege of working in Trinidad & Tobago between 2012 and 2017, as the then Managing Director of Scotiabank. During my 5 years in the country I grew to admire its people, the rich diversity of its culture, music, and of course food. I so miss Panorama, especially the semi-finals.
During those 5 years I met many young women across the country who were brilliant, ambitious, and hopeful about the future. They saw the struggles that women that came before them had – lack of role models in key industries, and a need for society to have tough conversations about abuse and the stigma of speaking up.
The work continues and I know we still have much to accomplish in the struggle for equality and justice.
When I spoke to AMCHAM in 2014 I was asked then to share some of my views on what it takes to be successful, and what were some of the challenges I’d overcome in my own career. I spoke then about the need to define your own definition of success and not let society or your own doubts about your abilities hold you back from taking a risk with your career. This view has not changed.
When I left Trinidad & Tobago to move to Canada in 2017, I knew then that I was taking another calculated risk with my career. While I was going to still be working for Scotiabank, I was moving to a new country, a new part of the bank, leading a new team. This move created many questions – “Why was the bank promoting someone from the Caribbean”, “What did she know about Canada?”, and “How would she fit in to this country?”. I had my own doubts.
If I was to be completely honest with myself, I never expected to be promoted to the head office of the bank. My own insecurities of growing up in a small town, in a small country, started to creep into my psyche. But then I remembered Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Miss Lou, Calypso Rose, and Jean Pierre, all of whom, charted their own definition of success and let nothing stand in their way.
As one of my heroes Maya Angelou once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” So, I embraced this new challenge and made the best of it. I built a new team, challenged the status quo, and learned new things along the way. I’ve come to appreciate the diversity of Canada, its openness to immigrants, and its willingness to take a chance on new ideas, their appreciation for diversity of thought.
So, when I was asked in November of last year to take on a new challenge and help our Caribbean and Central America region recover from the effects of this global pandemic I jumped at the opportunity.
In some way this new role is me coming back full circle to my home and to the people that I love.
The challenge in front of us as we collectively try to navigate the impact in our various countries is not simple or straightforward. But this is where I feel the Caribbean has such untapped potential.
I have always felt its important to build a diverse team around you. Successful leaders are only as good as the people they surround themselves with. If you only surround yourself with people that think and act like you, then you’ll never get the quality and diversity of ideas you need to be truly great.
Leadership is about inspiring others to see your vision and then helping them go after that vision. To come out on the other side of this pandemic, we are going to need that diversity of thought around us. We are going to need an inclusive culture that embraces different views and seeks to challenge the status quo. We are going to need each other.
I encourage therefore our leaders across the region to work collectively together in a truly one region approach to find solutions for the ravages of this terrible pandemic.
In closing I leave you with a few final thoughts. It has become increasingly important to me as I have progressed in my career that I wanted to work for an organization that truly values diversity and equality in the workplace.
I wanted to work for an organization which allows women the choice to make decisions which best suit them.
It is not by chance that the senior management team of Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago is made up of 50% women. Or that as a publicly listed company we have one of the highest percentages of women represented on our board.
As an organization globally, we have made diversity and inclusion a key strategic priority because we believe that for women to achieve success there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we view women and their importance to the success of any organization.
We have had to recognize that the issues which have prevented women from achieving success are real and are not related to whether men or women make better leaders. The issues will not be addressed overnight and indeed they have taken far too long to come to a conclusion.
However, through better understanding and communication and a lot of hard work we can achieve the success we have all been striving for.
It is important we act now. I choose to challenge for this reason. Because a world without diversity of opinion and a world where people can’t feel respected and valued goes against the type of inclusive world, I want to live in.
I really want to thank you for having me here today and for the team for all their hard work in putting this event together. Enjoy the rest of your celebration.
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