Task Force on the Advancement of Women

Excerpt from A Vision Greater Than Themselves: The Making of The Bank of Montreal, 1817-2017 by Laurence B. Mussio

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Photography: Frank Grant of G/W. Photography

In the early 1990s, the Bank struck three important internal task forces on the advancement of women and other groups. Under the leadership of President and Chief Operating Officer F. Anthony Comper, the Bank moved to understand and act upon the question of how best to unleash the capacities of people and groups whose talents and potential had not been sufficiently recognized or taken care of in the world of work.

The Task Force on the Advancement of Women in the Bank, led by BMO Senior Executive Marnie J. Kinsley, reported in November 1991. Its findings included, for example, that three-quarters of the then-28,000 permanent employees were women, yet they constituted only 9 per cent of executive positions and 13 per cent of senior management. That “dismal” performance, as Tony Comper explained in the preface to the report, was among the best in the banking industry, thus underlining the seriousness of the issue. The landmark report was an unusually candid examination of the perceptions and the realities of contemporary women bankers struggling to move forward in financial institutions. It also served as an important reality check to the Bank’s leadership. The report also began to shape future strategy and the four key recommendations – get the facts out; help employees get ahead; reduce the stress (on women and families); and make it official (and accountable) – was the beginning of a long process toward gender balance in the Bank. The task force also came up with twenty-six action plans that would be implemented in the wake of the report.

The report began to change the culture at the Bank over time through initiatives that have sustained the momentum of the initial work in the early 1990s. The Bank’s efforts were recognized by the 1994 Catalyst Award for promoting the advancement of women.

Similar task forces followed in the 1990s on Aboriginal advancement, visible minorities, and the employment of people with disabilities. Both of these important reports were inspired by the success and effectiveness of the advancement of women task force.


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