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Feb 29, 2024

International Womenís Day 2024: Inspiring Inclusion In Finance

by Canadian MoneySaver

In the ever-evolving landscape of finance, women have long been catalysts for change, pushing boundaries and leading us forward to more equality, equity and inclusion. In celebration of International Women’s Day 2024, we’re looking at some of the remarkable contributions made by (mostly) Canadian women in the world of finance. 

From the trailblazers of the past who pushed the boundaries of women's role in society, to contemporary leaders driving innovation and inclusion, there is no shortage of inspiration to draw from as we move forward.

The Origins of International Women's Day

International Women's Day (IWD) can be traced back to the labour movements of the early 20th century. It emerged from the progress of activists in North America and Europe and reflected a growing call for women’s equal participation in society.

The first-ever International Women's Day took place on March 19, 1911, and was observed in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. On that historic day, over a million women and men attended public events to show their support for, and celebration of, women. Eventually, IWD began to be observed and celebrated in nations across the globe, and in 1975, the United Nations recognized and began celebrating International Women's Day on March 8th.

Inspirations from the Past

Naturally, we look to the past for those rare, shining examples of courage and determination. Across the U.S. and in Canada, too, there were women who pioneered the way to greater inclusion in business, finance and society at large.

Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934)

Maggie Lena Walker was an African American businesswoman, born and raised in Virginia, USA. She became the first woman to charter a bank in the United States when she founded in 1903, the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia. She also served as the bank’s first president and worked tirelessly to improve the financial literacy of the African American community, in particular.

Her legacy extends beyond banking, as she eventually became a prominent figure advocating for civil rights, education and social justice within Richmond.

Muriel Faye Siebert (1928-2013)

Known to many as the “first woman of finance”, Muriel “Mickie” Siebert became the first woman to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 1967, sharing the floor with over 1,000 male colleagues. She faced significant gender discrimination as she pursued her career in finance, at a time when female stockbrokers were completely unheard of.

Two years after establishing her seat on the NYSE, she opened her own brokerage firm, becoming the first to offer discounted investment opportunities to individual investors. Muriel’s accomplishments were not only in breaking gender barriers but also in fostering financial education and inclusivity. She was a strong advocate for financial literacy and worked to increase opportunities for women in finance.

Louise McKinney (1868-1931)

Louise McKinney was a Canadian politician and women's rights activist. In 1917, she became one of the first two women elected to the Alberta Legislature. While McKinney was not directly involved in finance, she was a vocal advocate for social and economic issues, including financial reforms.

She played a role in the introduction of legislation related to labour and social welfare during her time in politics. As a member of the “Famous Five”, in 1929 McKinney was involved in campaigning to have women legally recognized as persons under the British North America Act. This achievement would have a profound impact on women’s rights in Canada. In 1939, she was formally recognized as a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada.

Inspirations Of The Present

Thanks to these great female pioneers of the past, many women today are excelling in the world of finance. Within Canada alone, there is a virtually endless list of fantastic examples of women’s achievements in finance. With that said, we’ve chosen three Canadian women who exemplify the tenacity, determination, and inspiration of those historic trailblazers.

Christiane Bergevin

Christiane Bergevin is one such woman taking huge strides in finance, within and beyond Canada. Her list of achievements and positions to date is extensive, and for decades she has been one of Canada’s most successful female financial advisors.

One of her most prominent roles was executive vice-president, strategic partnerships at Desjardins Group. In this role, Christiane led over $3 billion in mergers & acquisitions and investments over a six-year period. She is also a former chair and currently a governor of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, as well as president of her own financial advisory group, Bergevin Capital.

Janice Fukakusa

Janice Fukakusa is a highly accomplished Canadian banker, best known for her significant contributions to the finance industry. Her distinguished career has seen her hold key leadership positions, notably as chief administrative officer and chief financial officer of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). In these roles, Janice worked to diversify leadership roles at RBC to include more women and people of diverse backgrounds. Her leadership also played a pivotal part in shaping RBC's financial strategy during times of economic struggle.

Even beyond her role at RBC, Janice has been active in her work to advance diversity and inclusion within the financial sector. As a trailblazer for women in finance, she has become an influential figure and was inducted into Canada’s Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame in 2007. Janice’s enduring impact on the financial sector, and her commitment to fostering diversity, have solidified her legacy as a leading figure in Canadian banking.

Tea Nicola

Tea Nicola is a Canadian entrepreneur and co-founder of WealthBar, a fintech company with a mission to provide a more inclusive robo-advisory service. WealthBar, which was sold to CI Direct Investing in 2018 after four years of incredible growth, offered automated investment services, financial planning, as well as free educational resources on investing and wealth-building.

In addition to delivering investment opportunities that were usually reserved exclusively for high-net-worth individuals, WealthBar was a company composed of a diverse group of people. Tea was responsible for putting many of the management systems and processes in place that allowed WealthBar to flourish.

She has been recognized for her outstanding contributions to the Canadian fintech space with accolades such as Business in BC’s Most Influential Women in Finance, and Business in Vancouver’s Top Forty Under 40. Today, Tea works as the CEO of Acetech, a not-for-profit organization for innovative leaders in the tech industry.

Inspiring Women Forward

Beyond individual achievements, there is tremendous work being done every day across Canada. Organizations like the Association of Women in Finance, for example, are actively improving the working conditions for women in the finance industry, fostering greater inclusion and equity in boardrooms throughout the country.

According to a report from Sun Life last year, female financial advisors in Canada are on their way to doubling their total control of assets to over $4 trillion by 2028—let’s keep working toward and far beyond that number, for all women.

Lana Sanichar, Editor-in-Chief of Canadian MoneySaver Magazine, Co-Host of the MoneySaver Podcast.