This website uses cookies to establish a secure connection and personalize your experience. By continuing you consent to the use of cookies. For more information and instructions on how to opt out of cookies, visit the Online Privacy and Interest-Based Advertising Statement. If you choose to opt out this message will continue to appear.

Online Policy Statement

International Women's Day 9 min read

CWB Women at work for equity

There's a difference between equity and equality. CWB's longest-running Employee Represented Group shares what supporting an equitable environment looks like in business and why it's crucial to the success of a company and the people who power it.

People are at the heart of every business – there’s the business owner and their family, their employees, their customers, their vendors, and even the professional services that support them (like banking).

It’s no great leap then to surmise a connection between the success of a business and the success of all the people who touch it. And this is where understanding and supporting workplace equity is crucial.

Embrace Equity is the theme for International Women's Day 2023. And while the word embrace is likely familiar to many, the same isn’t often true for the word equity. Some may even use it interchangeably with equality. It’s important though to appreciate, acknowledge and value that – while the difference is perhaps subtle – there is a difference.

Here’s how International Women’s Day distinguishes between the two:

  • Equality: each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
  • Equity: recognizes each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

What can encouraging equity look like in business? CWB Women is an ambitious employee-led group that hosts networking and educational events throughout the year with a mandate to inspire, empower and connect women in advancing as leaders within the organization. The group also provides guidance and advice on policies, programs and practices related to fostering inclusivity for women in the workplace.

Established in 2016, it is the first and longest-running CWB Employee Represented Group – of which there are now 11 – that are meant to connect employees with like interests and mindsets, as well as to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Here six members of CWB Women share what embracing this ERG means to them and why they’re driven to play an active role in creating an environment that facilitates equal outcomes for women at work and beyond.


Corissa Doenz 


Corissa Doenz, Vice President & Market Lead, Calgary & Central Alberta District

Embracing equity means building a culture and team where all individuals are valued and thrive. It’s about recognizing and appreciating differences amongst a team, their starting points, their advantages and disadvantages, and helping them be successful in their own unique ways. As a leader, it’s important to challenge biases and influence change make progress, and to create an environment for others where it’s safe to speak up.

I’m proud to be part of CWB Women because I’m passionate about giving back to others in meaningful ways. Over the past 18 years, I’ve been surrounded by incredible women who have made a mark on my career (and life), and I truly believe no matter how well you’ve mapped your path, you’re always going to need help getting there. That’s why I’m an advocate and ambassador for resource groups like CWB Women that can help guide others with mentorship and even sponsorship. Navigating career decisions and seeking out opportunities for development can be complex at times, so there’s great value in connecting with other women across the organization who can provide advice, direction, and inspire belief!


What truly fills my cup is being able to unlock the potential of other women in the workplace. I’ve taken on informal and formal mentorship roles, served as an advocate (sponsor) for others, hosted Women’s Circle and several International Women’s Day events, engaged with 3rd/4th year female students who aspire to pursue a career in banking, and have supported moms re-entering the workforce who stepped away to raise kids. Over the course of my banking career, I have impacted hundreds women in helping to build their careers and prepare for senior leadership.


Kelly O'Rourke


Kelly O’Rourke, AVP & Manager, Credit Support

CWB Women has made great strides in building a strong community of women who support each other in their goals and inspire and empower those around them. Leading such an amazing group of women has allowed me to see how much they truly care about making a real impact – and not only about ensuring women can progress to senior levels within CWB, but about how women feel during each step of their career journey.

The passion of our members shines especially bright as we approach International Women’s Day and prepare for our headliner event of the year. For 2023, we’ve decided to skip panel discussions and fireside chats, opting instead to get down to business with roundtables focused on generating actionable items to share with CWB leaders on how they can Embrace Equity.


Brian Shinmar


Brian Shinmar, Relationship Manager, Personal Banking

Historically, women have had a pretty raw deal, and unfair treatment and archaic opinions persist today. Some of the best leaders, colleagues and direct reports I’ve worked with have been women. They deserve to be included in all aspects of our business, and have the same opportunities for career advancement and recognition that I do. I’m proud to be an ally to women because I’m blessed to have many strong, capable and intelligent women in my life, and I strive to raise my little girl to be the same. I hope that I can help make the workplace a more welcoming place for her to join in the future.

Embracing equity means to take the steps you need to create an equitable place to work. Sometimes you need to be proactive in including different demographics and genders in business decisions, teams and social engagements. We must recognize that different perspectives and opinions make us stronger, and we might learn something. If you see something that isn’t right, speak up. And if you’re in a position to advocate for other people, advocate for women too. Even if you need to stick your neck out a bit to do it. 

For me, supporting women starts at home. My spouse’s career is very important to her, so I give her the room to focus on that. She doesn’t run our household alone, and we share the mental load and the work that needs to be done around the house. Gender doesn’t decide who does what in my house. Not carrying that stress alone gives her the freedom to balance growing her career along with our family life.

At work, it’s advocating for women to be in roles where they’re under-represented in. Recognizing their skills and strengths and speaking up for their ability to take on that next role in their career. I’ve mentored women in their career growth and welcomed them to join the team or conversation. Basically, just be a decent person and say something when someone isn’t being decent.


Sarb Atwal


Sarb Atwal, Sr. Specialist, Commercial Portfolio Management

I am proud to be part of CWB Women because I believe that at CWB women are treated with equality, respect and are given chances and support to promote themselves at all levels in the company. I started my career with CWB eight years ago as loan administrator. I am now a Senior Commercial Loan Portfolio Manager supporting a Senior Relationship Manager with a fairly large and complex portfolio. I believe I was able to get to this position with the strong support from my direct manager (also a woman) who recognized my talent and dedication for hard work.

Embrace Equity to me means all humans should be treated equally regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and physical appearance. On a professional level, I have always supported and continue to support my juniors with any learning or support they need with day-to-day work, and I encourage them to do their best. My door is always open for them whenever they require assistance.  For my seniors, I have always admired their successes and congratulate them as I look up to them.

On a personal level, I have supported a few women who were going through tough times with domestic issues like spousal abuse.  As a survivor of abuse myself, I strongly support and encourage women to be free of such abuse, and that they can survive and thrive on their own without the help of a man. I have raised two strong-minded daughters on my own who are now successful in their own careers.


Melissa Hartel

Melissa Hartel, Manager, Loan Support

First, I am very fortunate to work for CWB, a company that places so much value on its culture.

We, as women try to be perfect all the time both at work and at home, overthinking what we say and do, not being able to say no or thinking our leaders automatically know about all the amazing things we’re doing and so on – a lot of these feelings are so common.
Being part of CWB Women allows the incredible opportunity to see and highlight women who inspire, champion, motivate, teach, and love every single day. Though I’ve grown into a strong, independent and handle-it-myself kind of person, surrounding myself with women who support, build me up, challenge me, and overall make me a better person has a positive impact on living this journey of life. By being vulnerable and open, I realize that all experiences in the workplace and beyond are quite similar.
I make every attempt in my days to empower other women. The power to achieve this is in all of us. Whether it's your sister, mother, friend, or colleague, each one of us can empower others with our words and actions. Empowering other women means listening, focusing on the women around you and supporting what they are saying, communicating, sharing personal stories, understanding, encouraging them in their goals and dreams and celebrating when their dreams become reality. When you empower others, it is a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
To me, Embracing Equity ensures that everyone is treated in the same manner, considered equal, receiving the same opportunities and advancement. We need to eliminate barriers and biases to allow for diversity, equity and inclusion. If we don’t open ourselves up to all possibilities, we will miss out on peoples’ potential.

Teresa Browne

Teresa Browne, Manager Sales & Service, Vancouver District

To me, Embracing Equity means treating everyone as equals every day. Trying to be part of the solution in everyday situations, always thinking about the other person and how things could be perceived is really important in life – and especially at work.

I am proud to be part of CWB Women because I think as a company we are striving for equity. We have done so much work to create a better path for the future, and we’ve come a long way in the banking world. Even in the 13 years I have been here, I have witnessed so much change and it makes me so happy to see it!

Learn more

Employee Represented Groups (ERGs) are grassroots, employee-led groups that are meant to connect employees with like interests and mindsets. CWB Women is an ambitious ERG that hosts networking and educational events throughout the year with a mandate to inspire, empower and connect women in advancing as leaders within our organization. Connect with co-chairs Ivy Chia or Kelly O'Rourke to learn more about this ERG.