Aspiring to inspire people to learn from each other – and the rich cultures that make up Canadian Western Bank – is foundational to CWB ASPIRE.
This Employee Represented Group (ERG)’s name stands for Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islanders Rallying for Equality. Their mandate is to help unify the Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander communities and their allies, amplify the voices of the underrepresented, and celebrate each other’s differences.
ERGs are grassroots, employee-led groups that connect employees with like interests and mindsets. At CWB, they represent any kind of unique collective or topic areas within the organization and are one of the ways we bring our People First and Inclusion has Power values to life.
CWB currently has eight ERGs, the majority of which employees launched during the pandemic. ASPIRE is now 100 strong since kicking off last spring with about 50 members and, like the organization’s other ERGs, is striving to make a difference both at work and beyond.
Here, three of the ERG’s co-founders share what ASPIRE means to them and the impact of bringing people together – including an April initiative to celebrate both Ramadan and Sikh Heritage Month with a donation to Food Banks Canada that’s being matched by CWB’s Community Investment program.
Aspiring to inspire
Malvika Kathpal, Senior Administrative Assistant
“ERGs are a platform for people to express their whole self so that everyone can appreciate, accept, and work together in harmony. The top request we’ve had from our members is that they want APSIRE to be a space to learn about and celebrate cultures.
For April’s programming, we were very inspired by the concept of using our ERG as a platform to not only make a difference within the organization, but to also use the collective force of the employees to make a difference outside in the world as well. In our Ramadan planning group, we spoke about how charity is a very big part of the culture of Islam. We thought about picking a food-related charity because food forms such an important consideration during Ramadan – from fasting to breaking the fast to sharing a meal in community. April is also Sikh Heritage Month and seva, which means selfless service in Hindi and Punjabi, is one of the tenets of Sikhism. It includes voluntary service in the community like preparing and serving food to those in need. So, there couldn’t have been a better opportunity to take what matters in both cultures and put it together than to donate to a food-related national charity that supports everybody.
One of the things I value a lot in the programming we do is the collaboration with other ERGs. When you have an ERG, it’s not to create more silos, it’s to understand the intersectionality of different groups. I think the more we explore intersectionality the better we can make progress on inclusion, diversity, and equity. And ERGs joining forces to share and achieve a common objective is one of the most powerful ways to do that.
Inclusion has power and people first – this is what we hold in our hearts as we go forward. This is my first big corporate job. For me, it’s very inspiring to see this much investment in the employees and how truly each person’s whole self is celebrated here. It allows people the freedom to bring their whole self to work so that we can be our true personal selves in our professional lives.”
Jocelyn Ng, Banking Support Officer
“I felt I wanted to do a little more and give a little more with my life. I felt really achieved to be part of ASPIRE and to help grow something special like this within our financial institution.
When we first started it was a very interesting process because we were a newer ERG and were still testing a lot of waters. After a while, we went on for a ride and are still on this amazing journey. But one of the benefits of any ERG is that there are a great number of leadership opportunities for individuals to shine and develop their skills. That’s one of the reasons why we have multiple chairs and have planned to switch chairs out every two years. We want more colleagues to have the chance to pursue their goals for ASPIRE and to explore what it means to them.
For me, I only celebrate Chinese New Year, and I was always curious about other celebrations that happen throughout the year. Canadian Western Bank gave me the opportunity to learn big events like Ramadan, Diwali, and Eid. I love that I’m learning and understanding other cultures. We are aspiring to educate others and to be better individuals for ourselves.
Since joining Canadian Western Bank, I feel like I’ve won the golden ticket as far as jobs go. Giving us the opportunity and the resources to build an ERG...I’m not sure how many people can say they are part of something like this. Beyond coming together with others at work and in the community, it’s also another way for me to exercise my creative skills, not just my knowledge and technical skills.”
Soni Prakash, Manager, Collateral Securities - Commercial/Real Estate
“What got me involved is we’d seen racial insults happening around the world, including in our city, and then when COVID hit, that unfortunately just increased. I knew too there were staff scared to go out for fear of being targeted. ASPIRE gives a forum for people to speak and to share their experiences and to find support in that.
Prejudice and ignorance happen when there is lack of knowledge and understanding. This is why we celebrate each other’s cultures – so people can learn from each other.
We aspire to inspire others. My wish is to see people from other cultures in the organization get involved too so they can share their traditions. Everybody’s welcome.
Coming from a bigger organization, I think when CWB says ‘people first’, they definitely do put their employees first – like supporting these ERGs for us to be able to speak our minds and to do things differently to bring awareness to what is all around us. For me this is walking the talk.”
Learn more about ERGs at CWB
We know that diverse teams unleash new ideas and perspectives. That’s why we’re working to create an organization where people can be proud of who they are – and allies for those around them. Explore our careers site to read more about our ERGs and the other ways we’re committed to providing an inclusive environment for Team Teal.