COVID-19: How Your Support Helps Women and Girls During the Pandemic

How to build an inclusive workplace with better work-life integration

Norma TombariNorma Tombari, RBC’s Director of Global Diversity and member of the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Girls’ Fund Advisory Committee, discusses how employers can increase equity and inclusivity in the workplace by removing barriers and instituting practical solutions.



1.    What do you do in your role as RBC’s Director of Global Diversity?

I have the wonderful opportunity to lead on the development and implementation of an enterprise strategy on diversity and inclusion, work/life and workplace flexibility options across businesses and geographies. The work is multi-faceted ranging from developing multi-year strategies, communication approaches and general and targeted educational and leadership development initiatives, to establishing  or updating workplace policies and forward looking programs and initiatives that help advance diverse groups, to  providing consulting and advice, both internally and externally.   The work targets all employees and also includes initiatives for women, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities, newcomers to Canada, LGBT individuals and NextGen.

Through this work, I engage with various stakeholder groups including business, government agencies, community partner and non-profits, academia, consultants, and support many creative and value added initiatives via sponsorships and participation on advisory boards and committees.


2.    What made you passionate about tackling diversity and equity in the workplace, particularly for women?

I’ve always had an interest, dating back to my early years in the organization. At one point I was the program officer for the Work and Family Program for RBC which saw a number of initiatives created in response to the changing demographics in the workplace that included a growing number of working women and dual income families, and more single parents. We sought to provide supports for both women and men and understood that what benefitted women would also benefit all members of society.

Of course, being a working mother, I had a full appreciation for the challenges of juggling work and family and the importance of providing support and flexibility to help individuals not only fully contribute at work, but also be present at home.

Some of the innovative initiatives put in place included child and eldercare information services and emergency dependent care support, family leaves and a suite of flex options. One of the most interesting policies in terms of workplace flexibility is job sharing. Participation over the years has ranged from several hundred to more than 2,000, mostly by women. Job sharing is a great interim solution to address many life needs – whether that be raising young children, helping gear down as you near retirement, or needing time to address personal matters. Pulling back, finding a partner to share a job with, and then returning full-time can be a wonderful solution.

In my work, I have the opportunity to speak with many employees and new recruits about what matters most to them over the span of their careers and create programs that address key needs.


3.    How and why did you become involved with the Girls’ Fund at the Canadian Women’s Foundation?

At RBC, given my work in supporting the advancement of women and my involvement with community groups, sponsorships and donations that enable women and young girls, I was introduced to the great initiatives offered by the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Through our Corporate Citizenship office, I met Beth Malcolm, the Director of the Girls’ Fund which led me to join their Girls’ Fund Advisory Committee.


4.    What overlaps do you see in your role at RBC and your role on the Girls’ Fund Advisory Committee at the Canadian Women’s Foundation?

In the workplace, one of the ways RBC helps develop women is by providing access to mentors and role models as well as networking opportunities. This helps to create skills and capabilities in a very comfortable setting.

Similarly, access to role models and mentoring at a young age is also important for girls in order to help build confidence, presence and a sense of self-worth, particularly in today’s environment where images in media can play havoc on a girl’s self-esteem.  It’s all about creating the mechanisms and opportunities that foster growth and self-improvement.


5.    What is one challenge of increasing diversity and equity for women and girls, and what do you see as a tangible way to overcome this challenge?

This is an important question given the years of focus on the topic, as the challenge of complacency may manifest itself. Even today there are misperceptions about the career preferences and paths for women, and subtle barriers to the advancement of women and girls.  For this reason, we must continue to raise awareness, to engage in conversation and share experiences, to illustrate the facts, to serve as mentors and coaches and to work even harder together to create more inclusive and welcoming work environments.

We must continue to advocate for diversity and equity, because the work is not yet done. We need to believe in the power that each one of us has to make a difference and make our workplaces and communities more inclusive.


Learn more about the Girls’ Fund at the Canadian Women Foundation.

Read our article about Norma in the latest issue of SHE magazine. 

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