Monique Bateman is Senior Vice President, Prairie Region, for TD Canada Trust, where she leads a team of more than 4,000 employees in 205 branches in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. She is a member of the Corporate Advisory Cabinet at the Canadian Women's Foundation, a regular speaker on women in leadership and Chair of TD's Aboriginal Employee Subcommittee. Monique credits her Métis heritage with instilling in her the importance of values and traditions that have helped her succeed in her career.
We sat down with Monique to ask her about her unique perspective on the success of Aboriginal women in Canada and how financial literacy can contribute to their success.
1 – Please share your unique perspective as an Aboriginal woman in the banking industry.
When I first started with the bank, many years ago, I never imagined that I would end up in the position that I am now, or as role model for others. As I progressed to more senior positions, I began to realize there were many people who were interested in my story. I also realized, I had an ability to make an impact in my organization, in my community, in my culture and in the lives of others by being an example for other Aboriginal women. It made me pause and think more deeply about what I can do for other women. I still ask myself, how much can I be involved? How much can I contribute? Can I do one more thing? Can I find a way to say yes, because it's so important to share my story with others. I want to create a sense for other women to say "wow! that could be me, how do I get there?"
2 – Why is helping women to move out of poverty, personally meaningful to you?
I grew up in a family of nine children in a Metis community in Manitoba. And while we all had a lot of love, support and encouragement from our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, we had to struggle for everything else. My mother was amazing at trying to stretch a dollar and taught us to be resourceful, but there were a lot of things we just couldn't do, or couldn't have. I remember thinking to myself then, I would do everything in my power to help myself and my family, and to open the doors to possibility for our future generations.
When I was in high school, the Manitoba government offered a program to Aboriginal students to encourage them to stay in school, whereby, they could apply for a financial bursary. Earlier in my school education, I had advanced quickly in school. I remember I applied for the same bursary my older siblings had and I was declined because I was too young to qualify for the funding. In response, I wrote a long letter to the government arguing about the unfairness of the situation which resulted in me receiving double the funds! This taught me to never take 'no' for an answer.
Today, I support my nieces and nephews through mentorship and with financial assistance. I'm also very fortunate I have the opportunity to give back to many community organizations through donations.
3 – When you think about the struggles faced by Aboriginal women who live on a low income, what is the one thing you wish you could change?
I think what Aboriginal women need to know, is that there are so many people who want to help them and see them succeed. The resources are available, the funding is available, the support is available – they just need to know how to access it. And as I shared in my previous story – don't take no for an answer! If one organization isn't able to help you, move on to the next one. There's so much support available. If you need help with childcare or tuition, or training or whatever it may be, I know there are organizations and resources to help you. I almost wish there was a menu we could provide for women to review so they could see everything that's available and decide what resources to access.
Also, when I was growing up, there were a few times when I personally arrived at a crossroads and I had to make a decision about whether to choose a path that would lead me to success, and a path that might take me the other way. It was so important for me to have people in my life to keep my on the right path, and to steer me back when I chose the wrong path. I know if it weren't for some of the influences in my life, I might not have ended up where I am today. Everyone needs someone who can guide them – and help them choose the right path to success.
4 – What inspires you the most about working with women who live on a low income?
In my experience, women who are low-income often have to work twice as hard as others to keep their families and jobs together. Usually, they're juggling work, children, and finances on their own and may not have the benefit of childcare, family or a partner to assist them. I am inspired by how incredibly determined these women are to succeed and ensure they provide for their families.
5 – What advice would you give to Aboriginal women who are trying to succeed?
Do not take no for an answer. Continue seeking people who can help you, never stop asking questions and don't give up. If you don't understand something, put up your hand and ask. If you need help, ask. Sometimes it can be intimidating, but there are many other women, just like you, looking for answers, looking to succeed and looking for help.
Monique will be participating in a panel discussion hosted by the Canadian Women's Foundation on June 24th in Toronto, to discuss the importance of financial literacy and education for Aboriginal women. Moderated by Kim Parlee, she'll also be joined by the Right Honorable Paul Martin, Diane Redsky and Sheherazade Hirji.