Diversity in Financial Services Fintech and Venture Capital Financing  Corporate Social Responsibility & Environmental, Social and Governance
Diversity - Workshop Leaders Fintech & VC  - Workshop Leaders CSR/ESG  - Workshop Leaders
Ally Sponsor: Killam REIT Ally Sponsor: Deloitte Ally Sponsor: East Coast Credit Union



Workshop 1. Women and Diversity in Financial Services

  We hope to dig in to specifics around language use, power, structural issues, work culture and conditions, and what concrete steps can help make real change.

Women have been marching into formerly male-dominated workplaces since before Rosie the Riveter first appeared, and research has demonstrated the value of diverse representation on boards and on work teams. 

Some fields have been perceived as more difficult than others to enter. The financial services industry is one of them.

According to Catalyst, as of 2016, Canada’s financial industry is outpacing other sectors in terms of inclusion. Finance and insurance rank second in terms of women represented on boards (33%). Women comprise 60% of the workforce and are practically at parity in professional and mid-management jobs. Percent of women in senior manager roles is about 38%.

Banks and financial institutions are actively recruiting more talent from equity-seeking groups. The value of diverse voices has been proven. Studies show that gender and ethnic diversity within firms can increase financial performance above the industry median anywhere from 15% to 35%. So, what are the real challenges still facing women, and particularly women of colour and with other intersectionality? What is the next step for financial institutions? What are the barriers, where are the opportunities, who are the leaders and where are the allies? And, how can we use the success of FIs in diverse representation to leverage change in other areas? Should solutions include formal development and mentoring strategies to build pathways to executive and leadership positions?



Workshop Leaders: Diversity Stream





Rohini Bannerjee,
Professor, Saint Mary's University

Dr. Rohini Bannerjee, born and raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, daughter of immigrants from Himachal Pradesh, India, is an Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies in the Department of Modern Languages & Classics at Saint Mary's University. Rohini is a woman scholar of colour who serves as a Faculty Member in the Asian Studies and Graduate Women & Gender Studies programs and as Graduate Coordinator for the International Development Studies program. Rohini’s primary research focuses on the literatures and cultures of the Francophone Indian Ocean. She is currently President of the Saint Mary's University Faculty Union and Vice-Chair of Senate.



Loreli Buenaventura, Head of Learning, Talent and Diversity & Inclusion for HSBC Canada

Loreli Buenaventura has advanced the inclusion goals of leading Canadian organizations at the community, national and global levels, including KPMG, Scotiabank and RBC.  She also helped launch TRIEC’s Mentoring Partnership Program – recipient of the Canadian Urban Institute Award for Leadership in City Initiatives, and often draws from her seasoned early career in media and public relations.  Currently, Loreli is Head of Learning, Talent and Diversity & Inclusion for HSBC Canada and an Associate with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI), working with HR and business leaders to integrate inclusion, innovation and diversity of thought as a strategic advantage.

An inspired collaborator, Loreli specializes in inclusive leadership development, change management, innovation and inclusion communications, the latter based on an established early career in media and public relations. A seasoned bilingual speaker, she is recognized for dynamic presentations that have motivated audiences to catalyze for positive change. As a freelance writer, her works have appeared in The Globe and Mail, CBC Radio and Body and Soul magazine. Loreli holds a Masters of Arts degree in Sociology and Equity Studies from the University of Toronto and is a professional coach currently completing her Accredited Coach Certification with the International Coach Federation. 

Loreli is also passionate about holistic health and in aligning individuals to their life purpose. She is one of few practitioners in Canada certified to provide health and lifestyle counseling in Ayurveda – one of the world's oldest medical and healing systems which dates back to India more than 3,000 years. Originally from Winnipeg, Loreli currently resides in Toronto where she also supports the overall health, life and career goals of students and clients alike through her private practice in Yoga, Ayurveda and professional coaching.



Beth McCormack, MBA
Academic Chair, NSCC

Beth McCormack is currently an Academic Chair with the School of Business and Creative Industries at NSCC’s Ivany campus. Prior to this role, she was a Community Innovation Lead where she had the opportunity to work with local companies and assist them with exploring opportunities to work with NSCC in a variety of capacities including applied research, training, student and graduate employment and more.  Beth was also the Industry Liaison Officer and Manager of Entrepreneurship at NSCC.  

Previous to her work at NSCC, Beth assisted entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia with the start-up and continued operations of their businesses and has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs in a variety of fields including food services, legal, accounting, trades, animal care, health and wellness and more. Beth also has 10+ years’ experience working in corporations including Emera and Imperial Oil.  

Having been raised in in an entrepreneurial family in rural Nova Scotia, Beth has since gone on to obtain an undergraduate degree in Business from Acadia University and an MBA from Saint Mary’s University.  



Eni-Oto Toluwani Familusi, MFIN

Eni-Oto is the host of The Walk Through podcast. After graduating with Master of Finance program from Saint Mary’s university, Eni-Oto has been educating herself to ensure she stays relevant by taking Wall Street Prep courses. She is passionate about volunteering and currently, she volunteers as a student Ambassador at BNI: Business Network International, Bedford And Beyond chapter.

Workshop 2. Women Fintech and Venture Capital Financing

 We aim to expose the invisible barriers of work culture, stereotypes, expectations and assumptions that prevent women and people of colour from engaging in fintech careers. What inclusive processes can be implemented to make real change? We also hope to reveal practical tools that women can use in the entrepreneurial and investing spaces.

Challenges faced by women building a career in technology are well documented. According to UNESCO, averaged across regions, women accounted for less than a third (28.8%) of those employed in scientific research and development (R&D) across the world in 2015.

Women have been scarce in financial technology (fintech) as employees, founders and investors. This is slowing the industry down. Deloitte calls fintech “an industry founded for men, run by men, making products for men.”

The “capital barrier” is another hurdle for women in Fintech, especially women driving startups. Dr. Ellen Farrell has conducted research indicating a qualitative difference in questions asked of women founders versus men founders by VCs (venture capital investors) of all genders. More questions are asked of women relating to protecting against risk and stabilizing, where men get asked about growth potential. It is postulated that these differences affect the investment offered. Will increasing the number of women investors improve the situation? Is the solution to show women how to manage these questions, framing their response as if they’d been asked one of the forward-momentum questions typically asked of men?

Fintech is one of the most rapidly changing areas within financial services, and like every frontier, it can feel like the cowboys run the place. There are suggested solutions in the ecosystem, including “crossover hiring”. So, how do women and minorities get into the rodeo? What are the barriers, where are the opportunities, who are the leaders and where are the allies? What are the wider experiences of women founders in fintech?


UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Fact Sheet No. 51: Women in Science (2018) 

Workshop Leaders: Venture Capital and Financial Technology






Ellen Farrell, PhD
Professor, Sobey School of Business

Dr. Ellen Farrell is Professor in the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University, and Co-director of the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship & Innovation (MTEI) degree.  She is a scholar, a professor, an entrepreneur, an investor, a recipient of venture capital, and a creator of theory-backed action plans.  Having studied at the University of Nottingham, her research specialties are in venture capital and entrepreneurial ecosystem network theory. 

Dr. Farrell is one of the six-person founding team for the Master Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation, SMU’s Venture Capital Program, and the undergrad Entrepreneurship degrees at SMU.  Her work with business angels, leading a team of scholars in a network theory overview of knowledge creation and venture capital in the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the same time the region was recognized as the world’s leading ecosystem in the Activation Phase by Start-up Genome in 2019.  Her current work with high-performing women seeking venture capital is expected to change the way entrepreneurship is taught. 

Ellen is most recently recognized for leading the Venture Grade: Student VC Fund to a first place tie, and a second-place finish (undergraduate students) at the international Venture Capital Investment Competitions in Boston.  Students beat Yale, Dartmouth, Babson, NYU, Tufts and MIT. 

She has been the recipient of the Reverend William A. Stewart Medal for Teaching Excellence, SMU’s top teaching award, and she was twice recognized as one of the top-five mentors in Canada awarded by the Business Development Bank of Canada. 

Ellen is an evangelist for an entrepreneurial economy in the Atlantic Region by initiating key conferences such as the Early Stage Venture Capital: Workshop for Policy Makers and numerous Entrepreneurial Ecosystem conferences that spawned insight and change in the region.


Danielle Brewin Graham
Principal at Sandpiper Ventures

Danielle is a co-founder and Investment Principal at Sandpiper Ventures, the first all women-founded VC fund in Canada, unlocking women's capital for women-led teams. She is also a Venture Partner within the Archangel Network of Funds. 

Danielle has been active in the tech ecosystem, first as a consultant for Deloitte and then as the Women in Tech Manager for Communitech and Market Readiness Fund Manager for OCE. Danielle founded the Fierce Founders programs, the first female-focused accelerator and bootcamp series in Canada. 

Danielle holds a Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Wilfrid Laurier University, a Masters of Arts (M.A.) from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Trinity College, University of Toronto.   


Eva Lau
Founding Partner, Two Small Fish Ventures

Eva is a well-respected entrepreneur-turned-investor and one of the few women leading a venture fund in Canada. She is the Founding Partner of Two Small Fish Ventures, a venture fund that invests globally in early-stage, transformative tech companies with strong network effects. 
Before starting Two Small Fish Ventures, she was Wattpad’s Head of Community and Content. She helped nurture and scale Wattpad from its infancy to become one of the largest online communities with tens of millions of monthly users around the world. With a sharp focus on investing companies with strong network effect as their defensibility, Eva has created the ASSET framework that many entrepreneurs and accelerators have adopted in their developing business strategies. Eva is regarded as an expert in this area. 

Eva is also involved in many incubators and accelerators, such as Creative Destruction Lab at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery, Ryerson’s DMZ, University of Waterloo’s Velocity and Techstars.? 

Eva has a bachelor degree in Industrial Engineering from University of Toronto and an MBA from Schulich School of Business. 


Holly Foxall, MTEI'20
Peer Ledger Inc.; Founder, We Worthy Women

Holly Foxall is an optimist and a feminist, and believes that her time and energy is best spent working on initiatives that have a positive impact on the world.? 

Holly graduated from Queen’s University with a B.Sc. in Environmental Science, and recently completed a Masters in Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation at Saint Mary’s University, where she wrote her thesis on gender and entrepreneurship funding. Holly currently works at Peer Ledger - a female-founded technology start up that helps companies track and report human rights initiatives, climate change metrics, and responsible sourcing along their supply chain. 

Holly is incredibly passionate about gender equality and women empowerment, and is the co-founder of a non-profit called We Worthy Women. With a community of over 10,000 members, We Worthy Women encourages individuals to empower themselves and each other, and highlights issues that are relevant to the rights of women and girls around the world. We Worthy Women was started with the understanding that the empowerment of women through full and equal participation and representation has a direct impact on the sustainable growth, prosperity, and peace of a society.? 

Holly is excited to continue pursuing her passion for gender equality and women empowerment through research and community-based initiatives at We Worthy Women and beyond.? 


Mrugakshee Palwe
CEO and Co-Founder, Atlantic Blockchain Company Inc.

Mrugakshee is a Tech Entrepreneur and the co-creator of Go Full Crypto. After graduating with a computer science degree in 2018, Mrugakshee knew that entrepreneurship was her calling. She started a company in November of 2018 that led to the formation of Go Full Crypto in 2020 - a financial technology product simplifying the adoption of cryptocurrency. 

Stephanie Fitzner

Stephanie Fitzner
Consultant, Operations Transformation, Deloitte

Stephanie is a management consultant in Deloitte's Operations Transformation practice in Halifax with experience in the finance industry, including corporate banking, portfolio management and venture capital. She has worked with a range of financial services and public sector clients to help them develop strategy and improve operations.

Stephanie received her Bachelor of Commerce with majors in Finance and Economics from Saint Mary's University in 2018.

Stephanie is also a board-member for Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia and gives voice to JA Alumni and current participants.

Workshop 3. Women and Corporate Social Responsibility in Finance

 We hope to unearth concrete ways that women can help use the tools of the industry to increase corporate social responsibility and leverage their abilities and early success of women in their ESG expertise.

In the beginning, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was perceived by many (including business leaders) as a PR opportunity. In an age of climate change and #metoo, businesses are coming to understand that incorporating sustainability, ethics, responsible management and social equity into their core business is going to be a requirement going forward. CSR has evolved into a required model of Ethics, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) as a criterion for attracting institutional capital and high valued employees. Furthermore, responsible investing is a frontier that women have successfully captured.

Women are widely recognized as effective champions of ESG:

  • A growing body of research suggests that having more women in the boardroom leads to better corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance.
  • After controlling for key factors that might influence the amount of donations, including financial performance, company size, and industry, the presence of women leaders in Fortune 500 companies still has a significant, positive effect: more women leaders is correlated with higher levels of philanthropy.
  • Sustainable finance roles appear to reveal a new gender dynamic with executive roles in asset management won by women as ESG assets climb. Recent data indicates 44% of the top ESG roles are filled by women.

What unique ESG tools are available in the Financial Services industry (responsible investing / impact investing, microcredit, etc) and how can these be turned to helping women and minority peoples? Whose ethics are promoted? How can tools like impact investing help the industry become more inclusive? What are the barriers, where are the opportunities, who are the leaders and where are the allies?


Workshop Leaders: Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental / Social / Governance





Meghan Brodmann, MBA'20
Consultant, Common Good Solutions

Meghan Brodmann is a Consultant at Common Good Solutions, a social enterprise based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. She works firsthand with clients to build capacity and develop purpose-led solutions through business and community developmentMeghan is passionate about social enterprise and social innovation’s potential to transform systems and create a more just world. She has supported a variety of organizations that seek to have positive social impact, including the United Way as a Youth Board Member, Net Impact as a Chapter Leader and has been actively involved with planning the Sobey Women in Business Conference! Meghan holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Development from Dalhousie University and an MBA from Saint Mary’s University.  


Sarah Chapman
Global Head of Sustainablity, Manulife

Sarah Chapman has just assumed the role of Global Head of Sustainability at Manulife. Formerly, Sarah was a Director within Deloitte’s Sustainability and Social Impact advisory practice, and led the National Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability team within Deloitte Canada. With extensive experience across the US and the Asia-Pacific region, Sarah specializes in building innovative purpose-driven, social impact strategies and programs that create shared economic and societal value. Sarah has a PhD in Corporate Responsibility, Social Impact and Shared Value. She is on the Board of Volunteer Canada and serves as the Co-Chair of the Canadian Council of Volunteering. Sarah also chairs the Toronto Impact 2030 Council.   


David Upton
CEO, Common Good Solutions

David Upton is the CEO of Common Good Solutions and Social Enterprise Institute, businesses that support entrepreneurs, organizations and governments make their mark on the world, helping them achieve their ultimate social, cultural or environmental impact. He works with community partners and stakeholders to build capacity in the social enterprise ecosystem provincially, nationally and internationally and believes social enterprise has the power to change the social fabric of communities for the better.

In his more than 30 years working with community-based organizations, David co-founded Common Good Solutions, became a founding member of the Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia, and was appointed as a member of the national Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-creation Steering Group. He is a member of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Social Innovation Committee, and has taught social finance as an adjunct faculty member in the University of Fredericton MBA Program. 



Alexandra McCann
Executive Director, ONSIDE

Alexandra “Alex” McCann is the Executive Director of ONSIDE, the Organization for Nova Scotia Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship, a not-for-profit organization leveraging collective impact to foster a prosperous Nova Scotia through inclusive innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE). Born out of a two-year long engagement with the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), ONSIDE aims to convene, connect and catalyze the IDE ecosystem in Nova Scotia.

See more


Share: Page Feedback