Scotiabank and Catalyst Take Aim at Mexico’s ‘Concrete’ Ceiling

Bank of Nova Scotia wants to break through what Chief Executive Officer Richard Waugh calls a “concrete” ceiling that has prevented women in Mexico from advancing in business.

“The barriers faced by women in business internationally are enormous,” Waugh, said in an e-mailed statement. “In Mexico, the ceilings were not glass but concrete.”

Canada’s third-largest bank plans to donate C$500,000 ($486,000) to help nonprofit research group Catalyst establish a presence in the Latin American country. New York-based Catalyst, which investigates ways to expand opportunities for women in business, will use the funds over a five-year period. Waugh is chairman of Catalyst Canada’s advisory board.

Greater gender diversity can lead to a more productive Mexican economy in a culture that has traditionally relied on men in the top positions, said Nicole Reich de Polignac, chief executive officer of Scotiabank Mexico, whose staff is 53 percent women.

“Mexico still has a long way to go in terms of advancing women,” de Polignac said in an interview in Toronto.

Scotiabank, which runs Mexico’s seventh-largest bank, promoted de Polignac to head of the unit in 2007, making her the first female bank CEO in the Latin American country. None of Canada’s eight publicly-traded banks have had a female CEO.

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