Girls Belong Here, an initiative at Plan International Canada, aims to close the gender gap and increase representation and gender diversity in key decision-making roles. Since 2016, Girls Belong Here has been creating opportunities for self-identifying girls, young women and gender-diverse youth to connect with leaders across civil, corporate, academic and government sectors. It is part of a global movement to amplify girls’ voices, advocate for their rights and elevate their position in society.

RBC has actively participated in the program since 2020, welcoming passionate and ambitious young women to learn and share with leaders across the organization. This year, Grade 12 student Evelyn Lee had the opportunity to spend a day with leaders at Canada’s largest bank. “It is so unique, especially for a high school student, to not only get career advice, but also gain the mentorship relationships and the opportunity to visualize yourself in one of these roles in the future,” says Evelyn.

Maria Douvas, RBC’s Chief Legal & Administrative Officer

While Evelyn learned a great deal from the RBC leaders she met, she made an equally strong impression on them in return.

“If Evelyn represents the next generation of leadership, we are in very good hands,” says Maria Douvas, RBC’s Chief Legal & Administrative Officer, who served as the executive sponsor for Evelyn’s day as a member of the bank’s Group Executive.

Four Big Things

Evelyn took a great deal away from her day with RBC and shared four key themes that resonated with her most.

1. People are everything

Evelyn’s first connection of the day was with Maria Douvas, RBC’s Chief Legal & Administrative Officer. Maria shared her career highlights and journey through to her current role as a member of RBC’s Group Executive, the highest executive table at the bank.

When asked about how Maria has overcome challenges or setbacks in her career, Maria shared that the ability to overcome adversity always comes down to having a strong support network. “She shared a quote: ‘Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.’ A lot of her advice revolved around surrounding myself with people who would empower me, who I could reciprocate with and then mutually grow with.”

Maria shared further insights with Evelyn based on her own personal experience: “You may encounter people who will tell you that you don’t belong. That’s a reflection of their narrow mindset, not you. Don’t let other people define you. Build a strong support network and stay close to the people in it.”

2. Communication is the lifeblood of any business

In her meeting with Gary Tamura, Vice President & Associate General Counsel, RBC Wealth Management & Insurance, Evelyn learned the importance of communication and being open to new opportunities. He shared that he actively seeks to improve upon personal areas of development (e.g. leadership, public speaking, etc.) and believes that it is important to be receptive to new challenges.   “He told me how he has worked internationally, including in Hong Kong and London, and how being able to communicate and perform in different settings among different cultures was what led him to thrive in all of them.”

Gary Tamura with Evelyn Lee and Anitta Raviraj

3. Don’t be afraid of hearing “no”

In her conversations with Flora Do, Vice President Investments, Transformation & Client Segments and Jodi Wright, Senior Director of Youth and Young Adult Client Strategy, Evelyn’s takeaway was to take risks, ask questions and have the courage to share your perspective. “Jodi emphasized that the worst thing people can say is no. You never know until you try.”

Evelyn Lee and Flora Do

4. Nothing is ever set in stone

With every individual Evelyn met with, none of their career journeys have been linear. “One of them even has a degree in healthcare – they all pivoted at some point in their life. I learned to never expect anything but always to dream big – don’t feel the pressure at a young age to set anything in stone.”

Evelyn Lee and mentors

Evelyn is currently fielding university acceptances and deciding on where she will continue her education next year. Over the long-term, she hopes to work in business as a management consultant as she thrives in fast-paced environments. She also hopes to incorporate her values of diversity, equity and inclusion in some way.

Following the Girls Belong Here program, she adds another objective for herself. “I aim to uphold a standard where I refuse to let any industry or encounter undermine my integrity. I learned from Maria to turn setbacks into motivation – so I hope in that regard, I can remain  a lifelong learner and grower.”

Evelyn Lee and mentors

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