RBC Pride is an employee-led and employee-fueled resource group with the goals of championing diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity for 2SLGBTQ+ employees and the broader community. With over 4,000 members across Canada, RBC Pride marries the grassroots needs of the community with the strategic direction for diversity and inclusion at RBC. Robb Ritchie and Tonya Currie are the national co-chairs of RBC Pride Canada and recently shared the work the ERG is doing within the organization and in the communities RBC serves, highlighting moments and milestones that have had a particularly meaningful impact.
A long-standing RBC employee, Robb Ritchie was part of the original group that came together nearly two decades ago to demonstrate why RBC needed to be the employer and financial institution of choice for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. RBC Pride evolved out of those early conversations and has been an Employee Resource Group ever since. While he has been involved in 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion-related activities for over 22 years, Ritchie says that RBC Pride provides a forum to continue the work within RBC and in the community. “I have benefited from the work of those who came before me and it is important to me to do the same by helping others step forward,” he says. “My own personal journey, combined with the birth of my husband’s and my son, reminds me why this work matters and why we need to create safe and inclusive spaces for everyone.
Tonya Currie has always been a strong advocate for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. “For me, it’s about making sure that everyone has a chance to have their voice heard and everyone is treated as equal,” she says of her involvement in the ERG. “Just thinking that people can be discriminated against or discounted solely based on how they identify is frankly disheartening to me. I want to make sure that I’m here to help everyone have that equal say.” In the national co-chair position, she feels it’s a perfect opportunity to help others step up and become advocates as well.
Regional, National and International Presence
At a national level, Pride works with corporate partners to help create the change they want to see across Canada. Their mentorship and recruitment programs are national initiatives, for example, which ensure they are connecting employees and candidates with individuals they can relate to and identify with. “Our responsibilities are both to enable local chapters but also provide a level of support to the enterprise, whether it be working with Global Diversity, HR or Marketing,” explains Ritchie.
The implementation of universal washrooms across Canada is one example of a national initiative Currie is particularly proud of. It was an initiative that began several years ago at the RBC Advice Centre, which is home to various business units across RBC. “We had employees experiencing anxiety because they didn’t know which washroom to use,” explains Currie. “So we created a path where we have universal washrooms available for all employees. Regardless of how they identify, they have a safe washroom to use. It is also inclusive for everyone with different abilities – so it’s not a gender-neutral washroom, it’s a universal washroom because everyone can use it and feel safe. “The initiative has since rolled out to all RBC workplaces in Canada.
She also highlights the 2SLGBTQ+ mentorship program at RBC, where mentees and mentors from across the country and across functional business teams help employees expand their network, connect with someone in a safe space and learn how to develop in their career. “Because we want to not just hire top talent from the community, but promote talent within the company as well,” says Currie.
In Canada there are Pride ERGs across the country set-up as regional chapters, as well as other Pride ERGs in other parts of North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. “We aim to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ identifying employees, education and resources for colleagues and an unwavering presence in our communities through volunteerism and community support,” explains Richie.
Making a Meaningful Community Impact
Part of RBC Pride’s presence in Canada includes giving back to the communities RBC serves shares Ritchie. “RBC supports a wide range of 2SLGBTQ+ film festivals. They also partner with 2SLGBTQ+ organizations to host advice events and provide space for 2SLGBTQ+ groups to come together, and bring thought leaders to different events. “What we really pride ourselves on, however, is not only supporting the community through sponsorships and RBC foundation gifts, but we also show up whether it’s walking in Pride parades, volunteering at 2SLGBTQ+ film festivals, leading national and regional 2SLGBTQ+ chambers, community clean-ups at 2SLGBTQ+ community centres, volunteering at community fundraisers… and so much more coast to coast to coast,” he adds.
The team has also supported many businesses, corporations and associations in creating safe and inclusive workspaces for all members and employees, and work very closely with schools and school boards. In fact, one of Currie’s proudest moments as a Pride member was the result of work with a school.
Having previously connected with a principal at a community event, the RBC Pride team received a call when their school needed their support. “The principal reached out to us because there was an incident in their playground where a boy was being targeted because he knew he was gay. We worked closely with the administration of that school to help educate them on how to create a safe and inclusive safe, what appropriate responses from teachers look like and educate on the importance of pronouns and gender identification,” recounts Currie. She adds that they facilitated connections and brought in an organization that specializes in anti-bullying work across elementary schools as well. “A beautiful moment for me was four years later when this boy sought us out – we were there for his graduation – and told us he didn’t feel safe coming to school until after we held one of our education sessions. He had felt such anxiety stepping out of his front door to go to school before we got there. It was personally a very proud moment to know we had that much impact.”
Community impact is very important for Pride members, as evidenced by the number of Pride ERG members and allies that march in the various Pride parades held across the country every year. “It’s a passion for our ERG members and allies to be part of the community,” says Currie. “And I think it’s critically important to be part of the community – that’s how we hear what’s working and where we need to provide support to create change. My main priority is to listen, and then take action and help others be heard.”
Ways and Whys to Get Involved
There are many ways to get involved in RBC Pride and many different levels of involvement available – whether it’s a desire to expand personal knowledge, expand a professional network, develop new skills or get involved to create change. “Some individuals join because they identify with the community,” explains Ritchie. “Others join perhaps because they may have a colleague or family member who identifies, or they might be a people leader or in a client servicing role and want to learn how to be inclusive with their language. And then we have those who join because they want to be part of something bigger. Participation can mean different things to different people.”
RBC Pride is a group that celebrates and advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion, and actively stands up for the 2SLGBTQ+ community at RBC and well beyond. Their impact within and outside the organization is significant and is an example of how individuals can come together to create tangible change. Says Richie: “Essentially, what we are striving to do is foster a true rainbow connection by bringing people together and creating space for many diverse voices across our community.”
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