Lena Barreto is a successful businesswoman with more than three decades of experience in the banking sector in Canada. She has worked at RBC for 18 years, where she currently holds the position of manager for the West Toronto area, as well as being deeply involved with social organizations in the Portuguese Canadian community. Her experience in the corporate world over the years give her a clear vision of the work environment and the way employees and customers are treated, and she highlights the importance to push to establish Equity, Diversity & Inclusion practices.
In her corporate email, the manager adhered to the use of the pronouns She / Her, which she considers to be another step that organizations should adopt to facilitate the employees identification with the gender they identify. Currently, several companies, from different sectors, adopt this practice to avoid assumptions and leave people free to choose to be called the way they see themselves and feel most comfortable.
In this interview, Lena Barreto shared her views on the evolution of the labor market in dealing with issues such as gender identity and acceptance, how companies can evolve in this aspect and made a point of highlighting her vision that: when we are allowed to ultimately be on the outside what our inside is telling us then we become the best version of ourselves.
Milénio Stadium: Some big companies are increasingly adopting the practice of adding individual pronouns in email signatures or ID video calls via Zoom, as new gender policies, which aim the social inclusion of non-binary or transgender people. Canadian banks are an example of this. How was this process at RBC?
Lena Barreto: Canadian banks as leading employers globally have a responsibility of adapting to changing environments. The push to establish Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) in our society has been one of the driving forces behind this change and possibly more changes coming. Our history has shown that there are unbalances in the world and that a shift must happen to equalize some of the societal issues we face. As more and more conversations like this one occur and we listen to understand, then we will be closer to creating a world where there is fairness and respectful treatment of all. More organizations should look inwards and assess their values as it pertains to EDI, as a positive move, because the 1st step to making a change is accepting that something is not quite right.
MS: In your case, did this new policy have any impact on your relationship with customers?
LB: I work and also assist many individuals that do not fall in to traditional gender descriptions and I’ve been privileged to learn their story, which in turn allowed me to be a better advocate to push for understanding and acceptance of all people regardless of how they identify themselves.
MS: In relation to your co-workers? Do you have an episode you can share?
LB: Yes, as I mentioned I have experience in working with colleagues who are transgender, thus allowing themselves to be true to who they are. My experience taught me that when we are allowed to ultimately be on the outside what our inside is telling us then we become the best version of ourselves. It’s difficult to articulate accurately but I can say that this person was already great, and with the change they became so much happier. I also believe that anyone who has to carry this feeling of not being able to truly be themselves must be a burden like no other.
MS: As a successful businesswoman, how do you assess the issue of social inclusion, and the changes that will be necessary, including the job market, to non-binary or transgender people, feel more integrated?
LB: Traditional roles in every sense of the word are gone, let’s not live in the past. Every work place needs to integrate Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to better understand how their organizations can learn so that the population of our non-binary, transgender and pretty much our LGBTQ+ and our BIPOC population are supported and integrated.
MS: Do you think that other Canadian sectors/organizations should also adopt this pronoun inclusion policy?
LB: I think the adopting of the pronoun is a personal choice and one that every organization should make available to their employees should they choose to use the pronoun. For me it’s a personal choice that I choose to be identified as She/Her, and while I’ve had a few contacts reach out and ask why I do this, it provided me the opportunity to share why.