Q&A with Darlene Heenan, BMO

Tell us about yourself and what you do at BMO?  

I am a Director and Human Resources Business Partner in our Capital Markets division and have been working with BMO for 12 years. I started my career in telecommunications and moved into finance, holding progressively more senior leadership roles across Human Resources supporting various business leaders to shape and implement effective people strategies, lead organizational change initiatives and operational effectiveness. I am dedicated to bringing diversity and equality to the workforce through my strategic partnership with executives, senior leaders and employees in addition to my active involvement with our enterprise Black Professional Network and BMO Alliance for Women Employee Resource Groups. I am also a dedicated wife and mother of two teenagers, who is currently co-working full-time from home while they learn.

Why are you raising your voice for women’s health at Women for Women’s? 

I fundamentally believe that a woman’s health is essential to her personal well-being and with the heightened challenges that have arisen with COVID, it has become critically important to remain focused on health. We have all been adapting to the accelerated pace of change, and uncertainty can have an enormous impact on the lives of our colleagues, family and community. Taking care of our overall wellbeing, and our mental health in particular, has never been more important. As a Human Resources professional, wife and mother, I am empathetic to the unique societal and business challenges women face, which can contribute to increased health implications if not effectively managed. Some women are at a loss or are reluctant to speak up or seek out help regarding their health. For this reason, I raise my voice.

In your professional career, what initiatives have you seen that have helped to create equity for women in the workplace?  

At BMO, we have implemented several strategic initiatives that support equity, equality and inclusion for women, including:

Returnship Programs, such as our Return to Bay Street and Back2Business programs, which provide experienced women with an opportunity to transition back into the financial services industry after an extended absence of their choice, through a one-year paid internship. We support the development and advancement of their careers by assigning mentors who are focused on helping them succeed in the program, and in their efforts to transition back to professional life.

Recently, we implemented a Parental Leave Support Program focused on addressing the critical factors impacting maternity and parental leaves, with the goal of improving the end-to-end experience, and ultimately retaining more women at mid-to-senior levels of the organization.  Specifically, the program is founded on core principles which provide open and supportive dialogue between the manager and employee, with high touch engagement and support from HR and assurance that one’s client or trading portfolio are secure during their leave. 

We also have an enterprise Sponsorship Program, which accelerates the progression of high potential women into more senior roles through a community of senior level sponsors. The program is a year-long pairing between the protégé and their senior level sponsor, with HR, to discuss the protégé’s progress and provide required support. The program is protégé led based on their individual objectives, which are informed by their career aspirations and a leadership assessment. The sponsor advocates for their protégé’s advancement and success, identifies their stretch opportunities, facilitates key business introductions and becomes actively involved in their career.

Finally, we have employee led ERG Initiatives such as BMO Alliance 4 Women (BA4W), which is a community of employees who champion the inclusion, connection, development, advancement, and support of women for the betterment of BMO’s business, communities and culture. BA4W offers many learning opportunities through panels and events that feature speakers who address common challenges women face in the careers and provide pragmatic tools and insightful thought leadership on how to balance career and family. Mentorship opportunities through the ERG are an invaluable way to connect women across lines of business, network, and engage in their development at a grassroots level.

Tell us more about why BMO has chosen to support Women’s College Hospital? 

Given BMO’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, we know that it is critically important to bring leaders together to learn about, talk about and support the future of health for women.