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Western team members talk about what diversity means to them

April is Celebrate Diversity Month, a time to celebrate and acknowledge our differences, including social and ethnic backgrounds, different genders, and sexual orientations. By celebrating our differences, we hope that we will better understand each other. Celebrate Diversity month began in 2004 and is now widely observed in April.

In their own words, here is what diversity means to some of our team members:

Justin (Pande) Negara, CAIB
Team Lead – Vancouver Island Region
Western Financial Group

My name is Justin, and I am originally from Bali, Indonesia. Growing up in a very conservative family, I knew that I was different at a very young age. I came to Canada and have been in Canada for over 15 years as a refugee. I fled my home country because of persecution based on my sexual orientation. It is not safe to be a young gay man where I grew up. So, I left and never looked back. I left everything and everyone that I have ever known just to be safe being who I am.

As a proud Canadian gay man, diversity means that I get treated equally and equitably regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression as well as sex characteristic (SOGIESC). Diversity also means that I have a safe place to be myself and be with others like me. Diversity also means that I matter, and I am seen.

Esther Omale, CAIB (Hons)
Insurance Advisor-Personal Lines
Western Financial Group

Diversity to me is the ability of individuals from different backgrounds regardless of gender, race, age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc., living or working together in harmony. Where each individual or group is given equal opportunity to be seen, their voices heard, and opinions respected even if we disagree.

I read a quote attributed to the 15th governor general of Canada, which sums up diversity for me. He said people “Should retain their individuality and each make their contribution to the national character. Each could learn “from the other and while they cherish their own special loyalties and traditions, they cherish not less that new loyalty and tradition which springs from their union.” --John Buchan, governor general 1935-1940

Roxanne Clark
Leader, Personal Insurance Sales & Service Centres (Network)
Western Financial Group

To me, diversity is simply an opportunity to benefit from various viewpoints and embrace the learning of something new or perhaps unknown to us.

As humans, we can all benefit to learn different perspectives on life, values, and beliefs. Having a diverse team has certainly helped me grow as a manger in my work environment.

We all have characteristics that make us unique – let’s celebrate them and each other!

Wade Wiley-Ross
Co-ordinator, Credit Handling and Branch Support
Western Financial Group

Diversity to me is a complex, yet a simple topic. Simply put, it’s all about recognizing that each individual is unique, more importantly, celebrating that! Diving deeper, diversity allows each of us the opportunity to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. When we empower people by respecting and appreciating their unique qualities, we all stand to benefit in immeasurable ways. I’m so proud to be a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Council and to co-chair the Pride ERG here at Western!

Deanna Govan
PL Sales & Services Centres Leader
Western Coast Insurance Services

Diversity, to me, means having an opportunity to recognize the value of all individuals, regardless of our similarities or differences. Having a diverse group of individuals in my life has actually made me realize that there are often more similarities than differences when we get a mix of us in a room. I have a genuine interest in finding out more about people who are different from me. I think diversity is really about getting to know people and appreciating them for what makes them unique.

James Hall
Director Personal Insurance
Western Financial Group

I believe that anyone – regardless of their physical traits or personal affiliations – can develop the skills necessary to be a valuable member of Western’s team. It’s up to us to look past those things and realize that, in fact, we are stronger when we are together.

Kristy Rachkowski
Vice President, People Services
Western Financial Group

Diversity for me is about consciously surrounding ourselves with people who are different than we are. We all have our own unique experiences and are shaped by our:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • National Origin & Cultural Identity
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Religious Beliefs
  • Disabilities etc.

We all bring different views, experiences, and opinions to the table. Being surrounded by diversity, and being open to others helps to broaden our perspectives so we can learn and challenge ourselves to evolve. By being more diverse, we can move closer to ensuring a more inclusive environment where people can truly feel that they belong and are valued.

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