First woman bank manager in Canada

Shirley GilesIn 1944, when Shirley Giles became a teller for the Bank of Nova Scotia (now known as Scotiabank), an assistant accountant said, “That’s as high as you’ll ever go.”

“Why do you say that?” Shirley asked.

“Well, that’s all girls ever do,” he replied.

In 1961, when Giles had climbed the ladder and was an assistant accountant, she got a call from her husband who was also working at Scotiabank, telling her she was wanted at the head office.

A mystified Shirley was ushered into the assistant general manager ‘s office.

“We’re thinking of appointing a woman branch manager,” he told her.

“Isn’t that nice: He’s asking my opinion,” she thought.

“That’s a wonderful idea!” she said.

“I’m glad you think so,” he said. “Would you like the job?”

“Yes,” Shirley said. “I’ll take it.”

One other woman was asked the same question later, which makes Giles the first female bank manager in Canada.

Giles, now a Leaside resident, did not get the discrimination inside and out that one might have expected in those years. In fact, it was remarkably little, she recalls.

She believes she earned her male colleagues’ respect with her work ethic.

“A few wives thought I was taking over their husband’s jobs,” says Giles. “Generally speaking, though, I didn’t suffer any major backlash.”

“I knew I could do it,” she says. “I never made a bad loan and I was a darn good lender.”

She was also aware of herself as a trailblazer. “I really felt I had to make good. All eyes were on me.”

Giles and her husband have lived on Broadway Ave. since 1980. “We’ve had many offers to sell but why should we? We love our neighbours and our neighbourhood.”