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DiversityInc Leadership Profiles: Zabeen Hirji, Royal Bank of Canada

Zabeen Hirji took a job at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in 1977 while she was pursuing her MBA at Simon Fraser University. And she has never left.

Zabeen Hirji took a job at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in 1977 while she was pursuing her MBA at Simon Fraser University. And she has never left.

Up until 10 years ago, she worked on the business side of the bank, including retail banking, operations and the credit-card division. Hirji was appointed senior vice president of human resources at RBC, Canada's largest bank, in 2001. She helps drive the company's diversity strategy with its focus on talent, workplace, clients and community.

Hirji was born in Tanzania and moved to Canada with her widowed mother in 1974, when she was 14. (Her father died in a car accident.)

"I think my mother and my grandmother showed me that a dream-big-and-take-action-to-get-there mindset, coupled with focus and a sense of confidence, can be great assets, especially when it comes to dealing with the many challenges of career, life and work," Hirji says. "They also taught me by example that this has to come with compassion, with a spirit of giving back."

Hirji, an Ismaili Muslim, gained a lot of public-speaking experience from the mosque. "I started speaking when I was around 5 years old, and to this day, I still do," she says. "Now I'm speaking about careers and also women in leadership."

Her East Indian grandmother—who taught herself how to read—also taught Hirji how to speak Katchi, a traditional Indian language.

"My family has moved and adapted to different cultures and environments and thrived," Hirji says. "In many ways, that set the stage for my interest in diversity on a personal level."

RBC actively targets recent immigrants, women entrepreneurs, Canadian Aboriginals, the gay and lesbian community and people with disabilities, she says.

Today, women represent 40 percent of the executive positions at RBC and visible "minorities" are 14 percent. "We believe that to succeed, we must harness everyone's talents and energy and apply them to achieving our common goals," she says.

Click here to see this article as it originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of DiversityInc magazine.

The Conversation

Obama Reportedly Surprised by McCain's Eulogy Request

"We shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed," Obama said of McCain.

Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will pay tribute to Sen. John McCain during a Saturday funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral.

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Central American Mother Suing Trump Says ‘I Had Seen Officers Grab Little Children by Their Hair and Throw Them into Cells’

A Guatemalan mother says that she witnessed immigrant child abuse from officers and wants her daughter returned unharmed.


Perla Karlili Alemengor Miranda De Velasquez is an asylum-seeking mother from Guatemala who is suing the Trump administration for the return of her daughter.

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Coming off the heels of political chaos at the border, Americans are still feeling emotionally affected by Trump's family separation immigration policy.

According to the Washington Post, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant, called the Red Hen, while out to dinner with friends.

"The cheese course was already on the table" when the owner pulled her to the side and asked that she leave because of her political party's policies.

The Post reported that the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, politely refused to serve Sanders because "Sanders works for and defends an inhumane and unethical administration."

"I'm not a huge fan of confrontation," Wilkinson said. "I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals."

However, the decision to ask Sanders to leave seems to boil down to basic human ethics rather than because of her being simply a conservative.

Just last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen was heckled by a crowd of protesters while eating at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C.

According to CNN, Nielsen was sitting quietly in back of the MXDC Cocina Mexicana restaurant, not too far from the White House, when she began getting booed and sarcastically questioned:

"Aren't you a mother too?"

"How do you sleep at night?"

"Do you hear the babies crying?"

"If the kids don't eat in peace, you don't eat in peace."

Those are many examples of statements that seem to have less to do with being a Republican, and more to do with being undoubtedly immoral.

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney and political op-ed contributor for CNN, expressed similar observations regarding recent oppositions.

"Let's make it clear, this is not about asking someone to leave or heckling them simply because they are Republicans or conservatives," he wrote.

"That would be wrong. This is about targeting people who are very publicly involved in formulating and defending Trump's immoral policies."

Obeidallah pointed out that people didn't yell, "Get out of here because you're a Republican" but instead made chants that were specific to Trump's family separation immigration policy literally, "speaking truth to power."

Additionally, Trump is just a percentage point away from former President Richard Nixon when it comes to the total of Americans who want him impeached, according to Newsweek.

And though Sanders was offended by Wilkinson requesting that she leave by – ironically – writing, "I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so. Her actions say far more about her than about me," Wilkinson has no regrets.

"I would have done the same thing again," Wilkinson said. "We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one."

Starbucks: Don’t Close the Stores, Close Corporate Headquarters

Starbucks CEO has an epic fail in grappling with his racism problem. He is unprepared, and has no clue about how to be prepared. Don't expect this to end well.

In the aftermath of the racist incident in a Philadelphia Starbucks store, the company is going to close 8,000 Starbucks stores on May 29th for hastily prepared diversity training.

It's a mistake.

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Leaders of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo have resigned after racially charged photos, including one with a student in blackface, appeared on social media. But the one sporting blackface, identified by The Tribune as Kyler Watkins, may not face disciplinary action from the school, according to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong.

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Dope Whisperer Trump's Executive Order on 'Welfare' Is Another Dog-Whistle to Racists

How the master of fantasy facts' latest executive order perpetuates racist (and false) stereotypes about government-assistance recipients.


President Donald Trump quietly signed an executive order on Tuesday designed to make changes to public assistance programs in the United States. Per the president's outline, low-income Americans receiving assistance when it comes to food, housing and medical benefits must enter the workforce or potentially lose their benefits.

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