Jean Agnes Hird

At a time when the upper echelons of banking were the domain of men, Jean Hird broke the glass ceiling to become one of the first women to be appointed a manager of a Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada (CIBC) in Manitoba. In 1970, she was appointed the officer in charge of opening of a sub-branch at 55 Nassau Street in Winnipeg and then became the manager.

Perseverance, determination and hard work accounted for Hird’s rise to branch manager. In the beginning there were a few clients who were reluctant to have a woman help them deal with issues of higher finance but her competence and interest in her clients soon won them over. Hird says “I remember having customers look at me straight in the face, asking to speak with the manager, not believing me when I told them that I was the manager.”

When Hird became manager, it did not mean that she was treated as an equal in all respects. The salary for a female manager was not equal to that of the male managers. Males could contribute to their pension fund, but women could not. Hird was a determined advocate to have this changed, not only for managers but for all female staff.

Starting in the bank in 1950 in Treherne and then Portage La Prairie, she transferred to Winnipeg in 1956 and was appointed to a management position as an accountant. To keep up with changes in the banking industry, Hird attended many courses for senior managers and obtained the prestigious title Fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers in 1974.

In 1973, Hird joined Soroptimist International of Winnipeg and was a member for 45 years. She was a director of the Soroptimist Foundation of Canada and regional treasurer for many years. In 2003 she received the Volunteer of the Year Award and in 2013 the Soroptimist International Western Canada Region award for 40 years of outstanding volunteerism.

For more than 20 years, Hird volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society. In 2001, she received the International Year of the Volunteer Award and a Citation of Merit in 2010. Hird also volunteered for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for five years. She worked in community relations with the Winnipeg Police Force for 15 years. In 2001, she received the International Year of the Volunteer Award and in 2002 the Certificate of Appreciation for 1000 volunteer hours.

Hird canvassed for the Heart and Stroke Foundation for 20 years. She served as vice chair of the finance committee for the Festival of Trees for several years. She served on committees at Harstone Memorial United Church and then Crescent-Fort Rouge Church, serving on different committees for many years.

Jean was a trailblazer for the many women who now work in management positions in the bank. Her leadership and people skills demonstrated that women were equally capable of being leaders in the financial world. She has been an inspiration to many people through her work and volunteerism.

Image: 

Supplied