#IC18 Spotlight: How You Can Champion Diversity And Inclusion In Your Workplace

June 21, 2018 | By: CVCA

CVCA’s annual conference, Invest Canada ‘18, held in Calgary on June 5-7, had a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion, with a half-day event designed to engage members in dialogue about this issue and support their inclusivity efforts.

Research shows that while companies have made positive strides in recent years to diversify their workforce, this diversity has yet to reach mid-level management and senior executive positions.

From being underrepresented in organizations to facing wage gaps, people with diverse backgrounds face numerous barriers. According to research by #MoveTheDial, in Canadian technology firms, women account for only 5 per cent of CEO roles, 13 per cent of executive team positions and 8 per cent of director roles.

While conversations about diversity often highlight gender, racial and sexual diversity, diversity encompasses numerous factors, many of which are not visible. In order to be truly diverse, panelists shared that a company must extend the inclusivity it shows during hiring practises into day-to-day operations of an organization.

“Many activities in companies revolve around drinking and games and that’s not inclusive for everyone,” says Salima Ladha, Head of People and Talent at iNovia Capital. “It’s good to have diverse teams planning events so they can consider this.”

Companies need to ensure that employees are truly being included. “When a female isn’t invited to a client meeting and she asks about it later, she’s either told: ‘Oh, I didn’t think you were interested,’ or ‘It was a dinner meeting and I thought you’d want to go home with your family,’” says Lori Pearson, Senior Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer, Brookfield Asset Management Inc. What was an unintentional act leaves a lasting impression. “What she hears is your contribution isn’t valid,” Pearson shares.

While bias such as this is often unconscious, people can be trained to recognize it. “In everything we do like manager training, we are incorporating this notion of being aware and proactive about biases,” says Pearson.

One way to overcome this bias is to design processes and programs that make it more fair for everyone. Carolyn Lawrence, Gender Leader, Inclusion and Diversity at Deloitte Canada says her company does this is by adding structures around where and how client meetings are held. “It’s the right thing to do to treat people fairly, but there’s also a business imperative that we need to highlight to keep people motivated,” Lawrence says.

Statistics consistently prove that diverse organizations perform better. Companies with the highest percentages of women directors regularly outperform those with the fewest women and experience a better return on equity. According to a report by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35 per cent likelier to outperform industry averages on financial returns.

In order to realize these benefits, inclusion needs to start from the top-down. “It’s going to be a long journey, but you just need a few steps from the right people that show its a priority for the organization and it will move you in the right direction,” says Caroline Côté, Manager, Funds Private Equity, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ).

An important consideration is how to involve everyone in creating diverse and inclusive companies. “What happens in this discourse is that white people think they should tap out but the most influential demographic has a role to play,” says Dave D’Oyen, Inclusion & Innovation Builder, Shopify. “If white men are left out of the discourse, then we have failed even before we have started.”

To close the session, panelists were asked to share their top tip on creating inclusivity. Here are their responses:

Lisa Melchior, Founder, VERTU Capital: Sponsorship is a key action. Find a high-potential person who is unrepresented traditionally and sponsor them by highlighting them even when they’re not in the room.

Dave D’Oyen, Inclusion & Innovation Builder, Shopify: Read this blog post I authored, which has ten things you can do to improve your inclusivity practise. A major consideration is that funders need to be aware of the different questions they ask men and women and how this impacts their funding decisions.

Salima Ladha, Head of People and Talent, iNovia Capital: Build networks outside of the referral networks that you have, so when it’s time to recruit, you have a diverse pool of candidates.

Caroline Côté, Manager, Funds Private Equity, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ): Reach out people to hear their problems or situation, and create a community where you can openly discuss. It’s important that this is done in a human and authentic way.

Lori Pearson, Senior Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer, Brookfield Asset Management Inc.: Everybody needs to own the issue of diversity – especially those at a senior level, who can be great advocates of change.

Carolyn Lawrence, Gender Leader, Inclusion and Diversity, Deloitte Canada: The highest impact thing you can do is to lead with inclusion, which means showing up and being inclusive in your leadership style.

“Diversity & Inclusion – TD Bank Presents: Perspectives from the Private Capital Industry” was moderated by Michelle Scarborough, Managing Director, Strategic Investments and Women in Tech, BDC Capital.

If you would like to submit an idea for content, contribute to an article, or are interested in submitting an op-ed, contact the CVCA’s editorial department here.