Diversity? Yes! Inclusivity? Not yet!
Canadian workforce: more exclusion than inclusion, prejudice is widespread
‘Highly diverse’ is a sunny and factual description of the Canadian workplace.
‘Dismal’ is the unfortunate and factual description of inclusivity in the Canadian workplace. How do we know this?
In one recent LinkedIn poll:
- 39 per cent of employees said their workplace still didn’t feel inclusive, despite the rise in visible corporate diversity, equity and inclusion committees and programs
- 27 per cent said their workplace was moderately more inclusive
- 19 per cent said it was minimally more inclusive
- 15 per cent said their workplace was much more inclusive
Systemic discrimination, racism, and bias (unconscious and conscious) are rampant
These sobering statistics inform us that systemic discrimination, racism, and personal bias (whether unconscious or conscious) run rampant in Canadian society. Citizens, immigrants and refugees continue to be excluded from equitable participation. Individuals frequently face discrimination if they belong to one or more marginalized groups. These groups include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, language, age, and their intersectionality.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies and programs: for or against
At innumerable Canadian dinner table conversations, hostility and opposition surface against measures to increase diversity and to promote equity. This perspective believes that DEI policies and programs accentuate differences, create divisions, and will lead to the break down of Canadian society.
Ironically, despite the various diversity and equity programs that exist, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) report despondency at the exclusion they experience. This situation will degenerate if the supports for DEI are abandoned. We must all accept that each and everyone of these people (and their descendants) are Canadians and are here to stay. Nurturing full participation and inclusion for all is the only logical way forward.
Canadian Identity: The need for safe, respectful dialogue
So how do we bridge this gap between competing visions of Canadian identity? How do we make Canada a welcoming and inclusive home for all? One emerging strategy is to create opportunities for safe, respectful, and meaningful dialogue.
DEI Training and facilitation: must address power, privilege, marginalization, and image shifts
Facilitated dialogue must be a key plank in any DEI training to create awareness and solutions to the personal biases we all carry. DEI training and professionally facilitated conversations need to include a mix of those who wield power and privilege and those who are marginalized. This fosters the necessary environment to shift personal images, biases, and behaviours.
Inclusivity must be integral to organizational culture, barriers must fall
While many companies have in-house DEI programs, sometimes the training reinforces differences. The best DEI training is often conducted by outside experts who bring fresh perspectives, objectivity, and a commitment to identify key diversity and inclusion barriers.
Rather than DEI training being an organizational check mark, the training should be ongoing and not sporadic in order for inclusivity to become part of a company’s culture.
The business case: exceed financial goals and attract and retain employees
The business case for a culture of inclusion is that it will attract and retain employees that are more engaged and committed, and enjoy greater well-being in their lives. These companies are more likely to be innovative, high performing, achieve better business outcomes, and exceed financial targets.
The global competition for highly skilled immigrants
In a global context, Canada is perpetually competing against other countries to attract highly skilled workers. These prospective Canadians may otherwise immigrate to countries where they feel they will enjoy greater inclusivity and quality of life. Many of those who do come here are woefully underutilized due to system discrimination.
Transformational leadership and system change
Canada needs visionary and transformational leaders who implement whole system change. This means that:
- the leadership must direct their organizations to utilize effective DEI training.
- the emphasis is on cultural competence, awareness of global perspectives and the impact of demographic changes.
Only then can these organizations continue to attract, promote, and retain highly skilled workers from the around the globe.
The content, aims, and training delivery of the Diversity Learning Circles (DLC) course encompass all of the preceding factors and more.
What are diversity learning circles?
- Diversity Learning Circles are facilitated conversations to advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in a “circle” of teaching, learning, and action.
- The 3-day interactive course is followed by four weeks of self study and reflection.
- Participants develop an Action Plan to answer the question: “What can I immediately do to identify and address systemic racism, systemic discrimination, and unconscious bias to build alliances in employment, economic, political, cultural, and social institutions?”
- Facilitators broaden the discussions on systemic discrimination in relation to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, religion, culture, and language as well as how they can intersect.
- Participants engage in powerful image shift exercises which bring them to their own understanding of how to move from being a passive bystander to an active agent of change.
- The course utilizes ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) methodology to facilitate experiential learning.