Getting it Right – Diversity & Inclusion at Work (Part 1)

I published an article last week titled, “Current State on Diversity & Inclusion at Work“, where I talked about a fantastic research paper that Culture Amp and Paradigm teamed up on. I talked about the idea that improving employee sense of belonging positively impacts employee engagement and busines outcomes. While diversity is extremely important, inclusion is what drives business success. I know it’s not as black and white as that but you can have an extremely diverse workforce working in a workplace that is not one bit inclusive. Diversity is the mix, and inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.

This article, part 1 of of a 2-part series, is specifically about getting diversity right. I work in the Canadian tech industry and we are all talking about diversity and inclusion, which is awesome. I’m proud to be associated with this conversation, and hopefully to play a small part in pushing our industry forward. Toronto-based StackAdapt is one of many tech companies leading the diversity and inclusion conversation. Spend some time watching their new documentary, Diversity in Tech #hackdiversity.

What did you think of it? I think the video does a fantastic job at getting different perspectives on the issue of diversity and inclusion. It focuses on many of the real and systemic issues facing our industry today. But (you knew it was coming)… I think it falls a little bit short on something that I have observed to be a trend in recent content on the topic.

The Shortfall…

It is very important for all of us to understand what diversity means within the context of work. I have always gone to RBC for leadership in this area because they explain things in a very clear way. According to RBC, diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. It means respect for and appreciation for differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education and religion. In Ontario, these differences are called “protected grounds” via the Ontario Human Rights Code.

While the Code is clear on what it protects there is much more that differentiates people at work. Diversity includes our different perspectives, work experiences, education, life-styles, cultures, political beliefs, how we solve problems, and any other factor that differentiates us as people.

While the video talks about a handful of protected grounds (e.g. sexual preference, gender and ethnicity) it leaves out many. Personally, I have a severe hearing disability and speech impediment but the video did not mention people with disabilities. For the record, I am not criticizing the video, I am simply trying to promote and further the conversation. It’s important and we need to have an honest, open and even uncomfortable conversation in order to fix the problem that we have.

Yes we have more work to do to in terms of our understanding of diversity at work, but we can only make progress if we start having the conversation. We can’t “boil the ocean overnight” and I’m very proud of the efforts StackAdapt has made with this video. Many other Toronto tech companies have also jumped into the diversity and inclusion conversation, such as, Hubba, Shopify, Tulip Retail and MaRS to name a few. As a passionate and invested member of the tech community, I am truly supportive of where this conversation is going, and I ask that everyone continue to open their minds to what diversity really means.

Think about what all of this means. Please share your thoughts and ask me questions. Stay on top of current content from leading organizations like Venture Out, Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, Information Technology Association of Canada, BetaKit and Techvibes, to name a few.

Part 2 of this series will focus on inclusion, which I believe to be more difficult to understand and conquer, and is one of the key driving factor behind highly successful organizations.

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