How Organizations Can Foster Diversity, Reduce Racial Inequality, and Create Inclusive Workplaces
In 1995, the House of Commons designated the month of February as Black History Month in an effort to purposefully recognize the many ways that Black Canadians have contributed to our country’s development and cultural footprint. Canada prides itself on being a multicultural nation that embraces people’s differences, and Black History Month provides a vital platform for all Canadians to reflect on our country’s diversity, work to strengthen multicultural inclusion, and acknowledge that we can do better. GCNC would like to recognize and communicate the importance of Black History Month, especially as it relates to upholding the UN Global Compact’s principles on human rights and reducing inequality within and among countries (Sustainable Development Goal 10).
The turbulence of 2020 made clear for many in Canada that systemic racism and racial discrimination persist and require significant action by all members of society to overcome. For the business community in Canada, a number of organizations signed on to the Black North Initiative, a coordinated effort by the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism to improve representation of Black Canadians in leadership roles and hold corporate Canada accountable for eliminating systemic racism. Creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces is crucial: In 2020, Ryerson’s Diversity Institute published Diverse Representation on Boards, an examination of the composition of almost 10,000 Board of Director members across Canada, and found that Black individuals comprise 6% of the population but only hold 2% of Board of Director positions; the figures are even lower for Black women. In 2017, the Black Experience Project, a study on the lived experiences of approximately 400,000 individuals who self-identify as Black or have African heritage in the Greater Toronto Area (almost half of Canada’s Black population), found that one-third of Black workers experienced racism, discrimination, or a hostile organizational culture which undermined their professional aspirations and performance.
There are a number of ways that organizations can foster diversity and create inclusive workplaces where employees or workers of different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual identities, disabilities, and socio-economic statuses can succeed.
- Create or develop an intentional, purpose-driven organizational culture that explicitly prioritizes respect, wellbeing, and empowerment, especially for those with intersectional identity factors.
- Set ambitious but realistic diversity and inclusion targets with accountability mechanisms and checks and balances to allow for adjustments and the development of new policies, practices, and training to support the realization of these goals.
- Identify any gender or racial wage gaps using an intersectional lens and create a plan to achieve pay equity. Racialized women, in particular, experience a wider wage gap which influences their socio-economic status and can perpetuate cycles of poverty or discrimination.
- Avoid performative allyship or disingenuous activism; instead, engage meaningfully in dialogue about your organization’s racial equality challenges and the solutions that can be implemented, especially including those in leadership positions or with decision-making power.
- Produce transparent internal and external communications that work to bridge any disconnect that may exist between your organization’s commitment to equality and diverse employees’ lived experiences. Share your success stories as well as how you will remedy any shortcomings.