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Addressing Racism and Diversity in Corporate Canada

Canadian corporations have work to do when it comes to addressing systemic racism.

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Over this past year we have witnessed an uprising with regards to racial discrimination, inequality and lack of justice. It has opened my eyes to the systemic, pervasive racism and lack of diversity in many aspects of my life. I have decided not to stay silent on these issues, and that means opening up the discussion on how this impacts corporate Canada.

Global corporations and leadership have a responsibility to take action and do better for the world around us. As employers and global citizens, corporations and businesses set the tone and have major influence on people and the world. A singular voice or voice of a group of people is never as loud or as influential in making systemic change as that of a corporation and their dollars.

It doesn’t mean much to sign a paper “denouncing racism” as a corporation until you do the work that goes along with it. The work entails taking a look at your board, at your management, and your workforce and asking yourselves some deep and often uncomfortable questions: 

  • How are we contributing to this problem?
  • Are we truly living the values we’ve set out?
  • Are we diverse in more ways than one?
  • Are we attracting and retaining people of colour and those of diverse backgrounds?
  • Are we inclusive?
  • How has our inaction made things worse? 

Only by acknowledging our shortcomings can we begin to take action to course correct, and create systemic and rooted change in the way we do business and how we represent the world around us. 

It is simply not enough to run one-time training sessions to check a box. Without consistent reminders, follow ups sessions and concrete action that creates permanent change, these issues will continue to persist.

Given the reality of corporate priorities, consider how this impacts your financial position — by not being representative of the diversity of your consumers, you are doing a disservice to the business as you are not considering various perspectives in your decision-making. This impacts how you show up, which ultimately has an impact on your bottom-line (not to mention positive publicity, attracting and retaining good talent, and stronger brand equity by committing to, and acting on, diversity measures). 

No one is expecting businesses to be perfect, but we need to take ownership of where we are at right now, and then take steps in the right direction. We need to commit to doing the difficult and uncomfortable work that is absolutely necessary. 

I would urge corporate leadership to survey your workforce, management team and board for various diversity factors, including, but not limited to, gender, age, race, and disability. 

Only once you have concrete numbers and stats to own where you stand can you begin to take the vital steps necessary to make changes. 

The movements we are seeing across the world such as BLM are not going to go away. These are not campaigns that will eventually end; they are a call for real, permanent change across people and organizations around the world. 

We have a responsibility to awaken, grow and challenge ourselves, our behaviours, choices, hiring practices and begin truly living by the values we’ve claimed. 

I hope we will take action to do better. And one day, I hope to be part of an organization that pushes for the right thing, no matter the discomfort that comes with it.

Written with inspiration from Rachel Cargle, Baratunde Thurston, Mariela De La Mora and other BIPOC leaders in the D&I space.

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