Our latest Speaker Series webinar about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) focused on sparking meaningful conversation and taking real action. The free event featured Lena BouSaleh, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist at Servus Credit Union and Marcie Hawranik, Founder of Canadian Equality Consulting. They spoke about the importance of combating adversity in the workplace (and everyday life) in order to create a safe space of inclusion and equal opportunity for all.
If you’re a business leader, DEI needs to be on your radar. Watch the video below and read the recap to learn more about why!
Q: DEI is a very complex topic. Could you break down each element of that acronym and what they mean?
Marcie: One element can’t be done without the other. How I look at it, starting with diversity, is that diversity is all about identities, experiences and unique perspectives. It’s a relational concept – no person is, on their own, “diverse.” There’s no such thing as a diverse candidate. But there are diverse organizations or diverse workplaces or diverse groups of people. Because it’s based on identities, diversity can include a lot of demographic factors. It looks at sex and gender, sexual orientation, language, disability, race, ethnicity, location and even more.
Often when we talk about diversity it’s about those numbers of demographic groups, trying to get more folks in the door. Whereas equity is more about the process or activity that will then lead you to inclusion. It recognizes that different people have very different experiences, different barriers, different needs. Equity is where we then design systems or processes or activities to support those unique needs so that everyone can be successful.
The way I think about it is D+E=I. Inclusion is getting to that result. It’s a slow build of diversity plus equity. It’s building a culture that’s inclusive where all people feel valued and appreciated. They feel they belong, and they can show up as their full selves and be able to fully participate.
Lena: I like to tell people diversity is anything that makes you different from the person beside you. It’s simplistic but it’s all of those ways that make you different. And it’s understanding the intersectionality of any of those two identities together really highlights how diverse we are. I also like to say that a person is unique, but when we get together, groups of people are diverse. It’s really important to understand that each person’s perspective is unique and they can’t speak for an entire group or population of people.
Inclusion is a feeling that I’m bringing forward my ideas and that they’re being heard – they matter and I matter. When I offer my opinion, it is actually heard. Equity is really where the rubber meets the road. You need to understand how historical and systemic barriers impact people and actively dismantle those barriers. Shift resources, redistribute power to underserved or underrepresented populations.
Q: From an organizational perspective, what does understanding each of the elements of DEI bring to a company’s culture and their customer base?
Lena: It’s very important that we do break these things apart and we’re not just using DEI as a catchphrase or a catch-all. Specifically around diversity it’s about understanding how intersectionality impacts folks. So we’re talking about the pink pandemic where women are having to leave the workforce more than men during this COVID-19 pandemic. But are we looking deeper into that and seeing how it impacts women of colour, Indigenous women, the LGBTQS+ community and where that intersectionality comes into play.
That is taking each of these things and breaking it down so now we can cater solutions, we can cater our advice when we understand our employees and our members more.
Marcie: All three elements look at very different things in an organization. When you’re doing a baseline assessment to see where you’re starting from it’s important to take three different lenses and approaches to those in order to really understand what’s going on.
Often you’ll hear news reports or studies talking about benefits of diversity and diverse organizations, but a lot of those are actually from inclusive organizations that have the diversity and the equity in place. There are a lot of stats out there that talk about the business case of profitability and innovation, but there are also some fascinating studies that have shown inclusive teams improve team performance by over 30%. When employees feel more included they’re also more engaged. There are a lot of compelling statistics that can be pulled for people trying to advocate for this in your organization.
Q: Servus Credit Union recently changed its Council’s name from Diversity and Inclusion Council to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Council. What prompted this and what is the significance?
Lena: Diversity is kind of collecting that numbers data. So we can have a ton of folks who identify themselves as within the BIPOC community, but are we really being inclusive when we do that? We wanted to take it a step further with that equity piece where the work really happens in identifying what we do that maybe we didn’t realize is part of a problem or a systemic issue. So we really dove into the research to say it’s time to do more.
We at Servus say D+E+I=B. We want folks to feel like they belong.
Q: Are you seeing indicators that Gen Z and Millennial professionals are actively researching and avoiding companies without a clear commitment to DEI?
Marcie: Yes. The short answer is yes. It’s amazing to see really. McKinsey had done a study a couple years back to see what is the most convincing case for change to invest in DEI for different levels in organizations and when they looked at Millennials and Gen Z it was that it’s the right thing to do. They’re entering the workforce already bought in and already expecting this to be a priority or at least a consideration.
There was also a recent study that said 67% of workers consider diversity of an organization when they’re looking at employment. The momentum is there and I think it’s just going to keep building.
Q: How can employees and employers educate themselves on this topic and to recognize self-awareness issues they may have?
Marcie: There are a ton of free and accessible resources online, check the sources to ensure they’re credible. To enhance your own self-awareness there’s a free online questionnaire done by Project Implicit at Harvard University – it takes maybe two minutes at most and you can see how biased you are. Don’t be discouraged by your result. Everyone is more biased than they think.
Then the next step is to actively do something about it. Create a personal action plan. Commit to watching X number of TED Talks or YouTube videos on this topic a month. Or read X number of books in a year. Create goals and share them with others to hold yourself accountable.
Lena: My biggest piece of advice is get started. Get out there and start making an action plan. That first step is going to be hard, but you can make it a small one. Read a book by someone you’ve never heard of before, someone from a BIPOC background. Look at the language you are using on a daily basis. Are you asking people, “How’s your husband?” Instead of that maybe you can ask “How’s your spouse?” or “How’s your significant other?” Small changes in your language can have a huge impact for others.