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10 Tips for Driving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

November 26, 2019

1 > Challenge assumptions and stereotypes

The focus on getting more women in STEM is important but only half the story. Double-down and equally invest in asset based approaches to create alternative pathways for women and other groups.  The soft skills are hard. There is growing recognition that even in AI there is a place for humanities and social sciences grads.

2 > Stop doing the same old thing and try something new

The data reveals that what Canada has been doing on diversity and inclusion so far, hasn’t worked. Thirty years of good intentions has scarcely moved the dial on women in tech - there are fewer women in computer science today and only marginally more in engineering thirty years after the Montreal massacre. We need to use real levers to drive change. Procurement and funding tied to diversity targets. Accountability and transparency and putting money where our mouth is.

3 > Don’t ask a representative of an underrepresented group in your workplace to be the only workplace champion of diversity and inclusion

Research shows that this can actually hurt their careers. Inclusion is everyone’s responsibility!  Allies are critical - men championing women; women championing persons with disabilities; everyone focusing on indigenous and racialized people.

4 > No more ‘man-els’

If you can't see it, you can't be it. We need to promote women and diverse leaders as spokespeople internally, on panels and to the media as experts in their fields not just to speak on diversity.

5 > Asset based approaches start by looking at what someone has not what they are missing

Upskilling to build on strengths can bridge the talent gap for many under represented groups. Understand the difference between skills and tools or techniques. If someone can code (or even if they can't) they can learn python. Someone who can write can learn how to structure a press release. Someone with strong interpersonal skills can learn to sell ANYTHING from real estate to AI.

6 > Learn how government works and engage with it. Organizations do not exist in a vaccum. Policies actually matter

Organizations and individuals need to leverage their influence to drive for policies and programs that support inclusion. There are many ranging from basic rights, to access to childcare, to diversity on boards. When business talks, government listens.

7 > Don’t shame someone when they use the wrong name for an underrepresented group

It doesn’t mean they aren’t an ally, it means they just don’t know. Educate them!  The field of diversity and inclusion is changing so rapidly its hard even for long time social activists to stay abreast of the moving landscape. Often youngsters can reverse mentor their elders.

8 > Avoid the paralysis of analysis

Yes, we do need to collect data so that we can understand how to take action on inclusion but we shouldn’t wait to take action because we’re collecting data. There is lots of evidence that the problems exist. Certainly we need more evidence on what works and what does not work. But forward thinking organizations balance data with innovation - trying new approaches, monitoring results, failing fast and starting over.  Once size does not fit all.

"Focus not on the people who think like you but the frozen middle. Help build momentum. Or if you don't like the business case, the moral case"

9 > Understand and communicate the business case

Focus not on the people who think like you but the frozen middle. Help build momentum. Or if you don't like the business case, the moral case. Think about how diversity and inclusion helps organizations perform better and create happier, healthier workplaces. Attracting top talent. Driving innovation. Avoiding risk.

10 > Remember the power of you

At the end of the day, governments and organizations do not drive change. People do. We make choices every day about who we include and exclude even if its just in a coffee or a conversation. We make choices every day about who we see and do not see and more importantly what we see and let pass. Bystanders are the biggest enemy to advancing diversity and inclusion. Be an ally not an obstacle.