Across the country, initiatives such as the 50-30 Challenge are helping to improve diversity and inclusion in Canadian workplaces. Many such efforts, however, tend to focus on reaching targets by adapting talent acquisition strategies, such as removing barriers from Human Resources practices.
Jennifer Laidlaw, veteran HR executive and strategic inclusion specialist, says there’s a better way for business owners to think about diversifying their workforce, flipping the viewpoint to better demonstrate why diversity, equity, and inclusion is really “a requirement.”
Laidlaw is Country Head of 30% Club Canada, an alliance of Canadian corporations that have committed to 30 per cent representation for women on their boards. She was one of four panelists at Advancing Organizational Diversity: The 50 – 30 Challenge, a recent webinar discussion from the Diversity Institute and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
Laidlaw told the audience, “we kind of got it wrong” in making talent acquisition and HR the central plank of inclusion work, explaining why she believes the business case is more compelling.
“The focus is on talent, which is really important,” Laidlaw said. “But when you think about (equity, diversity, and inclusion) from the perspective of the company, whatever business it’s in will be better if it has those lenses to look through when it creates its strategy, when it thinks about its clients, its customers, when it thinks about things like procurement.
“Once you have that lens and you realize that you want to diversify your client base and the way you deliver your services or products, then you need the people who have that knowledge to work in your organization. If you think about (diversity) that way, it fundamentally becomes a requirement. Sometimes if we flip it, we see the strategic value a lot more.”
More than 1,600 organizations across Canada have signed on to the 50-30 Challenge, which sets two goals for enhanced diversity and representation on Canadian boards and/or in senior management roles. The first goal is gender parity (50 per cent women and/or non-binary people), and the second is significant representation (30 per cent) of members of other equity-deserving groups, including racialized and Black people, persons with disabilities, members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and/or gender and sexual minorities, and Indigenous Peoples.
“The notion, as with many other voluntary pledges, is that if organizations make commitments to move forward on gender parity and increased representation, and set timetables and put in place strategies, we will see change,” said panelist Nancy Mitchell, a program manager at the Diversity Institute.
Dr. Wendy Cukier, Founder of the Diversity Institute and the webinar moderator, said advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion should no longer be viewed as a social justice issue, but rather as an imperative to improve the prosperity of all Canadians.
“Diversity is just a core issue that any leader has to consider,” Dr. Cukier said. “And so EDI skills are really, in the current environment, just leadership skills.”