In recent months, many organizations have been working hard on building more diverse and equitable workplaces. For many, it’s become increasingly clear that relying on the common DEI practices that continue to exist today are not helping their organizations or their people. So what are DEI practitioners and companies doing to address these problems in the workplace?
This need for DEI practices that actually create positive and lasting change is the basis for a recent discussion MESH took part in. Hosted by the Interac Diversity & Inclusion Council in partnership with The Upside Foundation, the discussion looked at ways we are combatting racism and other forms of oppression, as well as the importance of measuring DEI work in organizations.
The panel included Mike Wright, our CEO here at MESH, alongside HR and DEI leaders from Canadian startups and companies like Bright + Early, Diversio, Marigold Capital, Sandpiper, Sensibill, Unbounce and Wattpad.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion:
DEI leaders were asked how burnt out they feel trying to address diversity and inclusion, and most people responded only moderately so. It was very apparent that the role of DEI has changed significantly in the last 6 months, with 60% of panel participants saying it is now a top priority for their company. Additionally, 67% of participants said they are either optimistic or very optimistic that DEI will continue to be taken seriously in their organization and result in meaningful change. It was noted that more attention is being paid particularly to anti-Black racism, and that awareness amongst staff has skyrocketed.
Addressing discrimination in the workplace needs to start from within. For example, Sensibill partnered with the Black Professionals in Tech Network to begin conversations about how to better serve their BIPOC communities. By having tough conversations internally, organizations have been able to adapt their DEI programming to ensure it is best supporting their staff and the communities they are a part of.
One dominant theme from the conversation was that in order to truly make progress, DEI must be integrated across departments, with executive buy-in being essential. For example, at Wattpad, DEI initiatives have historically focused on creating an inclusive employee experience, but now they are expanding focus to their whole business model, ensuring anyone has equal opportunity to use and benefit from their platform.
Meaningful change results from an ongoing commitment. For example, while hosting an unconscious bias training session is useful and beneficial, that alone isn’t enough to create sustainable, long-lasting change. At Bright + Early, more clients have been asking for continuous support promoting DEI in their organizations and building it into all business decisions.
Ensuring marginalized communities have the resources and opportunities to succeed is a key component of supporting DEI outside of the company’s walls. Marigold Capital, for example, realized many founders are underfunded and overlooked, and so they are dedicated to democratizing access to investment capital in order to enable folks from diverse backgrounds to succeed in entrepreneurial roles.