Reflections on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategies: Are they enough?

Last week the Law Society of Ontario, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) and the Ontario Association of Black Paralegals (OABP) organized a Black History Month event, titled “EDI Strategic Toolkit: Evaluating Organizational Inclusion.”

How can organizations employ EDI, especially inclusion and equity, as a strategic framework or tools to dismantle or combat systemic anti-Black racism or anti-Indigenous racism?” asked panel facilitator Patricia DeGuire.

It’s an important question. Good diversity, equity, and inclusion practices are not the only traits of a well-managed company, they are also generally acknowledged as an important tool for a company’s success. There is lots of evidence that supports this fact and which goes into great detail why diverse and inclusive workplaces are better. 

But sometimes traditional EDI practices can also be seen, and feel, as if it’s just “checking boxes” or just surface level actions companies take. 

Vidal Chavannes, the director of strategy, research and organizational performance at the Durham Regional Police Station spoke about how if organizations really want to “create equitable and inclusive spaces, then we want to address disproportionality and disparity.

“Inclusion can’t stamp out inequity. Only equity can stamp out inequity,” said Chavannes.

EDI, and interest in it, has grown in the past two years, according to DeGuire and Kim Bernhardt, an arbitrator and mediator on human rights at the event. 

According to research conducted by Gartner, the number of HR leaders identifying diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as a top priority was 1.8 times higher in 2020 than it was in 2019. A diverse workforce is also one of the key factors potential employees are taking into account when considering a job today, according to a survey done by Glassdoor. 

More companies are releasing their diversity numbers, and their employees and the public increasingly hold them accountable. So how do we ensure we implement EDI strategies that are meaningful?

Shashu Clacke, business strategist and management consultant at CN Consulting, spoke about the importance of combining EDI with various skills companies have in their toolkit, like project management and communication.

“When you’re trying to transform culture, you need a strategic plan; you need to have the resources. Bring in the people who know how to do strategic planning, marry them with the people who have subject matter expertise in terms of EDI and in terms of how to achieve equity. But those things have to be together, you can’t keep them separate.”

Addressing systemic issues and transforming culture to be more inclusive, equitable, and diverse doesn’t have a one size fits all approach. One thing that can help is continuing to mindfully listen to conversations like this one held last week. Strategies should be treated as a flexible — rather than a rigid — process. Instead of just checkpoints on a list, it should be implementing a system and culture that brings a sense of belonging, something more than just policy. 

Andrea Carter, Industrial and Organizational psychology M.A. candidate, joined The Northern Miner Podcast last week to talk about this idea of "belonging" in the workforce. Carter found that typical measurements of DEI in the workplace just aren’t cutting it.

Hear more about belonging in the workplace and EDI by listening to Carter’s interview here.

If you want to learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies visit the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion that offers various tools and resources. Universities Canada has also compiled a list of Canadian resources and Ontario Tech some Canadian Web-based resources - check them out!