January 30, 2019 — Recently, I helped a great company in Western Canada develop new ideas that will make its workplaces better for women and for everyone. That’s the benefit of my role as a Supporter Manager for Western Canada at Catalyst, and one of the reasons why I love this work. I can help companies do things differently, and more inclusively so that employees can reach their maximum potential and enjoy a work culture that is welcoming and diverse.
The challenges our Supporter companies face are not easy to overcome. In my last 18 months in this role, I have met with CEOs and senior leaders, as well as line managers, technical employees, and talent development leaders, who are all incredibly committed to improving their workplaces and launching their companies on a true journey to inclusion. And they all want to know “how:” how to increase the number of diverse candidates in the promotion pipeline, how to help employees bring their whole selves to work, how to best approach sponsorship and mentorship, and how they can get men more engaged in the inclusion journey.
What I have learned from these many meetings, conversations, emails, webcasts, seminars, and workshops has enhanced the practical knowledge of inclusion I developed over my career in the Canadian Military, as an entrepreneur and leader of start-up companies, and as a Partner at Deloitte. This mix of knowledge and experience, along with our Catalyst content, is what helps me to respond to the challenging questions of our Supporters.
A new leader just joined one of our Supporter organizations and asked me to recommend training that would help build her diversity and inclusion skills and knowledge. A great question, but not an easy one to answer. From my perspective, a training alone couldn’t give her everything she needed; experience is vital for any leader attempting to change the culture and operating behaviour of a company, as the journey is challenging and leaders must have commitment and dedication to see it through. And to reach beyond our personal experience, we all need a strong network of inclusion experts who are willing to share their ideas and best practices. I was able to connect this leader to several other experienced inclusion professionals, and she’s now gathering their insights as she develops the best program for her company’s needs.
In another situation, I found myself helping two competing energy companies that both wanted to advance men as agents of change towards an inclusive culture. The leaders of these enterprises were working to engage their men in remarkedly similar ways. Even though they were competitors, they agreed to speak to each other about what they were doing, and immediately shared ideas and built a common bond of purpose that helped advance both companies on the path to inclusion. Both companies made progress toward a greater good that will benefit both companies.
I’ve also seen the impact of education and the growing awareness of unconscious bias and inclusive leadership on many people and companies. I’ve been challenged when facilitating this learning with difficult, personal, and provocative questions, usually lobbed at me while I’m on my feet helping to guide training. The insight I gain from those questions, the effort to respond on the spot, and the help of Catalyst’s great research team to answer more completely later, has been incredible for my own personal growth, and our Supporter companies gain valuable knowledge as well.
This past year was exceptional because of the impact of the #MeToo movement on virtually every work sector. As a man working in the diversity and inclusion field, I can’t know firsthand what women experience from day to day, but at Catalyst, we are never alone in exploring difficult concepts. We developed a great set of resources to assist companies and individuals in navigating the reality of sexual harassment at work. Given the difficult nature of this topic, it was very rewarding to help organize and lead a roundtable on the subject with another Catalyst colleague. Seeing how actionable our content was made becoming a part of the solution a lot less daunting for many of the Supporters who attended.
Some of the most compelling and engaging aspects of my role as a Supporter manager come from working with the new companies who join our community. These teams are full of ideas and questions and are looking to us to catalyze their journey to inclusion. I get to meet senior and team leaders, learn the challenges of their cultures, organizations, and marketplaces, and help them form clear objectives to create diverse workplaces and inclusive cultures. No company starts from the same place, so the discovery and development of each enterprise’s journey to inclusion is a key component of our work.
In the end, what I love most about this work is building relationships. Forging relationships with new Supporters and helping them develop the programs to implement their D&I journey is exciting and challenging. And maintaining and expanding our relationships with the leaders of more experienced companies who already have programs in place, and helping them advance to the next stage of their journey, gives me a great view of the possibilities. Finally, meeting and getting to know the incredibly dedicated and talented people at Catalyst and in our Supporter organizations gives me the confidence to say that we are moving closer to inclusive workplaces each and every day.
My goal is for everyone I work and collaborate with to benefit from the Inclusion Equation, which is:
Is your Western Canadian organization doing everything it can to create a workplace that includes everyone, attracts great talent, and has a bottom line that reflects the business case for diversity? Do you have questions about how inclusion builds upon diversity to build great culture? Do you wonder what the next generation of workers wants from their employers? Let’s work together here in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan to build company cultures that attract talent, leverage skills and knowledge from every individual, and deliver great value to our customers. I know firsthand that our western spirit of innovation, exploration, and collaboration can be even more powerful if we work together.