Black History Month: Equity Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Every February, Canadians across the country celebrate the incredible achievements and honour the legacy of Black Canadians during Black History Month. The official theme of this year’s Black History Month is “Ours to tell”. This theme is all about engaging in an open dialogue and committing to learning more about the stories Black Canadians and Black communities have to tell about their histories, successes, sacrifices and triumphs. With a commitment to open dialogue in mind, let’s talk about creating an equitable, inclusive and safe workplace.

What do Equity, Diversity and Inclusion really mean?

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) are often talked about, but what do these words really mean when it comes to the workplace? By way of definition, diversity is about a workplace’s composition, inclusion ensures everyone has a voice and is heard, and equity is about making sure everyone has what they need to succeed. This does not mean employees are all treated equally. Employers need to be aware of disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalized workers and ensure they have fair opportunities at work. 

What can I do to create an inclusive workplace?

A great starting point in ensuring that your workplace is on top of current EDI protocols is to implement a policy to address these values and to ensure that all employees have access to and read the policy. Your employee handbook is a great place to include such a policy.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Equity, diversity and inclusion are incredibly important values and no workplace policy, program or otherwise should use these values for performative purposes. Nor should you attempt to quickly cobble a policy together. You can assume that these values are equally important to your employees and that they want to see meaningful programs and policies in place. You should venture into and maintain the work on these policies from a thoughtful place or risk doing serious damage to your employees and workplace.

Consider ensuring there is a policy in place to address EDI across all stages of the employment relationship, right from the hiring process. No workplace is immune from the harms caused by a lack of diversity, inclusion and equity. Policies and programs on EDI help create, maintain and promote a safe workplace and can also help with a company’s reputation and customer loyalty. Adversely, allegations of discrimination and a lack of diversity and inclusion in a workplace can have a negative impact on your business’s reputation.

How do I get started? 

First, take a look at the required and recommended EDI policies: 

Next up, consider taking the lead from the focus of this year’s Black History Month by opening up a dialogue with your employees. Consider introducing an anonymized survey which asks your employees about their experiences in their workplace, obstacles in inclusion, and barriers to participation and success. Ask them to share, if they are willing, what sorts of changes they would like to see in the workplace. In the meantime, take some time and do some reading on EDI. Finally, once you have your policies in place, make sure they do what they promise to do.

Final thoughtsFebruary is an excellent reminder for all Canadians to learn, listen and celebrate the achievements of Black Canadians and communities. The work can’t end in February and Canadians must remain committed to learning, listening and contributing to a healthier, more inclusive and equitable society, which celebrates diversity. We can contribute to this work, in part, by ensuring that our workplace upholds the values of equity, diversity and inclusion. 

If you need help drafting an Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment, and Anti-Violence Policy and/or Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy for your workplace, get in touch!