Open Door Group and BC Employer Diversity Forum hosted the 2nd Annual BC Workplace Inclusion Conference at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver on September 25th, 2012
For the second year, employers and employment practitioners gathered to learn, discuss and connect with each other around approaches to increase diversity and foster inclusion in the workplace. The day included dialogue with a diverse group of participants sharing their experiences and best practices. Large and small businesses were in attendance including participants such as Telus, Safeway, ICBC, MarinaSide Grill Restaurant and The Cleaning Solution. Fiona Easton, Human Resources Manager of Diversity & Inclusiveness at Telus, opened the conference with a keynote address in which she challenged the audience to consider how initial impressions based on race, gender, social status, wealth and overall appearance may affect perceptions of people’s abilities. Fiona also described some of the challenges and successes Telus has faced over the course of the last number of years as it continues to incorporate more inclusive workplace policies and practices. At Telus, diversity is seen as a key driver to success in the global marketplace and diversity thrives when the traditions, beliefs, lifestyles, abilities and perspectives of team members are honoured.
The morning keynote was followed by an Employer Panel Discussion with representatives from well-known local employers: Electronic Arts, ICBC, Safeway, Impark and BC Hydro. The overall theme from this panel is that an increasing number of employers are taking social responsibility to implement better diversity and inclusion practices into their workplaces. The panel members highlighted some examples to improve the pathway to workplace inclusion. Shala Chandani of ICBC noted that although her organization is much newer to formal workplace inclusion practices than, say, BC Hydro, she has already seen the value of having support from colleagues and management around creating an inclusive workplace. ICBC hosts a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion site on its intranet to provide an additional platform for employees to discuss topics around inclusion. Shala shared that the site generates valuable and open discussion; she gave an example of how self-moderation among peers not only discouraged negative remarks, but actually initiated discussion and shared experiences.
Kenneth Fredeen, General Counsel at Deloitte, delivered the conference keynote. He was recently appointed Chair of the Panel on Labour Market Participation for Persons with Disabilities which was initiated by The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, and the Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance. Mr. Fredeen spoke of his experience traveling the country to collect stories and practices from employers large and small; many of which will be part of an upcoming HRSDC report set to be released by December.
The afternoon portion of the conference agenda included the 2012 BC Workplace Inclusion Awards and employer workshops. The award ceremony was a spirited affair, celebrating the successes of BC leaders in workplace inclusion areas across sectors. The recognized individuals and companies have demonstrated their core values around inclusion and actions on those values, inspiring examples which lead one to imagine the possibilities if diversity and inclusion practices happened more frequently and widely. As Marina Dixon, winner of the Individual Employee Recognition award explained, all positions in her restaurant, from server to head cook, can be filled by anyone, regardless of appearance or perceived barrier. See here for a full recap of the awards ceremony.