What It Takes to Build Organizational Diversity

What We Learned in 2015: The federal cabinet got gender parity this year. Other organizations would do well to follow that lead

Written by Carol Toller

With Our Turn, a new book that suggests changes in the workplace are creating optimal conditions for women to step into leadership positions, Kirstine Stewart was one of the most vocal proponents of female advancement in 2015.

GNMKirstine Stewart, Twitter’s VP media, wants women to lead. Photo: Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/CP

But companies that take gender diversity seriously need more than welcoming workplaces—they need cold, hard plans. Whether it was setting specific targets for female representation on corporate boards or ensuring all job interviews included women, this was the year many companies took initiatives to champion female employees.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau set the tone with a promise of gender parity in his cabinet—a commitment he made good on within days of being elected. Trudeau’s promise was a game-changer, says Alex Johnston, executive director of advocacy organization Catalyst Canada. “All of a sudden, people aren’t talking about incremental change anymore. Choosing a cabinet like this is really setting a new norm.”

Catalyst honoured several executives and companies this year with awards recognizing their commitments, including law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, which developed a first-in-Canada reporting tool that measures diversity and inclusion metrics within the firm. Setting a goal and then measuring how well you’re achieving it is key, says chief client officer Colleen Moorehead, who designed the tool. “You don’t run a marathon without a target on time.”

At Enbridge Pipelines, senior vice-president Cynthia Hansen invited men in positions of influence at the company to serve on its diversity and inclusion steering committees and boards. The move reinforced that Enbridge’s work on diversity requires everyone’s participation.

Hansen also sought out women’s opinions at meetings to ensure others weren’t excluding them out of unconscious bias. “When you observe a woman being interrupted, call it out,” Hansen says.

In 2015, employers heard the message—and made a plan to fix it.


What is your company doing to promote organizational gender diversity? Share your plans and strategy by commenting below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com