Does DEI Have a Marketing Problem?

Updated: May 4

The federal government of Canada knows that embracing diversity in the workplace is “a good business decision.” Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada announced a $33 million investment and launched the 50-30 Challenge late last year. It is a joint venture with the private sector to promote diversity in corporate Canada.

The Challenge seeks to accomplish two main objectives for boards and senior management:

1. Gender parity (50%) and;

2. Representation (30%) of under-represented groups.

These goals apply to large enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses and the non-profit sector.

According to Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, “The existence of systemic discrimination is not up for debate, as we’ve witnessed with particular intensity through recent events. The status quo is neither sustainable nor beneficial for Canada. The 50-30 Challenge encourages companies and organizations of all sizes to embrace the full diversity and talent of their communities, and doing so will bring key insights and perspectives to their decision-making tables.”

This initiative is fantastic in principle; as of now, more than 1,275 organizations have signed up. But the question then is how do you ensure that diversity initiatives, especially one as well-funded as this one, succeed?

Most Canadian companies continue to fall short of implementing DEI best business practices and default to slick marketing campaigns featuring a multicultural cast of characters.

Addressing systemic racism requires examining the systems that reinforce these behaviours. It means debunking the myth of meritocracy.

1. It starts with C-Level

Look at the Executive profiles on your website. Acknowledging the lack of diversity is the first step. There must be a willingness to include different perspectives in your

strategic business planning. It is the only way to ensure that you embed DEI best business practices in your organization’s DNA. It also makes good business sense.

2. HR plays a critical role

Are your organization’s hiring practices biased? Do employees have access to training? Are there robust internal recruitment processes? Barriers to entry from an HR perspective can contribute to inequality.

3. And it requires input from all team members, not just the racialized ones.

Do you rely on the additional unpaid labour of racialized team members to address operational gaps? Have you assessed employee satisfaction?

Building an inclusive workplace in a multicultural society is no longer debatable. It is a moral imperative.

Next time, something about my approach to DEI.