As a woman working in Private Equity, I have seen genuine but modest progress over the years to broaden the diversity that the industry has traditionally lacked. The racial and social unrest of the past year has brought to light just how much more needs to be done, and at a greater speed, to ensure that people from all backgrounds have the same opportunities to connect, succeed and thrive.
As I have become more involved and engaged in the conversation, I have come to realize that inclusion and diversity in the workplace is not just about changing hiring strategies or HR protocols (although these are critical), but it is something every person within the organization has a responsibility to promote, support and uphold. The involvement of each individual within the organization is essential to progress. This is truly a team effort.
At OMERS, the commitment to diversity starts right from the top at the office of CEO Blake Hutcheson, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s become a grassroots movement supported by a strong Corporate I&D strategy involving team members at all levels. Part of this is thanks to the existence of a variety of volunteer resource groups and committees designed to promote inclusion and diversity, create forums for discussion, and to give people from all backgrounds access to tools and resources to help them grow professionally. These groups have created noticeable change in our organization, for the better.
As volunteer Chair for the Inclusion and Diversity committee within the Private Equity team, I saw first-hand how OMERS’ people-first approach played out following the racial injustices that made headlines around the world last year. I was honoured and humbled to be a part of listening forums where we heard the challenges, realities and truths lived by the members of our diverse community, and discussed how their experiences and needs would go on to inform our evolving inclusion and diversity strategy.
Whether it is inter-department committees like the one I Chair, or company-wide groups like the Multicultural Alliance, Women in Leadership, Indigenous People’s Alliance, or other volunteer committees, OMERS is working hard to create an environment where diversity is valued. It is the active and passionate participation of people across the organization that has made these groups successful. And, as more people get involved and become empowered, the more barriers will fall, and inclusion and diversity will become a matter of fact. Like our commitment to the financial security of our members, our commitment and dedication to improving inclusion and diversity is permeating through the halls (and virtually across the organization), and that is a great feeling!
If your organization has existing forums or working groups dedicated to inclusion and diversity, I encourage you to get involved. If it doesn’t, create one. Issues of inclusion and diversity are not always easy to discuss, but being open to having those conversations will lead to improved trust, collaboration, and the kind of diversity of thought that helps modern businesses standout and succeed.
Like society in general, we know that we still have work to do. In the Private Equity group alone there is much more room for growth and opportunity for both women and people of colour. It is up to every person in our organization, and in any organization, to help build an environment where everyone has an equal chance to affect change and to realize their full potential, regardless of their background. I invite you to challenge yourself and your colleagues in 2021 to do more, and to be better.