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Corporate advocacy: Going beyond performative activism

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As corporations try to raise awareness of political issues on social media, some doubt the sincerity of their activism. 

Following this year’s Pride Month in June, many people criticized how businesses were quick to capitalize on Pride. Meanwhile, they disregard LGBTQ2S+ people the rest of the year.

This can raise the question of whether companies truly strive for diversity and inclusivity or whether their activism is performative. 

Sarah Hussain is the CEO of the human resource company Bridge HR

Bridge HR supports companies looking to implement diversity and inclusivity in areas such as recruitment, training and workforce planning.

She said she believes diversity and inclusion are more than just supporting a community once a year.

“Companies need to ensure it isn’t just performative activism and that they are addressing their company as a whole as well,” said Hussain. 

Hussain said companies can improve their diversity and inclusivity initiatives to support both their employees and the community. 

Photo by Pixabay

Question yourself 

Hussain said she believes the first step towards diversity and inclusivity is to reflect on the company’s current state.

“Change starts from within,” she said. “You can’t know what you have to change until you challenge your own company. See where your company is right now.”

Half of employed Canadians who identify as visible minorities believe their background is underrepresented in management, according to an ADP survey

Hussain said to look into employees’ statistics and demographics and question the possible under-representation in your company.

How many women are in executive positions? Is your hiring process allowing for diversity and inclusion to improve?

Photo by Fauxels

Work with external companies 

After evaluating areas of improvement in your own business, Hussain recommended reaching out to external companies. 

“Find out if you’re doing the best of your abilities to be diverse and inclusive,” said Hussain. “Then comes step two where you can hire an external third party to launch training to improve your company.” 

For companies looking to diversify their team, Equitek Employment Equity Solutions connects employers and diverse job seekers. 

The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion provides events and webinars. These include training and education to make your workplace a more welcoming space.

These companies specialize in diversity and inclusivity initiatives such as recruitment and leadership training. They can provide your company with specific support shaped for your business. 

“[If] you don’t have any representation, then you need to look at your hiring process or implement unconscious bias training,” said Hussain. 

Create an observance calendar   

Recognize days of observance throughout the year and not just when it is beneficial to the company. 

Create a calendar listing days of awareness and observance that your brand can speak on year-round. 

Hussain said she believes an observance calendar provides employees with the freedom to express themselves. 

An observance calendar also provides the opportunity to use your platform to bring awareness to different cultures and religions.

“That’s how you…create a safe space to talk about these topics throughout the year,” said Hussain. “Creating a calendar allows a corporation to be more inclusive and knowledgeable on days that hold importance to different communities.”

She recommends referring to the United Nations’ list of observance days such as World Mental Health Day and World Refugee Day. 

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union also provides a list of religions, human rights and equity observance

Photo by Leon

Create a safe space 

The ADP survey reported 31 per cent of visible minorities feel uncomfortable sharing their opinions at their workplace. 

 “It’s easy for companies just to put on a face for publicity. Your employees can see through that,” said Hussain. 

“You need to make sure what you are putting out is reflecting the inside of your company.”

Provide a safe space for your employees to share their ideas and concerns regarding inclusivity and diversity. 

Hussain suggested companies adopt measures that allow employees to engage and produce ideas for future initiatives.

For example, create a committee or discussion opportunities for employees. 

Donate to advocate

Ontario is home to many global and local organizations accepting donations and funds for various causes.

To support Black women, corporations can donate to Black Women in Motion or Congress of Black Women of Canada

Companies can support Indigenous women through the Minwaashin Lodge or The Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto.

To support the LGBTQ2S+ community, donations can be made to the LGBTQ2S+ youth camp Rainbow Camp or The 519.

Hussain said donating to charities and foundations addressing the issues at hand allows for real change.

“Instead of just advocating through pictures that double as a marketing campaign, donate to organizations to directly support marginalized communities,” she said.

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