February marks Black History Month, a time to recognize, reflect, and continue working to reduce systemic inequities by confronting Black racism, prejudice, discrimination, and inequality. As a company, we are committed to supporting this not only during the month of February, but throughout the year. Every year.
Here’s how we’re listening, learning, and acting in order to amplify Black voices, educate ourselves, uncover our unconscious biases, be stronger allies to the Black community, denounce white supremacy, and actively be anti-racist.
Prioritizing our education
Through our partnership with the Canadian Centre of Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) employees were invited to take part in two webinars that focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and support Black employees and colleagues in a meaningful way.
We also encouraged employees to visit the Government of Canada Black History Month site and watch their informative videos on Black history in Canada.
Listening to experts, activists, scholars, and our Black peers – and encouraging ongoing conversation
Change and progress of any kind requires communication, especially when broaching difficult subjects. To support open and productive discussions where people feel safe sharing their experiences and perspectives, we provided employees with some fundamental conversation guidelines to follow.
From there, we incorporated the important topics of Black racism, prejudice, discrimination, and inequality into “Diversity Talks” – an employee-led interview series aimed at seeing the world through someone else's eyes and seeking to understand how diversity and inclusion impacts each of us differently.
Furthermore, we created a thread in our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Yammer group to share books, podcasts, or other resources to amplify Black voices and Black stories, and help employees expand their learning on these important issues.
Supporting Black owned causes and businesses
At the end of 2020, we made a $10,000 donation to the Black Solidarity Fund. The Black Solidarity Fund supports a wide range of Canadian charities acting as a collective to streamlining support to the Black community. We were honoured to contribute to their cause.
While this is a good start, we also recognize the importance of supporting Black owned businesses through our day-to-day consumption. Sovereign’s D&I group on Yammer shared resources to help identify and support Black Entrepreneurs in Canada. Some of the resources shared included:
Making these actions part of an everyday commitment
Our D&I Steering Committee shared their personal and professional commitment statements. We encouraged all employees to post their own commitment statements in turn on our D&I Yammer page. Most importantly, we urged employees to lead by example and live these values in their day to day lives – at work and at home.
Rolling out a formal Diversity and Inclusion strategy
In order to successfully achieve our goal of addressing barriers and seizing opportunities to improve diversity and inclusion within The Co operators Group of Companies, we’re taking a close look at what our opportunities are and how we can promote an inclusive, diverse workplace.
We aim to:
- Enable a workforce where everyone is appreciated for their uniqueness
- Leverage the diversity of our workforce
- Create an inclusive culture
Employees were given the opportunity to have a voice and participate in a Diversity Meter survey and Culture Meter focus groups. We had nearly a 70% participation rate in the survey and over 500 employees expressed interest in the focus groups. With the insight and perspectives gained during the discovery phase, our partners at the Canadian Centre for Diversity & Inclusion (CCDI) can analyse key findings and present recommendations to help us design a D&I strategy and roadmap.
While we’re still at the beginning of this journey, our immediate next steps include:
- Sharing the D&I vision and roadmap with employees across the Group of Companies
- Implementing the tactics identified in the strategy
- Working together to champion our strategic deliverables and begin to build an inclusive workplace for all
While Sovereign is at the beginning of our D&I journey, and we recognize that we have a ways to go to continue to support the Black community, we’re taking steps in the right direction and will continue along this path.