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“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

— Maya Angelou

Those words could easily be applied to the evolution of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the Canadian workplace. It wasn’t that long ago that the C-suite was an all-boys club and only new moms got parental leave. As we celebrate Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2024, it’s interesting to see how far we’ve come and where we still need to go.

For many of this year’s winning organizations, DEI been a journey over decades with increasingly progressive initiatives, including accountability built in at every level. The continuing efforts of all have created an environment in their workplace where everyone has opportunities to grow and can feel comfortable bringing their “whole self” to work – meaning they don’t have to hide any part of who they are. That matters because when employees trust their environment enough to be themselves on the job, research shows they also become more engaged, creative, productive and happier.

But what does that trust look like?

It might be a young man who identifies as 2SLGBTQI+ bringing his same-sex partner to a company event; or a stressed worker who takes time out to decompress in the company’s quiet room; or a new Canadian who feels empowered by the support she’s found in an employee resource group (ERG) to take the next step in her career.

For Carrie Haggerty, director, global search engine optimization and co-chair of the Indigenous Peoples & their Allies ERG at Manulife Canada, feeling safe at work is paramount.

“I can tell you why it’s important for me as a diverse human to be able to go to work authentically – and that’s safety,” says Haggerty, a Métis who identifies as two-spirited. “Just like your home is your safe space, your workplace is also your safe space. I get to bring my authentic self to work every day, which makes me happy, and then I get to share that with my colleagues.”

Michelle Joy Rafat, assistant vice-president of DEI for Manulife Canada, says nothing is ever perfect – it’s a journey that keeps progressing – but the company has really tried its best to make all programs and processes as inclusive as possible.

“Shared ownership and leadership commitment drives the DEI work including our functions in talent acquisition, talent management, performance development, total rewards and more,” says Rafat. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option in DEI. That goes for our products and services as well as the way we give back to our communities. We really do stop and think about how investments are made and their impact.”

With a long-standing DEI history behind them, Allyson McElwain, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Vancouver-based TELUS Communications Inc., says DEI is interwoven not only into the company’s values, but in the way it operates as an organization. Recently, the company refreshed its DEI management.

“Throughout the pandemic, we started seeing some social inequities and racial injustices highlighted across society,” says McElwain. “So we took a step back to really dig in with our team members to understand what we were doing well, how we could support them better and evolve the strategy to make sure we were creating the most supportive and inclusive environment, so that they could show up as their best selves on a daily basis.”

More recently, what McElwain is seeing in terms of DEI’s evolution is a focus on intersectionality across its Telus resource groups (TRGs) as well as a shift in strategy as the company becomes more and more global.

“We’re at a really interesting and exciting pivot point right now where there’s a lot more interplay happening across our TRGs – recognizing that our team members are not just one thing and celebrating their intersecting identities,” says McElwain. “The other is our global portfolio, which is a big undertaking. We’ve been having lots of conversations with our TRGs about how to start including our team members around the world.

“From a strategy perspective, we’re rethinking what our programs will look like and how we can take our values and culture across the globe, while also recognizing and celebrating the local cultures that exist and being aware of whatever sensitivities are in that country.”

Likewise, Rafat observes that as Manulife becomes increasingly global and diverse, there are a lot more issues leaders need to confront in DEI, including some they may not have been aware of before or have had to address in the past, so it’s a lot of change management that involves learning, listening and reflection.

“I think the future will be more about inclusion and psychological safety than about diversity numbers,” says Rafat. “It’s also going to be a lot more relative to external environmental and societal change. Faith and religion, while a sensitive topic, is not really talked about as a diversity intersection. Given the high increase of Islamophobia, antisemitism and various hate-crimes against religion these days, that conversation needs to begin.

“We’ve already started that conversation in navigating religious diversity in the workplace with some questions: How do you create more accommodation? How do you support colleagues from various religious backgrounds? And how do you support cross-cultural allyship while removing the political pieces?

“As colleagues reflect on the unfairness in the world, they’re starting to expect that their leaders, if they want to create a truly inclusive workplace, recognize that I have to be able to bring all of me – that includes the colour of my skin, my family, my identity and that also includes my religion or faith – or no faith.”

Living in our increasingly multicultural society also has its own effect. When you work alongside someone who may be different from you – in gender, race or religion – you get to know them as a colleague, a person, a friend. That goes a long way in building a culture where everyone can feel they belong.

Methodology 2024:

The Canada’s Best Diversity Employers by Mediacorp competition recognizes employers across Canada that have exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs. Any employer with its head office or principal place of business in Canada may apply to enter the contest.

While the selection process to choose the winners of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers continually evolves to include new questions that reflect changes in the workplace, the methodology and selection criteria for the competition are essentially the same as in previous years. The competition is and remains a catalogue of best practices.

Those criteria include successful diversity initiatives for employees from five groups: women; racialized people; persons with disabilities; Indigenous peoples; and Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and additional people who identify as part of sexual and gender diverse communities (2SLGBTQI+) peoples.

To determine the winners, the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers review the diversity and inclusiveness initiatives of a large number of employers that applied for this year’s national competition of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. Employers are compared to other organizations in the same field to determine which ones offer the most noteworthy and unique diversity initiatives. The finalists chosen represent the diversity leaders in their industry and region of Canada.

More detailed reasons for selection, explaining why each of the winners was chosen, are published on the competition’s website, Canada’s Best Diversity Employers.

Canada’s Best Diversity Employers: 2024 Winners

The following organizations have been chosen as Canada’s Best Diversity Employers for 2024 (employee count refers to full-time staff):

Accenture Inc., Toronto. Professional services; 6,207 employees. Helps refugees access employment opportunities at the company and also connects them with external business networks that assist with refugee redeployments.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa. Federal government; 5,547 employees. Launched a diversity and inclusion toolkit in the past year to provide managers with resources to enact inclusive behaviours.

Alberta Health Services / AHS, Edmonton. Healthcare services; 49,522 employees. Established an anti-racism advisory group responsible for providing guidance on the organization’s anti-racism efforts, gathering employee feedback, and offering recommendations.

Amex Bank of Canada, Toronto. Credit card issuing; 2,047 employees. Committed to $1-million in grants over three years to provide underrepresented students with financial, educational, professional and personal skills.

Bank of Canada, Ottawa. Central bank; 2,237 employees. Enhanced its people dashboards to include representation data and goals, as well as hiring and departure rates for members of designated groups.

BASF Canada Inc., Mississauga. Chemical manufacturing; 1,106 employees. Requires all people leaders to have a minimum of one performance goal specifying how they will ensure continued progress in diversity, equity and inclusion.

BC Hydro, Vancouver. Hydroelectric power generation; 7,050 employees. Created a dedicated paid internship program to help Indigenous post-secondary graduates gain work experience and develop their skills.

BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. / BCIB, Vancouver. Employment services; 87 employees. Implemented mandatory training on cultural competency and equity for all employees, including those working at head office and construction sites.

BC Public Service, Victoria. Provincial government; 34,366 employees. Launched a new leave program to provide eight weeks of paid leave for employees to access gender affirming medical care.

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Toronto. Law firms; 1,361 employees. Supports an internal employee network called Black@Blakes that promotes inclusion and the advancement of Black legal professionals.

BNP Paribas, Montréal. Banking; 1,148 employees. Hired two additional recruiters and tasked them with a specific focus of diversifying the organization’s talent pool.

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Toronto. Law firms; 1,536 employees. Implemented a pilot sponsorship program for individuals who self-identify as women or as members of underrepresented groups.

Boston Consulting Group of Canada Limited, Toronto. Management consulting; 542 employees. Created the Lift@BCG Canada community to provide mentorship and professional development opportunities to employees who are the first in their family to attend post-secondary studies or grew up in low socioeconomic status households.

Bruce Power LP, Tiverton, Ont. Nuclear power generation; 4,167 employees. Supports an Indigenous Network that helps plan events to increase Indigenous awareness and act as advocates within local Indigenous communities.

Business Development Bank of Canada, Montréal. Secondary market financing; 2,868 employees. Created new financing programs in partnership with community organizations to enable diverse entrepreneurs to increase access to capital.

CAE Inc., Saint-Laurent, Que. Aviation and defence systems; 4,801 employees. Established the Women in Flight program to provide scholarships to female students who are interested in becoming pilots.

Canada Revenue Agency / CRA, Ottawa. Federal government; 59,786 employees. Created an ally resource guide to help employees create safe spaces and an inclusive environment.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ottawa. Federal government; 7,141 employees. Is developing a persons with disabilities action plan with targeted recruitment and retention strategies.

Canadian National Railway Company, Montréal. Railroad transportation; 17,782 employees. Provides inclusive leadership training for senior leaders and middle managers.

Capgemini Canada Inc., Toronto. Information technology services; 2,100 employees. Created an immersive leadership development program to enable career advancement for women and provide sponsorship and networking opportunities.

CBC / Radio-Canada, Ottawa. Public broadcasters; 6,597 employees. Is committed to having half of all new hires for executive and senior management positions be Indigenous people, racialized people, or people with disabilities.

CGI Inc., Montréal. Information technology; 11,233 employees. Provides hiring managers with a diversity, equity and inclusion recruitment and selection toolkit to help reduce bias during the hiring process.

Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Toronto. Child and youth services; 709 employees. Supports a mental health in the workplace policy with the objectives of increasing knowledge, awareness and de-stigmatization of mental health and well-being.

Corus Entertainment Inc., Toronto. Media production and broadcasting; 3,051 employees. Offers scholarship and internship programs for students from underrepresented communities.

D2L Corporation, Kitchener, Ont. Software publishers; 891 employees. Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is a required learning for all employees as part of the company’s onboarding program.

Dentons Canada LLP, Calgary. Law firms; 1,415 employees. Achieved its representation goal to have women represent over 30 per cent of board and executive position roles, with women currently representing 46 per cent of the firm’s board.

Ecolab Co., Mississauga. Cleaning and sanitization products and services; 866 employees. Shares monthly scorecards with each business and region to help track progress and ensure accountability to the company’s diversity goals.

Emera Inc., Halifax. Electric power generation and distribution and gas distribution; 2,488 employees. Provides opportunities for candidates to self-identify during the application phase and reviews all postings with a gender neutral and inclusive lens.

Employment and Social Development Canada, Gatineau, Que. Federal government; 41,639 employees. Launched a sponsorship program to help employees who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour prepare for leadership roles.

Enbridge Inc., Calgary. Energy infrastructure; 7,634 employees. Partners with EmployAbilities to offer work experience placements for students with disabilities.

Export Development Canada, Ottawa. International trade financing and support services; 2,128 employees. Recognizes employees who champion the importance of belonging through a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador award.

EY, Toronto. Accounting; 8,392 employees. Supports a reverse mentorship program organized by the company’s Black professionals network to improve understanding of the challenges, successes, and barriers faced by Black professionals.

GHD Canada Holdings Inc., Waterloo, Ont. Engineering services; 1,780 employees. Adopted a flexible statutory holiday that enables employees to bank stat holidays for use on holidays that are not formally recognized.

Gibson Energy Inc., Calgary. Oil and gas distribution; 469 employees. Introduced a company-wide course on conscious inclusion and tied course completion to employees’ annual short-term incentive program.

GlaxoSmithKline Inc. / GSK, Mississauga. Pharmaceutical manufacturing; 1,728 employees. Created an inclusive interview training module to help hiring managers ensure a fair and inclusive interview process.

Health Canada / Santé Canada, Ottawa. Federal government; 9,937 employees. Embeds diversity and inclusion commitments into executives’ performance agreements such as implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto. Hospitals; 571 employees. Is a co-site host for Project SEARCH, a school-to-work employment training and transition program for high school students with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Home Depot Canada Inc., Toronto. Retail; 16,983 employees. Created development programs to accelerate the careers of women and BIPOC talent.

Hyundai Auto Canada Corp., Markham, Ont. Automobile wholesale; 247 employees. Hosts a quarterly networking event to connect with professionals that identify as a diverse candidate or a newcomer to Canada.

IBM Canada Ltd., Markham, Ont. Software development. Participates in its parent company’s global neurodiversity program to support recruitment and professional development opportunities for neurodivergent individuals.

IGM Financial Inc., Winnipeg. Financial services; 4,018 employees. Diversifies its talent pipeline by setting a minimum requirement of 50 per cent women participants in its graduate rotational program.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Ottawa. Federal government; 6,899 employees. Named a Champion of Accessibility and conducted a preliminary gap analysis to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility.

Jazz Aviation LP, Goffs, N.S. Air transportation; 4,628 employees. Requires that supplier bids share examples of how their company supports diversity and inclusion through related policies, programs or other initiatives.

KPMG LLP, Toronto. Accounting; 11,114 employees. Introduced a new daily living equipment benefit for people with disabilities, providing reimbursement for products that increase the ability to accomplish daily tasks as independently as possible.

Lafarge Canada Inc., Calgary. Concrete manufacturing; 6,986 employees. Established an executive diversity, inclusion and belonging council as well as an inclusion, diversity, equality, accountability, leadership committee with the objective of creating an inclusive culture.

Ledcor Group of Companies, Vancouver. Construction; 9,138 employees. Launched a women’s mentorship program to help connect female employees from across the company.

Liquor Control Board of Ontario / LCBO, Toronto. Liquor distribution; 4,427 employees. Developed a pilot program in partnership with employment service providers to recruit people with disabilities.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., Brampton, Ont. Supermarkets and grocery stores; 32,441 employees. Sources diverse candidates through partnerships with Equitek and Pride at Work and provides inclusive hiring training for all hiring managers.

Manitoba Hydro, Winnipeg. Hydroelectric power generation; 4,950 employees. Manages pre-placement programs for Indigenous candidates who do not meet the academic qualifications required to participate in its trades programs.

Manulife, Toronto. Direct life insurance carriers; 12,237 employees. Maintains local segment and function plans which are reported and tracked by the CEO as well as the diversity, equity and inclusion council.

McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Toronto. Law firms; 1,642 employees. Established a formal Reconciliation Response plan outlining concrete steps the firm is taking in response to the 94 calls to action identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

McGill University, Montréal. Post secondary schools, university; 7,303 employees. Developed an action plan to address anti-Black racism and launched an internal internship pilot to increase career opportunities for Black administrative and support staff.

McMaster University, Hamilton. Post secondary schools, university; 6,965 employees. Manages an employment equity facilitator program to support all hiring processes, act as process consultants, and ensure equitable outcomes.

Niagara Health, St Catharines, Ont. Healthcare services; 3,598 employees. Launched a diversity mentorship program to help reduce barriers for equity-deserving and underrepresented staff and physicians.

Nunavut, Government of, Iqaluit. Territorial government; 3,685 employees. Organizes cultural immersion days to provide opportunities for all departments and public bodies to develop greater understanding of Inuit societal values and languages.

OpenText Corporation, Waterloo, Ont. Software publishers; 2,790 employees. Recently welcomed its first cohort of Black and Indigenous interns as part of its Navigator internship program, offered in partnership with Lakehead University.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Toronto. Law firms; 1,263 employees. Helps female lawyers advance into partnership through a dedicated program featuring mentorship, coaching, and training.

Ottawa, City of, Ottawa. Municipal governments; 13,072 employees. Established its first anti-racism strategy, a five-year plan to identify and remove systemic barriers from city policies, programs and services to help realize racial equity.

Procter & Gamble Inc., Toronto. Consumer product manufacturing; 1,796 employees. Manages a mental health action plan to foster well-being and reduce stigma and offers dedicated coverage for mental health care, to a maximum of $4,000 per year.

Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto. Banking; 66,044 employees. Maintains a development program for early-in-career Indigenous talent, providing exposure to various areas of the bank’s operations.

SAP Canada Inc., Vancouver. Custom computer programming services; 3,110 employees. Participated as a pilot country for the parent company’s Autism at Work program and employs 10 individuals across Canada through its involvement.

SaskPower, Regina. Electric power generation; 3,264 employees. Created a Women in Trades initiative with the aim of better understanding the experience of female employees in skilled trades roles.

SaskTel, Regina. Telecommunications; 2,713 employees. Developed a supported employment program for candidates with cognitive disabilities, in partnership with community-based organizations.

Scotiabank, Toronto. Banking. Strives to increase representation of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or another diverse sexual orientation to seven per cent of the bank’s Canadian workforce by 2025.

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre / SLCC, Whistler, B.C. Cultural centres; 28 employees. Worked with a local Indigenous business to decolonize the organization’s recruitment, onboarding and retention processes and reflect Líl̓wat7úl ways of knowing and being.

Statistics Canada / Statistique Canada, Ottawa. Federal government; 6,502 employees. Manages a visible minority consultative group responsible for advising senior management on issues related to employment, retention, career development and advancement.

TD Bank Group, Toronto, ON. Banking; 64,507 employees. Launched a sponsorship program to provide Black employees with professional development opportunities that align with future leadership roles.

TELUS Communications Inc., Vancouver. Telecommunications; 26,162 employees. Created a new Indigenous wellness benefit to cover the costs of traditional healing practices such as Indigenous healers and elders, traditional medicines, and travel expenses, up to $1,000 per year.

Thales Canada Inc., Ottawa. Aerospace systems; 1,032 employees. Offers a one-year mentoring program to support women transitioning to leadership roles.

Thomson Reuters Canada Ltd., Toronto. Publishers; 1,362 employees. Created a diversity, equity and inclusion discussion toolkit to help managers facilitate conversations on racial equity as well as diversity and inclusion.

Toronto, City of, Toronto. Municipal governments; 23,835 employees. Established a mentorship program for skilled immigrants in 2004, creating approximately 1,500 mentoring relationships since its inception.

UBC / University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Post secondary schools, university; 16,308 employees. Hired its first accessible buildings planner to help develop accessibility design guidelines for new and existing campus buildings.

Université de Montréal, Montréal. Post secondary schools, university; 5,809 employees. Maintains partnerships with approximately 30 organizations that work to employ persons with disabilities, immigrants and Indigenous peoples.

University of Calgary, Calgary. Post-secondary education; 6,004 employees. Maintains equity, diversity and inclusion awards to recognize students, staff and faculty who have demonstrated a commitment to inclusion and equity on campus.

University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. Post secondary schools, university; 5,149 employees. Requires faculty candidates to share a personal equity, diversity and inclusion statement as part of the hiring process.

University of Ottawa, Ottawa. Post secondary schools, universities; 5,266 employees. Supports an Indigenous action plan with steps to develop an Indigenous faculty recruitment and hiring policy.

University of Toronto, Toronto. Post secondary schools, university; 11,369 employees. Maintains an anti-racism and cultural diversity office that offers courses to increase understanding on strategies to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.

University of Victoria, Victoria. Post secondary schools, university; 3,185 employees. Organizes an annual Five Days of Action campaign to highlight the university’s commitment to ending discrimination, harassment and sexualized violence.

Women’s College Hospital, Toronto. Hospitals; 749 employees. Includes equity goals as part of each executive’s talent action plan.

York University, Toronto. Post secondary schools, university; 5,237 employees. Established an advisory council on Black inclusion and delivered unconscious bias training to help mitigate bias during the hiring process.

More from Canada’s Top Employers for Diversity

Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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