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As companies take a step back in funding DEI efforts, employees who helped to facilitate these initiatives may be feeling disappointed and displaced.Getty Images

Ask Women and Work

Question: Over the past few years, I’ve become involved in my company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, which have included some really successful events and training. However, management’s interest in supporting or funding DEI activities has dipped lately, which has been disappointing for myself and some of my colleagues. How can I revive management’s interest in this space and help them realize it’s important to their staff, especially their younger employees?

We asked Tenisha Younge Wint, diversity and inclusion manager, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, to tackle this one:

It is a fact that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts have seen a decline as many companies have taken a step back in funding and engaging in DEI-focused initiatives and training. Layoffs in DEI roles are not far behind this trend, and many employees who helped to facilitate these initiatives are now feeling disappointed and displaced. You are not alone.

DEI is an important building block for companies to integrate into their structure for honest communication, transparency and accountability. It is the beginning of equitable practices and senior leadership should be at the helm. To revive their interest, find allies and change champions within your company! If there is anyone in leadership that you trust and who was supportive of past DEI initiatives, relay how the employees are feeling. Ask them for support to draft a plan to submit to your company’s decision makers.

A great place to begin is understanding the company’s demographic by data collection. Why? It is the foundation of successful strategic plans to improve the employee experience, not just internally, but for future talent and clients. It’s important that leadership knows this information to create measurable goals and understand its employees on a much wider scale. This encourages a sense of belonging, opportunities to amend old policies and create new ones.

Work with your change champion on data collection options, such as a survey. But remember that to collect data, trust is crucial. Transparency is important, not just at the beginning to encourage employee participation, but throughout the entire process. In the past, historically marginalized groups have been harmed in this process and may be hesitant to participate. Be clear about the type of data being collected, how it will be used, how it will be stored and how long it will be kept. Your company should be transparent on the results. Where can the company do better? This data will support your plan moving forward.

A few more notes to consider about data collection:

  1. Confidentiality and anonymity must be maintained throughout the entire process.
  2. Multiple choice answers allow for intersectionality, and limit yes or no responses.
  3. Answer expansion allows for employees to describe an answer in greater detail.

Once data are collected, they can be used to create a strategic plan. Have your change champion suggest that it be signed by a senior leader for accountability. This is a step to revive leadership commitment and establish inclusive and equitable decisions.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at

This week’s must-read stories on women and work

Newcomer women often struggle to pursue their careers in Canada. These programs are helping them succeed

When Rikhita Nair moved from India to Victoria, she had nearly a decade of experience as a PR and communications specialist working with startups in tech, e-commerce and higher education. Eager for a job, Ms. Nair says she applied “like crazy to just about anything that remotely matched my abilities,” focusing on marketing and communications roles. But her efforts didn’t result in any opportunities.

“I quickly realized that this approach wasn’t working out so well,” she says.

Ms. Nair says she was “mentally prepared” for a long job search, taking into account the state of the economy and layoffs in the tech industry. “But it became particularly challenging after eight months. The constant rejections in job interviews began to take a toll on my confidence. Sometimes, I believed I had performed well having reached the final stage of the interview, only to be turned down, which was demoralizing.”

Read about how a skills training program, Lumen, helped Ms. Nair with her job hunt.

Alanis Morissette talks activism, feminism and musicals: ‘Anger as a life force is delicious’

At some point in the fevered weeks of 1994, as Alanis Morissette and her co-songwriter and producer, Glen Ballard, were spinning the gold of Jagged Little Pill in his Hollywood studio – they aimed to write and record one song a day – Mr. Ballard turned to her and asked, “Are you aware of what’s happening right now?” Meaning, did 20-year-old Ms. Morissette know she was not just pulling back the curtain on young women’s lives but shredding it; that she was articulating their angst, anger, delights and sexuality in a way that was raw, literary, revolutionary?

“I said, ‘No, what’s happening? Other than me expressing myself?’” Ms. Morissette recalled earlier this month, during a 20-minute phone interview that burbled with laughter. “Here’s what I did know: I knew that I loved it. Every new song we were writing, I was lit up.”

Her record label, Maverick (then a new company, co-founded by Madonna), predicted the album would sell 125,000 copies, a number that blew Ms. Morissette’s mind. “I was like, ‘How am I going to deal with that?’” she says.

Read Ms. Morissette’s take on mentorship, podcasts and her role in the musical based on her songs.

Ontario small-business owners grappling with ‘overwhelming stress’ over effects of COVID-19 pandemic

Small-business owners in Ontario are struggling in a mental-health “echo pandemic” and lack the resources to deal with employee and self-burnout, a report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has found.

Mind the Gap, released on Tuesday, examines the economic effects of COVID-19 and how a lack of mental-health program funding has affected small businesses.

“Many of the small-business owners in the chamber network feel that they have been left on the front lines of the mental-health crisis after the pandemic,” said Simranzeet Singh Vig, senior policy analyst at the OCC and author of the report.

According to the chamber, which advocates on behalf of approximately 60,000 businesses across the province, 45 per cent of small-business owners said they felt “overwhelming stress” dealing with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including inflation, supply chain issues and employee retention. Two-thirds of small-business owners also said they were closer to burning out after two years of COVID-19-related stress, according to a survey conducted last year.

Read how tax incentives could encourage small businesses to invest in employee mental health.

In case you missed it

Does wearing high heels at work make sense any more?

Early in her career, as a lawyer on Bay Street in Toronto, Lisa Stam would sometimes cram her feet into a pair of spiky heels.

Most courtrooms feature hard flooring, so heels make a loud, intimidating clack on them.

“When you march in with heels, there’s a presence you can have,” says Ms. Stam. “There’s a bit of theatre to law.”

Outside of court, Ms. Stam opted to mainly wear flats paired with pantsuits. Now, she practises employment, labour and human-rights law at a small firm where everyone works remotely. “We can all wear bare feet if we want.”

High heels have been a staple of women’s workwear for decades. But as workplaces become more casual and more people work from home, women are rethinking how footwear impacts their careers and self-image.

Read the full article.

From the archives

Moms aren’t getting enough support when returning to work

After a year of maternity leave, Jen Strimbold reluctantly agreed to return to her job as an occupational therapist in northern British Columbia, even though the thought of going back so soon made her anxious.

When she arrived at her office, she wasn’t prepared for how little support she received from her employer and colleagues, despite having just been through such a major life change.

“Twelve months didn’t seem like enough. I never have felt so much dread in my life. My baby and I were so attached,” she says.

On her first day, Ms. Strimbold says a few colleagues came by to greet her, but quickly returned to their work. She remembers feeling overwhelmed and upset at the thought of her daughter being at daycare for the first time. “There were some tears at my desk,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting balloons and banners, but it was a big transition and for me it was emotionally lacking.”

Read the full article.

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Stacie Campbell/The Globe and Mail

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