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Job: Diversity and inclusion practitioner

The role: Diversity and inclusion (D&I) practitioners are tasked with improving diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility in the workplace. They help support a range of minority and marginalized communities by providing programs, support structures and other resources for employees, as well as insights and recommendations for business leaders.

“It’s things such as the creation or the management of an employee resource group, it’s providing linkages between the organization and other equity-led organizations and speaking to the things that drive greater diversity and inclusion in the Canadian workplace,” explains AK Akinnola, the senior manager of marketing, communications and events for the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI).

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Mr. Akinnola says D&I practitioners are employed in a variety of settings, each requiring unique skills. For example, those who work in a consulting capacity are often responsible for conducting surveys, collecting data and providing insights about employee sentiment and diversity programs. Those who work as members of internal human resources teams, meanwhile, might be responsible for delivering D&I training programs and learning solutions.

“You also have people who act as thought leaders and subject matter experts,” adds Mr. Akinnola. “That means giving voice and volume to minority and marginalized groups, the sort of people who most need the platform and the infrastructure that a [non-profit] agency like the CCDI can provide.”

Salary: According to the Canadian job listing aggregate website neuvoo, diversity and inclusion practitioners earn a median annual salary of $78,250, with entry-level positions starting at about $31,500 per year and senior positions reaching upwards of $133,000 annually. According to Mr. Akinnola, salaries can vary widely between employer types.

“It really is dependent on whether you are, say, in the private sector with a big-five accounting firm for instance, or are you operating in the non-profit sector as a social equity-led organization, because [private companies] have a much, much, much larger balance sheet, and that’s an understatement,” he says.

Education: While there are no formal educational requirements, Mr. Akinnola says employers typically require D&I practitioners to have completed a postsecondary education, as well as some diversity and inclusion training certification. For example, the CCDI offers a Canadian Certified Inclusion Professional Designation.

“There are also so many learning offerings and certificates available, like foundations in D&I, or an anti-racism certificate, or a diversity and inclusion influence certificate, which cover a range of topics, from indigenous inclusion to gender dynamics in the workplace to how to be an ally,” explains Mr. Akinnola. “There’s a number of topics, and they’re constantly evolving.”

Job prospects: In recent months, diversity and inclusion have been put in the spotlight and companies of all shapes and sizes have demonstrated an eagerness to address equity issues within their own organizations. As a result, career resource platforms like Glassdoor and CareerBuilding have suggested that the role of D&I practitioner will be one of the fastest growing careers in 2020 and beyond.

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“A lot of that happened in the wake of the George Floyd tragedy, and a lot of reactionary companies were responding to disgruntlement in their staff body and people who had narrated experiences which they felt were discriminatory against radicalized people,” explains Mr. Akinnola.

Challenges: The sudden increase in demand for D&I practitioners has left the industry understaffed at a critical time, which poses a number of challenges to practitioners, Mr. Akinnola says. “In the current climate, there’s a lot coming at us, and you can’t tend to everything at once, but everything requires a great deal of attention and time.”

Why they do it: When successful, D&I practitioners enjoy seeing the impact their contributions have on creating a more fair and equitable society.

“It’s about getting to make a difference, and getting to influence and reshape ecosystems and cultures because of the knowledge that you’ve shared,” says Mr. Akinnola.

Misconceptions: While much has changed, there are still those who fail to see the value of diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace.

“That mindset is starting to change, but I think for a long time people saw the role of D&I practitioners as superfluous,” says Mr. Akinnola. “It’s a veritable truth, however, that driving D&I as a business imperative is actually beneficial to a company’s bottom line – and top line.”

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