Founder and managing director of Hanson Crossborder Tax Inc.
As a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated field of tax and accounting, I know what it is like to work for an organization that espouses diversity but doesn’t really grasp the concept of inclusion. And make no mistake – there is a big difference between the two.
While my own personal experience working for Big Four accounting firms was largely positive, I do know of harassment from the senior level and a lack of advancement that appeared to be gender-based. When I set up my own company more than four years ago, I made sure that didn’t happen by using a rigorous hiring process.
In my organization, we pick experienced professionals and bring them into the office for a day of work to assess if there is a fit in terms of technical skills and personality. These hires are typically seasoned professionals who are chosen based on experience and fit.
Our head office in Oakville, Ont., includes people from such countries as China, the Philippines and Russia. Our office manager in Calgary studied accounting at the University of California, Los Angeles, and prior to that got her B.A. with a major in economics (and graduated cum laude) from De La Salle University in Manila, which is where she is from.
We do well, and from the very beginning have had double-digit growth every year. Our firm is known for its professionalism and quality of services, and hiring people from diverse backgrounds is a big reason for our success.
Our diverse backgrounds make for a wider perspective in decision-making and a more diverse client base. I am a native of Russia, I got my postgraduate education in the United States, I’m married to an American and I work in Canada. As a result, I understand the value that people from other parts of the world can bring to a business. And my staff has certainly brought it to mine.
Of course, not every organization operates this way, even if they say they do. They don’t always walk the walk. Any company can have a goal of hiring more women, or more visible minorities, or more members of the LGBT community. But if their employees don’t feel valued and are not being mentored or promoted in the same way as their straight, white, male counterparts, the effort is meaningless.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are all workplace buzzwords today, and countless organizations have policies whereby they set diversity goals or put in place quotas in order to build a diverse work force. There is no question that diversity is important, especially in this global world with companies expanding their work forces into other countries and cultures, speaking different languages.
Differing viewpoints and backgrounds bring more innovation to an organization, and those companies that embrace a diverse culture are attractive to top candidates and to customers who share those values. It is helpful in recruiting good people and to retaining good customers.
Today, a lot of money is spent on diversity and inclusion training. Some organizations have even tried using artificial intelligence to develop a hiring process whereby gender, race and physical ability are removed from the equation (although not always with success). Still, questions are always asked about whether or not enough is being done.
This is still a work in progress for many companies. However, the chief executives who face the greatest challenges in terms of developing fair hiring practices and effective diversity and inclusion policies are typically those of large, established companies. They may have a certain leadership style and a culture that is well established. Even with more resources at their disposal (such as company-wide training, diversity-specific leadership and teams, artificial intelligence), these businesses often struggle to make real change.
That tends not to be the case for young entrepreneurial businesses. Indeed, young entrepreneurs who are just starting their businesses have the opportunity to succeed at diversity, equity and inclusion by building these qualities into their culture from Day 1.
But the key to success to focus on inclusion. There is a big difference between “inclusion” and “diversity.” Verna Myers, an expert in this area, sums it up best: “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”
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