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A thousand professionals and students gathered for the inaugural #movethedial Global Summit on Nov. 7 in Toronto in pursuit of a common mission: Closing the gender diversity and inclusion gaps we still face in the technology sector and more broadly across our organizations.

The message was clear as Jodi Kovitz, chief executive and founder of #movethedial, took the stage: If we want to solve the diversity and inclusion equation in our organizations, we need to “go out of our way.” Ms. Kovitz elaborated that this could mean something as small as taking 30 seconds to share/promote a post on social media, or big as actively sponsoring someone – which entails putting your own reputation on the line for someone else’s career advancement – or financially backing a female founder.

The summit’s organizing team walked the talk, going out of their way to ensure the day was inspirational and attentive to every detail, catering to all needs: free child care, an American sign language interpreter, accessible event spaces, quiet space for meditation, gender-neutral washrooms, food options for all dietary needs and a safe zone to report code-of-conduct breaches. Everyone was made to feel welcome and included. In addition, #movethedial demonstrated commitment to scaling this movement by revealing a new app (#movethedial Connect) that will provide a platform to curate and facilitate authentic mentoring relationships.

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A few simple mantras were repeated over the course of the event.

Less talk, more do

Molly Q. Ford, director of global equality programs at Salesforce, shared some of the actions the software company has taken to move the dial, most notably auditing and publishing gender pay equity data (and paying out large sums to close the gap on unexplained gender differences), and publishing gender stats publicly. The staff has gone from 30 per cent women in 2017 to 30.9 per cent in 2018 – seemingly a small gain and still ways to go – but this means an additional 2,000 female employees came through the door.

She also spoke about the work Salesforce is doing around allies – individuals who may not fit within one of their employee resource groups (called “Ohanas” at Salesforce, which means “families” in Hawaii) but who are out advocating for one or several groups. She shared a vivid example of the Black Employee Network having 100 employees at the Martin Luther King Jr. march in its first year and 1,700 in its second because allies “showed up.”

Small act, big change

Uber chief diversity officer Bo Young Lee offered three small acts to drive big change:

· Assume we have biases so that we can work consciously to mitigate them;

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· Stop calling underrepresented people “diverse” – diversity does not exist in one person in isolation and creates in-group and out-group bias. Instead, assume you are a deviation of everyone else’s normal;

· Push the envelope. If you haven’t been made to feel “angry” or “wrong” when discussing diversity issues, you are not doing enough to move the dial. We need to feel uncomfortable to drive change.

Hire more women

If women are not represented on all slates and all interview panels, it is virtually impossible to hire more women – and in turn have more women in leadership positions – and so the vicious cycle continues. It’s that simple.

Go out of your way

Damien Hooper-Campbell, chief diversity officer at eBay, encouraged us to break convention. This involves going out of your way to challenge norms and not be complacent with the status quo because “it’s always been done that way.”

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At eBay, its “Courageous Conversations” series brings biases to the forefront so that employees can learn from one another instead of ignoring differences (such as, “I am conservative, you are liberal.”)

Toronto Mayor John Tory shared that before he commits to a speaking engagement, he assesses the make-up of the panel/attendee list to ensure there’s adequate representation.

These mantras are being brought to life in many organizations across Canada and globally. The key is that one action does not fit all – for all companies, nor for all employees. But one thing is certain, we all need to go out of our way, as organizations and as individuals, in order to really move the dial.

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