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Canadian country leader and general manager at Red Hat, Inc., a global leader in open source.

Years ago, when I attended my first industry women's luncheon, I looked around and realized I was one of two men. Instead of feeling out of place, I felt incredibly welcomed in the gender diversity and inclusion community when the host and many attendees came over to thank me for taking the time to listen, support and understand their important work. After this meeting I became a strong advocate.

The recent media stories about unwanted behaviour in the workplace spanning various industries, and the subsequent social-media movements this has spawned, have amplified what can be done when we all come together as a community and lend our talents to guide change As Deloitte declared last year in their study Outcomes over Optics: Building Inclusive Organizations, what Canada needs is more courageous business leaders to move beyond "colourful window dressing" to take decisive action.

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I work in the open source software industry and have seen first-hand the impact of bringing diverse minds together for the greater good. Open source was established around the ethos of sharing and collaboration to develop, test and openly share software code that anyone is able to use. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Netflix are just a few of the corporate giants created using open source. Open source is rooted in the belief that the more we collaborate, the more voices join the conversation and the more diverse we are, the better we are able to innovate and meet new challenges.

If you aren't engaged in the gender diversity and inclusion community, I challenge you to make 2018 the year of solid outcomes and sharing successes. Here's how I've been collaborating to drive change.

Leverage your unique talents – One of my strengths is as a connector. I am leveraging my networks to attract the best diverse talent, but I'm also continually bringing together groups of experts. I just hosted my second annual Women + Leadership thought leadership event where we brought together tech and gender diversity leaders in Canada from Microsoft, HPE, Catalyst Canada, Ryerson University and more to share stories about unleashing their power. Men and women shared the stage to speak candidly, which generated lively and thoughtful discussions on stage and in the audience. The main audience takeaway was that we all want to work together.

Step up as an ally – I often find myself in the position of being an ally, and I am committed to helping guide positive change for underrepresented and minority communities. Being an ally is all about showing vulnerability, confronting your own prejudices and dealing with discomfort to be an understanding and open-minded friend. Red Hat has created resources for associates who want to be better allies, as part of our D+I Communities program. These materials were adapted from expert resources, including a concept developed by the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group that works for the LGBT community to ensure their rights and safety at work, home and in the community.

Review your HR foundation – A number of leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have proclaimed that "systemic problems" are at the heart of unwanted behaviours. An organization's foundational processes – compensation, hiring, promotions, performance assessments and development – guide the way our organizations operate and need to be continually reviewed. I'm working with my HR experts to review all of our processes to make them more fair and transparent to help eliminate systemic biases that can be barriers to success.

Be a brave champion for others – Dr. Imogen Coe, Ph.D., dean, faculty of science, Ryerson University, is an inspiration in leveraging influence to enable everyone to contribute and be heard. "I have been a vocal advocate on behalf of equal representation for women in various situations," says Dr. Coe. "Some men have contacted me privately to say they agree with my statements. I ask them to speak up publicly and be active visible allies so that the burden of the work in support of equal representation and gender equity does not always fall to one person, and importantly, not on the shoulders of those who are members of the under-represented group."

Lend your voice to engage the community – I have chosen LinkedIn to regularly share my views and this has led to opportunities to speak on panels, be part of gender-diversity academic case studies and help broker introductions to other experts. There are numerous innovative social movements where leaders share examples of how they are supporting women. #GoSponsorher, co-founded by Deloitte, McKinsey and Catalyst, challenges senior leaders to post a photo on social media with women they are sponsoring along with the hashtag to encourage others to take action.

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Time Magazine recently reported that when women comprise 20-30 per cent of an organization, real change happens. With a strong community, we can get there.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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