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Frank Vettese is managing partner, chief executive and chief inclusion officer, Deloitte Canada.

I am a white, typically abled, straight man on Bay Street. I consider myself a champion for inclusion in the workplace; I am a leader who is using my position in Canada's largest professional-services firm to push for change – inside and outside of my firm. Hadiya Roderique's courageous essay about her experience as a black woman on Bay Street was a wake-up call.

I need to do more; we all do. We have a moral imperative to make our opposition to the status quo louder. As business leaders, we also have the opportunity to advance progressive ideas and lead transformations. Together, by championing and creating more open, diverse and inclusive companies, we can make society even better – for all of us.

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But being inclusive isn't just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do. When firms bring people together with different experiences, mindsets and skill sets, they outperform the rest.

We have an opportunity to use our country's diversity to our competitive advantage. However, our progress to shift our practices and attitudes to create more inclusive workplaces has stalled or is moving far too slowly, and Canada's prosperity is in jeopardy.

Employment and income outcomes still lag for visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, those with disabilities, new immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community and women.

The problem? Too many Canadian businesses continue to rely on outdated approaches to diversity and inclusion that are, in some cases, more than 40 years old. They focus on counting, cataloguing and comparing what makes us different.

Far too few focus on making the most of our differences, by making each of us feel valued for what we bring to the table as individuals.

Deloitte was certainly not immune from any of these behaviours. Despite making progress – this year's new partners are representative of our society and clients, and 45 per cent of them are women – we would be the first to say that we can and should do more.

Where do we go from here?

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Stop window dressing. We need to move beyond optics or giving the appearance of embracing and welcoming difference in our organizations.

We need to ensure our organizations stop thinking about having differences and instead start thinking about how we can unite through differences. This means creating an environment in which all individuals feel valued and connected, and that they belong. In an inclusive workplace, people feel comfortable bringing their authentic and "whole selves" to work.

No masking. No covering. No changing back into ourselves at the end of the workday, as Ms. Roderique did. No exceptions.

This kind of profound cultural transformation on Bay Street and beyond must happen now and it starts with business leaders such as me.

Organizations need to make clear the specific inclusive behaviours they expect from their leaders – at all levels. For example, unconscious bias is one of the most challenging and pervasive underlying causes of exclusive behaviour. Leaders need to confront their biases and overcome them. Many at Deloitte – myself included – found this to be a tough but invaluable lesson. In my case, early in leadership, as I sought to aggressively build a business, I was hiring people such as me and similar to others I worked with on a regular basis. Self-awareness is a powerful tool for creating change.

At the same time, corporate Canada simply needs more diversity in leadership. Rethinking current systems and processes and eliminating those that perpetuate bias are critical moves. Hire based on cultural contribution, not ill-defined cultural fit. Said another way, think about how people can enrich your culture, not how they can conform to it. Deliberately building a more diverse pipeline of leaders will avoid tokenism and its unintended consequences, such as creating environments where discrimination is actually more likely because difference is more obvious. We must own inclusion both inside and outside the workplace – in our communities, with clients, suppliers and through our networks. Canadian business leaders need to not only speak up, but stand up for inclusion. It won't be easy.

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We need more courageous approaches and more ambitious goals to transform our workplaces and our country. We need bold action, so Ms. Roderique's experience is the exception and not the rule. If we act now to transform our business cultures and truly embrace inclusion, Canada will be the best place to live, work and – most importantly – belong. Our future prosperity demands we get inclusion right. Our employees are asking for it. Our clients value it. We can't afford to wait.

Hadiya Roderique is a former lawyer in Toronto. As a PhD candidate studying organizational behaviour and human resources, she discusses her own work experience and ways to improve diversity and retention in the workplace. The Globe and Mail
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