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Building business through diversity

May 10, 2013
By: 
Amy Dove
Jackie Scales, MBA alumna, is the spring 2013 Alumni Excellence Award winner.

Diversity fatigue is costing companies time and talent.

An overused and often poorly defined word, a push to meet diversity hiring quotas, real and perceived, allows many companies to stop short of creating a truly inclusive workplace, says Royal Roads Alumni Excellence Award winner Jackie Scales.

It is one thing to bring a group of people together, but if the workplace doesn’t take into account employee’s individual needs, beliefs and values it is not inclusive, she says. The result is often lower productivity and engagement, higher staff turnover rates and lost opportunities.

“In Canada, (talent) is our asset, but in the global war for talent, people continue to focus on organizations that they feel have the most cultural alignment with them,” says Scales, who earned her MBA from Royal Roads in 2010. “We need to meet that challenge within corporate Canada.”

As a senior manager at Deloitte and leader of the diversity and inclusion practice in Toronto, Scales brings her insights and personal experiences around diversity and inclusion strategies to companies across industry lines, from mining to banking. Regardless of the company, the bottom line is when employees don’t feel like they can bring their authentic self to work productivity suffers, she says.

Her approach to business has not gone unnoticed by her colleagues. “We are a better business because of her,” says Heather Stockon, a partner at Deloitte. “Jackie is a senior leader at Deloitte, an advocate for change, a mother, partner, sister and role model who starts every day thinking about how to create a more inclusive world for her children and our firm.”

Since Scales entered the workforce 20 years ago, first with CI BC and then with Deloitte, she has noticed a positive shift in how people are addressing inclusivity. That includes her own positive experience coming out to her colleagues.

That being said, many companies are more focused on diversity than inclusion. Employers can sometimes overlook people with disabilities, assuming they can’t do the job, rather than asking them how they would do the job, she says as an example, adding they probably have the answer.

“The focus has been on the easier part of inclusion – gender equality and visible minorities. There are still groups that we tend not to talk about and focus on,” she says. Those groups represent the non-visible minorities, including people of different religious faiths, those living with mental and physical health issues, and people with different sexual orientations.

Awareness at the corporate and individual level is needed to change things for the better, she says. Corporations need to create an equal playing field for everyone. Whether that is access to a resource group or training, everyone needs to have equal opportunity to succeed. That responsibility extends beyond the company itself into what organizations companies do business with, she says.

There are individual responsibilities too. People need to stay true to their values and speak out when they see discrimination or a situation that isn’t fair. “We all need to take the moments that matter to us and take every opportunity as a leadership opportunity,” she says.

Education is the key, and Scales learned that first-hand at Royal Roads. Her MBA cohort brought together people with different educational, professional and personal backgrounds. “(Royal Roads) really does create a mosaic,” she says. “It really opened my eyes to the art of the possible.”

Scales now devotes her time, both professionally and as a volunteer, to helping people broaden definitions and expectations of diversity and inclusion in the workforce. It’s a conversation every company should have if they want to increase productivity and staff retention, she says.

She is a board member with Pride at Work Canada and Community One Foundation. She is also co-chair of Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor’s Forum on First Nations. Her audience is as diverse as her message, but there is a common theme that runs through everything Scales does.

“There is a power in tapping into diverse cultures and diverse thought. We can change opinion, inform opinion and create new opinions,” she says. “We are missing out on brilliant people who have a lot to offer our organizations.”