By Cloé Caron
As part of 30 interviews with exceptional women leaders that I conducted for my book, Dare to Empower/Osez vous propulser, I had the chance to chat with Salwa Salek, Chief Diversity, Equity and of inclusion at Desjardins on the importance of reviewing our traditional models to create opportunities, in our companies, for people who are said to be “different” in order to promote them.
Something that Salwa mentioned in our conversation stayed with me long after: “We all are all someone’s “OTHER”. Despite the progress made in terms of equality and inclusion, there are still many inequalities and exclusions.
What does it mean to be the “other of someone”? That we are all the minority of a group, of someone. We have all experienced, at one time or another, this feeling of being looked at strangely for being different or felt excluded, whether in the schoolyard or in a meeting room… We are all different from one another and if, personally, I have the privilege of being born in Canada, of being white, I know what it feels like to be the “OTHER” of a group. When I started my career as a young lawyer (more than 25 years ago), there were very few women partners in law firms. My eyes saw almost only men. My experience of the workplace was a male dominated one. Women, and therefore me, were the “other” of the male majority.
I believe that as a society, we are collectively becoming more and more aware of the biases we have towards those who seem different from us. The expression D&I (diversity and inclusion) is now well established in organizations and concrete actions are being taken to become create more equality. But beyond an organizational concept, what do we do individually?
What was your “difference” that was noticed, highlighted, emphasized or even looked down upon? How did you feel?
It is this feeling, in my opinion, that we must connect to when discussing diversity and inclusion. This is what brings us to benevolence and openness towards the differences of others. When we look at and involve people in our teams, do we always do it with this intention to include and therefore listen to all opinions, all points of view, all different perspectives? Are we creating the space for all voices to be heard, regardless of hierarchical level, role, experience, background?
It is by asking ourselves how we can be more inclusive, today, tomorrow and next week, that we contribute to concrete D&I. It is by creating the space for all our differences that we develop a lever to become more creative, more intelligent through the strength of the collective and therefore more efficient in our teams and our organizations.