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Ask the Expert: Michael Bach on workplace diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion aren’t buzz words — they’re essential to any organization that hopes to thrive in the 21st century. An increasing number of studies have proven the immense benefits of building up a diverse workforce, from improved staff retention to higher profits. Implementing strategies to boost inclusion can be easier said than done, though. That’s why we invited Michael Bach, Cornell Certified Diversity Professional and Advanced Practitioner (CCDP/AP), to join our Ask the Expert session this week. Michael Bach is recognized as a thought leader and subject matter expert in the fields of diversity, inclusion and employment equity, bringing a vast knowledge of leading practices in a live setting to his work. He has deep experience in strategy development, stakeholder engagement, training and development, research, solution development and execution, employee engagement, data analytics, measurement and diversity scorecards, targeted recruiting strategies, marketing and communications, Employee Resource Groups, Diversity Councils, and diversity-related legislation.

Here are the highlights from our webchat with Michael Bach. Please keep in mind all user participation is anonymous.

Navigating mentorship with #MeToo in mind

QUESTION — “I recently read a news story about how sixty-something percent of male managers are scared of mentoring female employees because of #MeToo. This is ridiculous, and only holds women back even more. What are some ways we can work together to eradicate this ‘fear’ and encourage men to support women?

Michael Bach — “We all need to accept that we’re living in a new paradigm of heightened sensitivity, but the answer is NOT to shut down. First, if men are uncomfortable, then ensure meeting occurs in a public place during working hours. No after-work drinks. Traveling with a female colleague, but don’t suggest they come back to your room. Focus on the work. Would you take a male colleague back to your room?

For women, it’s your job to push through. If you hear a comment or an inappropriate action, don’t run to HR first. Call it out. Don’t apologize or be embarrassed. Make it clear that that behaviour isn’t appropriate. If it continues, then you can drop the hammer. Most times, calling it out will change the behaviour.

Standing up for your values

QUESTION — “We create content in my company, and while we are an inclusive and diverse workforce, some of our clients do not share the same openness. For example, when picking stock photos to represent family units we like to use same sex parents, however, we have received some backlash in doing that. What is your suggestion so that we continue to promote our values but also don’t lose business?

Michael Bach — “Change always is disruptive. And that’s what’s happening here. You’re going to get push back. It’s just important that you live your values. If your company has made a commitment to being inclusive, then you shouldn’t settle. It’s an opportunity to educate the client. Share with them why you’ve selected certain images. How many same sex parents are out there? What’s the market share? And then if that doesn’t work, it’s important to know when it’s ok to fire the client. I promise you there will be lots of clients that want to work with you because of your commitment to D&I.

Recognizing equality on a deeper level

QUESTION — “I’m working in a company where there seems to be a double standard. Women particularly get all kinds of mentorship and support programs, but I think we are pretty inclusive as it is. When is it important to phase out special initiatives so that everyone in the company feels they have the same level of opportunity for career growth?”

Michael Bach — “Awesome question. It’s safe to phase it out when everyone actually has the same opportunity. Women still make $0.78 on the dollar compared to men, yet have been graduating with more than 50% of undergraduate degrees since 1979-1980. Women make up 7.4% of the CEOs of the Financial Post 500 (that includes white women and women of colour). Sadly, there are various glass ceilings in place for a lot of people — women, people of colour, people with disabilities, etc. — and we have yet to break through them.

Don’t miss our next Ask the Expert session!

If you weren’t able to catch our webchat with Michael Bach, you can always sign into your LifeSpeak account to read the transcript. And be sure to log in June 12 at 12PM EST to chat with Lysa Toye, who will be answering your questions about understanding grief. If you don’t have a LifeSpeak account, please have your HR team reach out to us about your company subscribing.

What is Ask the Expert?

Our Ask the Expert sessions allow our users to have regular access to our experts in real time, which allows them to have their pressing questions answered. This opportunity provides our users with practical and easily implemented tips to help them make real changes in their lives. To learn more, don’t hesitate to book a walk-through.