2020 has been a pivotal year, from the outbreak of a pandemic to the largest civil rights movement.
Organizers of the GlobalFest Human Rights Forum feel the timing is right to focus on some difficult conversations.
This year’s event has moved online and the theme is “Breaking the Cycle 2.0.”
One of the key topics focuses on bringing more diversity to organizations.
Ranju Shergill is a partner at Pekarsky & Co, an executive search firm. She is working with clients to help them have more diverse applicants for job openings. She’s passionate about ensuring companies are more inclusive. Shergill said it’s time to alter some of those office boardrooms.
“There’s a look and feel to corporate Calgary, and long-term, I would love to see a different look to corporate Calgary, a more diverse look and more inclusion in leadership teams,” Shergill said.
She said for years, companies were so focused on gender diversity but things are shifting.
“As recruiters, we are the gatekeepers to making a difference to see more diversity in leadership teams,” Shergill said. “We are the ones who can make a difference putting forward more diverse candidates so we are not seeing just the tokenism.”
Shereen Samuels is a standing member of the ad hoc board recruitment committee with the Calgary Public Library.
The CPL has enlisted the professional help of Shergill’s team in hopes of ensuring it is inclusive in its hiring practices.
“My primary concern has never been to convince people that it’s worthwhile to hire people with diverse perspectives; that isn’t an argument we should even be having,” Samuels said. “The question has always been: how do you convince people to do a favor for you to increase your diversity on your board? What’s in it for them?”
Samuels said organizations have to be more accountable than just having a mission statement on a company website.
“It’s one of the major pitfalls for people trying to increase diversity on boards. It’s the accusation of tokenization, of companies saying, ‘We are trying to tick a checkbox. We have three people of colour. OK, we are done.’ It can’t be that,” Samuels said.
She said it’s about companies having the determination to search for applicants outside the corporate Calgary bubble and their own personal and professional circles.
“That’s part of the problem. They’re not even getting the applicants. What does that say about the pools they’re choosing from?” Samuels said.
“What it says is that boards they are choosing from are their own pools of people they know and who look like them and that’s really common.
“It takes effort to do something different and it takes effort to say, ‘I’m going to go outside of what’s familiar and comfortable and I will actively choose something else.’ That takes intention.”
Shergill called it a delicate situation.
The GlobalFest Human Rights Forum continues all week until Saturday, Oct. 17.