• Emily Mathison

The 50-30 Diversity Challenge

Navdeep Bains, Canadian federal minister of Innovation, Science and Industry recently announced the 50-30 Diversity Challenge, stating, “Corporate Canada should look like Canada.” A critical change as Camilla Sutton, President and CEO of Women in Capital Markets says, “Years of diversity initiatives have yet to yield lasting systemic change. In many ways, traditional diversity interventions have resulted in uninten

ded and, at times regressive, effects, by reinforcing the status quo of whiteness and masculinity as the normative culture, and requiring employees outside this dominant group to ‘fit in’ to succeed in their careers.”

This joint initiative between the federal government, private business and diversity organizations aims to dismantle that status quo by increasing diversity across corporate boards and senior leadership. “50” refers to gender parity, and “30” to underrepresented groups, including BIPOC, people living with disabilities, and LGBTQ2+ persons.

The benefits of this program (if effective) are clear. Both ethnically and racially diverse teams, and gender-diverse teams, are found to respectively outperform their counterparts and are more radically innovative. But regardless of a business case, inclusivity and representation matter.

Envisioning the execution of this challenge makes me think of an interview Tony Robbins did with Peter Diamandis, a commercial space travel entrepreneur. It’s a long one, but you can skip to the part of the interview I’m referring to here.

In their chat, Peter says that most people focus on small, incremental improvements. Often, organizations aim for a 10 percent improvement, rather than being 10 times better. But Peter argues that when you try to solve a problem that is 10 times bigger, you’re forced to reinvent your processes. You have to throw out legacy-thinking and become innovative. He also adds that when you aim to grow 10 times bigger, rather than 10 percent bigger, it is 100 times the value proposition, but never 100 times harder or more expensive.

"We need 10x better, not 10%"

In the federal government’s list of what, “we anticipate that the challenge may include,” it appears to reflect 10% thinking:

  • The creation of a Corporate Diversity Honour Roll;

  • Events where partners come together to recognize corporate leaders who have championed diversity and inclusion by putting it into practice in their own organizations;

  • An annual event where partners, ministers, and corporate leaders have an opportunity to celebrate achievements in diversity including an awards ceremony; and

  • Participation in a community of like-minded CEOs and public sector leaders who have taken the challenge and can help drive and support new and innovative approaches to furthering inclusion and diversity.

Nice and all, but safe, to be expected, and very government-like. To be fair, there is still an upcoming roundtable discussion between the diversity organizations and businesses that have partnered to create this program. Hopefully we’ll see more impactful commitment following that. As a first step, Camilla Sutton says, “The path toward systemic change begins with taking responsibility, acknowledging the inequities, becoming an ally and expanding one’s awareness and understanding of racial and gender equity.”

Learn more about the 50-30 Challenge, and consider how can you adopt Camilla’s path toward systemic change within your own organization. When building your targets, try Peter Diamantis' thought exercise. What it would take to increase the diversity of your team 10 times? What wild new ideas come to mind? What preconceived ideas would you have to toss out?

Here are some prompting questions to get the “10x” juices flowing:

  • Your challenge timeline is 6 months — what needs to happen?

  • Take an implicit bias test like this Harvard test. Based on the results, what does it tell you about yourself? If someone on your team had terrible results, what would you do?

  • Do you need to clean house on your board? What would happen if you did?

  • When you look at your staff attrition, is a significant proportion an underrepresented group? If so, what happened? How can you collect and incorporate frank, honest feedback from these past employees into new hiring or management practices?

  • Do your business contracts ensure diversity, inclusion and fair compensation? Is there wage inequality in your organization?

  • How will you measure and report on results? If you hire for diversity, would you fire for not supporting it?

  • What companies are excelling in this area? Who can you tap into to get honest insight into how they are achieving this? (And what didn’t work).

  • Are the tactics you're generating only focused on the underrepresented groups? If so, do they need help getting a leg up, or is it more the dominant group that needs help stepping aside?

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