Visible Minorities in the Senior Ranks of the Public Service of Canada: Challenges and Opportunities
Description: On September 17, 2020, APEX and the School convened a panel of senior leaders to discuss the challenges faced by visible minorities in moving into the senior ranks of the federal public service. In this video recording of the event, you will hear their personal stories of systemic discrimination and the concrete actions needed to bring about meaningful change in the public service.
Date: January 11, 2021
Jacqueline: Good afternoon, everyone.
It gives me great pleasure to launch this session today with my colleague Taki Sarantakis.
The topic is "Visible Minorities in the Senior Ranks of the Public Service of Canada: Challenges and Opportunities".
APEX is very proud to be partnering with the Canada School, and together we are so pleased that we have over 380, almost 400 participants, at our session today.
I just want to give a few opening remarks, and I'm going to just bring your attention to a report that McKinsey published in May 2020.
The report was titled "Diversity Wins".
It states the progress on executive team diversity continues to be slow.
The same report states that gender and ethnically diverse executive teams are more likely to outperform their peers.
Today, when the panel introduces themselves, you will hear that they represent a lot of firsts.
They are not the norm.
But imagine if we could create a public service that they were.
I am the first Black CEO of APEX, an association that's over 30 years old.
Ryerson University has a study that they put out this year and it states that Black Canadians make up less than 1% of senior executive positions.
And that statistic is why we are here today.
Today, we want to engage in an authentic conversation about barriers, about challenges and about how to overcome them.
We need to discuss new practices and behaviours that we can build the rich mosaic that should be our public service.
I'm looking forward to hearing some words of wisdom from our panel, our moderator, on how we can leverage best practices from within the public service, academia and the private sector, to make the bold changes that are required.
And now, it is my pleasure to turn the floor over to my colleague Taki Sarantakis.
Taki: Thank you, Jacqueline.
Like you, I am very pleased to be here this afternoon to discuss this incredibly important topic.
This is such an important issue.
This is about representation, this is about talent, this is about equity, this is about justice.
But also, in a way, this is about Canada.
Canada, historically, has been a land that has embraced immigrants, historically has been a land that's been relatively good on pluralism, and Canada has been a land where others come together.
But we're not done yet.
Diversity and inclusion is a journey, I think, whose steps never end.
And I think, in some ways, what you're going to hear today is a lot of firsts, but you're also going to hear that things have to move faster, that there are things that are getting better, but we're not where we should be.
And we all know that.
And the statistics say that, and a lot of our life experiences say that.
The last thing in this vein, before I turn it over to my friend to start the panel, is that this is also, as Jacqueline was mentioning, about talent; this is also about moving the yardsticks in other areas.
Historically, women, for example, have not been fully incorporated into most countries over the course of humanity's existence.
That means we've lost about half of the potential talent and half the potential contributions that humanity could've made over its period.
Imagine if we had twice as many great mathematicians and twice as many great physicists, and twice as many great people working on medical research.
Imagine where we would be, not just as a society, but as a planet, if we were utilizing all of our talent better.
With that, I would like to introduce the moderator of this session.
I met him about 20 years ago.
I was a very lowly something or other, far less than EX, and he was a very high EX at the time, he is a little bit higher now, but he was an assistant deputy minister.
You could never tell that there was that big a gulf between us, kind of the junior analyst and the august assistant deputy minister.
Daniel was just Daniel.
He was just a great guy.
And Daniel, to me, in the years since I've known him, has been a paradigm of collaboration and inclusion, and I think, more than anything, has been a paradigm of wisdom.
And recently, Daniel changed his name.
I met him as Daniel Watson, but today you are seeing him and meeting him and hearing him as Daniel Quan Watson.
And that is something that I think he'll get into as he goes along.
But before starting the session, Daniel and I had a little chat and we decided that Daniel would start this session with a little story.
And Daniel's going to start today by telling you a little story, and it's a true story, about a woman named Helen Small and her little journey in the public service, because the rest of us have journeys to take as well.
My friend Daniel, over to you.
Daniel: Thank you very much, Taki.
What a pressure to put on my shoulders with this wonderful and generous presentation!
So, to all the participants, thank you very much for being here today.
It's obviously an extremely important conversation on a subject that we touch on every day and that is important to our society as a whole.
And I'd like to start by recognizing that we are on the traditional and unceded territory, at the School at least, of the Anishinabeg people— the Algonquin people—
and that I am here in Edmonton on the Treaty 6 territory, and that these are very important parts of where we come from as Canadians.
This conversation about visible minorities-- as we use the term until we find some better language to go forward with in the future, is, in the senior ranks of the public service, is an incredibly important one.
And it's important not just for the reasons that you might normally think.
If we want to talk about how to do accrual accounting, if we want to talk about how to do performance management, if we want to talk about project management, we have these conversations all the time in institutions.
And we're pretty good at having them.
And there are things that we might bring passion, there are things that we might bring our interest to, but they're very clinical and technical at the end of the day.
You're going to hear from the other panellists in this session.
As Jacqueline mentioned, we're all firsts in many different ways.
And, when you're talking to people in 2020 and 2021, who are the first people in the category that they are representing to do the things that they're doing, there's an entirely different weight that is brought upon them.
During my time as Deputy Minister and as Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, I've been told not to use a line by other federal public servants because it was only for Canadians.
I've been told at an airport by an airline official that I couldn't enter Canada because I didn't have a visa, despite the fact she was holding my diplomatic Canadian passport.
In an open session in Geneva, at the UN, I was openly referred to by one of the panel members as a mulatto representing Canada.
My experience representing Canada and in the public service has some key differences to many of my colleagues, and everyone has important stories.
But any of the things that I told you that happened to me when I was a Deputy Minister or an Assistant Deputy Minister—- and that is just a small sampling of them--, shock you, what it probably means is there's a whole world going on in the public service and in other institutions that you might not have been familiar with.
If I could get you to put up the first picture that I had asked could be put up.
It should be coming up onto the screen.
[Donald Quan's head tax certificate]
This is, for those of you who haven't seen one before, a head tax certificate.
This was the $500 certificate that only people of Chinese Canadian ancestry had to purchase.
And that's my grandfather, Donald Quan, who came at the age of 12 into Canada.
Now, if you can move to the next slide, I want to show that.
[Close-up of Donald Quan's head tax certificate, signature of the Controller of Chinese Immigration]
Because the title on that next slide, as you can see at the bottom of the screen maybe, is "Controller of Chinese Immigration".
Because of the Government of Canada didn't want very much of it and wanted to make sure that if it happened, it was under strict control.
From his lifetime to mine, he came into the country not being able to be a citizen, not being able to hold a number of professions, not being able to own land legally in a number of places, to the point where in my lifetime, I became a Deputy Minister five times over in the federal public service.
Now, that might seem like a lot of progress, and it is.
And Canada and Canadians are to be commended for that, but there's a lot left to be done.
So again, the panellists you're going to hear today are firsts.
It means that when each of these people did the things they did, they didn't have role models that were close to them, that shared the background that they had doing the things they were doing.
If you've ever done that you understand that that has a different weight.
There is a different weight in whether or not you'd succeed or fail, there is a different weight in whether or not you think you were going to be able to succeed, there is a different weight in the answering of the questions "Why is it that nobody else's managed to do this before?", "What might or might not hold me back?"
And then, when you're there, you have the added weight of people asking you a whole bunch of questions as, oh, you are the example of these things.
And still, you can have people saying, "This section of the mission is only reserved for Canadians, so you're still not here."
These are things that if they are shocking you, I don't say it to make anybody feel guilty.
I'm not saying this to get you in trouble, in the sense that you should feel guilty.
It is a matter of action and change.
Now, we've done this before, and Taki referred to that.
There is a video link that will go out later, in the follow-up to this, about a woman by the name of Helen Small, first Treasury Board analyst who was a woman ever to be hired at TBS in 1951 and had a remarkable career.
They had to go all the way up, I think it was to the Prime Minister, they couldn't tell if it was the Prime Minister or the President at Treasury Board, to not fire her the day she got married.
Because the rule was, if you were a woman and you got married, you got fired from the federal public service.
And, not only did she not get fired, they had to find a special place for her to work, because the men who employed her were worried that the other men would swear.
And of course, you couldn't (a) have her hear swearing, and (b) you couldn't have her ask the men to stop swearing.
So, they had to find something for her to do.
And they had to figure out, "What do women like to do?"
And they knew that women liked art.
And so, they gave her a project to think about art.
Well, the work that she did became the National Art Gallery.
She purchased the collection that became the source of Canada's National Art Gallery.
The beauty of the video that you will see, that we'll send around, is somebody that Taki and I worked for and have a world of respect for, and I know many others in the public service do too, our friend Yaprak Baltacioğlu, who was a woman who was an exceptional Secretary of the Treasury Board Secretariat.
And she is the one who is interviewing the first-ever analyst.
Remember that these things all happened within one lifetime.
The first Chinese Canadian public servant in the history of Canada was a gentleman by the name of William Lore.
He passed away in 2012.
I had been a Deputy Minister for three years at that point in time.
This is not ancient history, much of it is current and living history.
So, as you go through the panellists today, as we hear from them, I would like you to be thinking about the areas for which you are responsible.
How many positions, how many functions, how many roles, if you hired a Black Canadian, if you hired a Chinese Canadian, if you hired an Indigenous Canadian, if you hired a person with disabilities who was a Canadian into that position, would it be the first time ever?
And if you don't know the answer to that or if you haven't been thinking about that, let me tell you an awful lot of your employees are wondering if it will ever be possible for them.
And so, my recommendation is, think through that.
We have some exceptional panellists today and I'm not going to take any more time away from them.
We have people from public service backgrounds, we have people from private-sector and academic backgrounds, and I will start by turning it over to a remarkable public servant in Dr. Gail Johnson.
Gail, go ahead.
Gail: Thank you, Daniel, it gives me great pleasure to be with you this afternoon.
First of all, I'd like to start by saying that this is such an important topic, and it's one that is of utmost importance to me.
I think we can all agree that having a more diverse and inclusive public service means we are going to have better policies, we are going to have better service delivery, we are going to have a more resilient workforce, and I think we are going to have an enhanced public trust in the work that we do.
So, just wanted to set the context by saying this is an important subject and it leads to many great things.
So, about me.
Daniel talked about firsts; I am currently the Chief Human Resources Officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
I will say I am the first Black person to be in a senior executive role in the RCMP, I'm the first Chief Human Resources Officer who is a public servant and not a commissioned officer.
Normally, this position has been held by a deputy commissioner and there was a decision made to have a public servant in this position, and here I am, first person and the only Black person around the senior executive team at the RCMP.
It's not my first time being the first, and I can say that many of my past jobs in the public service, I've been the first or only one at the table.
I started my career, actually, many years ago with the Ottawa Police.
And with the Ottawa Police, I was actually the first civilian Black person woman in the senior officer ranks of the Ottawa Police.
And, it's interesting because you talk about what kinds of things you can do in the public service.
I came to the public service; I was working at the Ottawa Police and I decided I needed to do something else.
And just at that time, the public service had a program called the Accelerated Executive Development Program, and this was a program geared towards executives in the public service.
At that time, the public service decided they needed more visible minorities in the executive ranks, and I guess they felt that there weren't enough, so they did an external recruitment.
So, I applied through the external process and I was brought in and I think there were two or three other visible minorities that were brought in at the time.
So, sometimes programs do work.
They didn't bring that many visible minorities in, but they brought some in.
And, here I am today, in the public service as an EX 5.
So, no small order.
So, as I think about this, the challenge and where it is? We know there's a problem, we just need the will to do something about it.
And, Daniel talked about women.
It worked with women; we now have more women in the senior echelons of the public service than we had before.
That means we know how to do it.
And, I would say the best time to have done this or to have started this would've been 50-70 years ago.
The second best time is now; we need action now.
And I think that it's important that people should be able to see themselves in the people at all levels of the public service.
They need to see people, because I know how I feel when I encounter another Black person at a meeting, at the table.
Even if I don't know them, I'm saying hello.
It's somebody else like me.
And it's like, "Yeah, I feel good."
And so, imagine what people feel like when you do that.
And so I think that, while I am comfortable being the only one-- and I'm used to it--, it sure would be nice to see more diversity at the table.
And this can be an uncomfortable subject.
And I think that sometimes there's an issue, that sometimes there is a fear.
When I think about me as a Black woman, there's a fear of giving a helping hand to other Black women.
And that creates a double jeopardy.
It's a double disadvantage when this happens.
Because I have in the past thought twice about whether I should bring on another Black woman into my organization that I was responsible for.
Because I had hired a previous one, and there was talk that I only hired the person because she was Black, not because of the skills she brought to the table.
And, I had to sit down with my team, and talk about it.
And I had a frank conversation.
And these conversations can be uncomfortable.
What I said was, "I'm pretty sure most of you never think about, 'Should I hire this person because they're white?'
This is not a conversation or a discussion that would ever go through your mind."
And so, I realized I'm disadvantaging doubly people who aren't normally at the table by having to question that.
And so, what I say is, "You need to be unabashedly and unapologetically supportive. We have to create affinity groups. Networks can't be afraid to make the change."
And so, my goal, as being the first in my position here, is to ensure the door is open to those who will come behind me, to create the conditions for success.
I take this role seriously, I mentor a lot of Black women public servants and I provide support, and we have recently started up the Black Executive Network.
And this network is to support the government in addressing antiBlack racism and providing support to Black executives and thus, ensuring that we have a better public service.
And so, that's my goal, that's what I want to do, so that the future is open for everybody, and everybody feels welcome.
So, I'll leave it there as my opening remarks and turn it back to you, Daniel.
Daniel: Thank you very much, Gail.
And next, we have a variety of backgrounds on this call, and our next up is Brien Convery, who is the National Director for Early Talent Acquisition at the Royal Bank of Canada, and brings a very interesting perspective from the private sector.
And so, Brien, I turn it over to you.
And you've told us, too, that you have some key elements of being a first in the role that you're doing.
So, go ahead, Brien.
And, first of all, thank you so much for inviting me today to join all of you here, on the panel as well as on the call.
I'd like to start the session talking through three things that actually represent why we are all here today.
When we talk about diversity and inclusion, it really starts with the fact that in order to have diversity, you must first have inclusion.
When inclusion happens, it brings people to the workplace and then you have that diversity.
But you can't just stop there.
Once you have diversity, you have to think about belonging.
And belonging is that sense of feeling that you belong to a group, that you belong to the organization.
We all know of times when we didn't feel like we belonged, or we didn't feel like we did fit in.
So, when you really think about this discussion today, I'd like to start to really start to think in the frame of mind of just—- not just diversity and inclusion but diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
So, as it relates to the first and my experience, I am the National Director of Early Talent Acquisition for one of the largest banks, RBC.
And the privilege I have in belonging to the organization is my own history and my own background.
I am an American Canadian.
I did move to Canada back, officially, a few years ago.
I ended up marrying my partner, now husband, in 2004 here, in Toronto, and I identify as part of the LGBTQ community as a gay man.
And as being part of that community, I really am an open book when it comes to meeting talent, meeting youth and meeting students.
And I think that perspective has allowed me to actually engage with students from all different types of diversity, as we talked about earlier.
Whether it's Black, persons with disabilities, invisible/visible, women, and LGBTQ and the like.
I think this experience has been quite eye-opening for me.
By being open and open to conversations, we've been able to actually increase our diversity and inclusive stats across the Bank.
But more importantly, there's people behind those stats.
This past summer, we were able to achieve in our student population, even through the pandemic of COVID, we ended up having close to 41% BIPOC represented in our student body.
I was really proud about that, and my team really set out to engage and talk and meet various people from various areas, in order to achieve those stats.
But again, it's less about the stats, it's more about the stories, and it's more about the impact, and the people we've been impacting through these opportunities.
So, hopefully today, I'll bring a perspective to share some of our lessons learned and some of our ideas, with you all here on the panel and with everyone here on the call.
And, I look forward to the conversation and I look forward to continuing this conversation beyond today.
Daniel: So, our next panellist is assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry and is a psychologist at McGill University, Dr. Myrna Lashley, both from the medical world and from the Ed. world field of academics, and with a fair bit of interesting correlations to public service, too.
We welcome you and please, go ahead, Dr. Lashley.
Myrna: Thank you very much for the invitation to be here today.
I am very, very, very happy to be here among you.
My name is Myrna Lashley and I was born in Barbados.
In other words, I am also an immigrant.
I started here in Canada as an immigrant.
And so, here in Canada, as I said, I come from Barbados originally, and I have spent my life doing so many firsts, I didn't know there were so many firsts to be done.
I was in the Royal Canadian Navy and was the first in that position, was the first to have the clearance that I had in the Royal Canadian Navy.
I was the first Academic Dean at John Abbott College, the first Vice-Chair of the École nationale de police, in Québec, the one and only Black chair of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on National Security.
And it goes on.
That's my life.
And the thing that frightens me is that even today... when I go into a situation, I still find myself being the first in something.
The thing about being the first is that when it first happens, you think, "Oh, I've opened the door, this is great, I'm the first."
But this is not necessarily the truth.
Very often, you're there and the door closes behind you, not because you want to, but because somebody has thought that they fulfilled some kind of a quota.
They've got theirs and they can click the box and say, "Oh, we are now integrated."
It is, for instance, the same thing that happened with the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
And people said, "Oh, we have a Black president, so there's no more racism."
And then, people let their guard down, and they feel they've done something.
The problem is that that then becomes not a prize for the person who's first.
Especially in my case.
It became for me a burden.
I felt the weight of it, I felt everybody coming to me and say, "Is it okay to do this or do we have to do that?"
But in addition to this... I felt caught between my community and the corporation... be it the federal, provincial or municipal government, whatever, or even in the academic world.
I felt like I was pretty much stuck... in this situation.
And people then say, "Well, we love you because you're so resilient."
But "resilient", what does that mean?
That you can keep bashing me and I'll keep saying, "Okay, I'm resilient. Look, I'll keep doing this"?
So, be very careful in using words such as "resilient".
And if you open the door, what you need to do...
We cannot continue as such.
If you open the door, how are you treating people once they're in there?
What are you putting in place?
So, yes, we're going to talk about how we can leverage things, and yes, we're going to talk about opening the doors... but this is not enough.
There's another question that follows, which is, "Once we've opened that door, how do we... make our place comfortable? How do we understand that we have to see things differently?"
My friend Brien is going to make a phrase later, so I won't steal your thunder, Brien, but I agree with you wholeheartedly.
How do we make that place a place of inclusivity?
And, the last thing I'm going to say, because I don't want to take up too much time, is... it's not only a message of inclusivity, as Brien said, but it's a message of equity.
If we don't have equity, all we've got are bodies sitting around.
And when we talk about visible minorities, I want people to recognize that you can't talk about visible minorities and BIPOC in the same sentence.
Because if you take all those groups that make up the so-called, the BIPOC, we're not visible minorities anymore.
That becomes a majority, which is going to happen in 2030, according to Stats Can, anyway.
So, just bear that in mind, that when we keep saying "visible minorities", we continue to divide us in two.
We continue to have one set over here, and then those others over there, that we are incorporating or throwing a bone to or being good to those visible minorities.
Nobody wants that.
And you don't want that.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you very much.
Daniel: Thank you very, very much, Dr. Lashley.
Just before I turn to Nadia Theodore, I would like to remind people that you can submit your questions.
There is a function with a raised hand button on MS Teams, and you can submit your questions.
We will be going to the Q&A part shortly enough, and if you're getting interested in some of the things that are being said here, and have questions on them, that's the way to submit them.
So, you will see the raised hand feature on your screens.
And if you click on it, you will be able to send us your questions.
We are about to move on to the Q&A section of the presentation.
So, I would like now to turn to Nadia Theodore, who has been Canada's Consul General in Atlanta, in an absolutely fascinating time in Atlanta's history, in a fascinating time in the US history, fascinating time in Canada-US relation history, and you have been Canada's person there.
And you're completing your term and you have some very interesting stories to tell about that experience and what got you there.
And so, we can turn to you, Nadia.
Nadia: Thank you.
Thank you all very much.
I am really happy to be with you.
Thank you for inviting me.
As everyone has already said, this is a subject that is of the utmost importance to me, absolutely.
Especially because I have an 8-year-old daughter.
And I find that topics about leadership, and especially Black women's leadership, is something that touches me personally, as a mother, as a person.
I have to say that I had something prepared to say, and then listening to everybody that spoke, I'm actually going to just tell you how I feel, listening to everybody.
Because some of the things that everybody has said really has touched me already in this conversation, and especially this idea of being a first.
So, as the Deputy said, I am finishing my term as Consul General of Canada to the Southeast United States based in Atlanta, representing Canada across six states.
And for a long time, people said to me, "Nadia, you are the first Black woman to represent Canada abroad. Did you know that?"
And, I didn't know that.
And then, somebody called me and said, "Nadia, I want to tell you something, there is actually another woman, Virginie Saint-Louis, who was Canada's Ambassador to Mali, a Black woman, in 2009."
So, okay, I became the second Black woman who had a mission to ever represent Canada abroad, and the third Black person, my friend Edmond Wega, who was an ambassador as well and is now returned home.
And I tell that to you, because I think it's really important when we are talking about this idea of firsts, and the weight that comes with being a first, to remember-—
and as one of the previous speakers said as well-—
that if we are not careful, being a first becomes a goal.
And for those who enjoy Malcolm Gladwell, a fine Canadian living in the United States, he's got a great podcast.
And the very first episode of the very first season talked about this idea of how sometimes past good deeds can liberate individuals from doing future good deeds.
And he talks about a woman called Elizabeth Thompson and this painting that she did that was placed in the Royal Academy.
And she was the first woman to have this painting in the Royal Academy.
And everybody said to her, oh, she was going to be breaking down these barriers for women, and she was going to open the door for women artists for the future.
Only to find out that she became the first, never got the chance again, and another woman didn't have the opportunity for decades later.
And when I listened to that podcast episode of Malcom Gladwell, it was actually after somebody told me about Ambassador Saint-Louis.
And I said, "This is exactly it!"
2009 was a long time ago!
And she is no longer even in the diplomatic core.
And so, I put that out, and what others were saying really made me think about that.
And I think that as executives around this virtual table that we're having today, we really want to think about how we are creating spaces and how we are setting up our institutions.
Because it is not about one individual or a group of individuals that are going to push down doors and open up opportunities.
That's absolutely part of it, but it really is about the institutional frameworks that we create, the institutional frameworks that we believe need to be set up in the public service to encourage inclusion, to encourage belonging, which then will lead to more representation at our tables.
One last thing I'd like to say, and I hope that we get into it during the conversation, as executives around the table, all of us have come to this conversation because we are either racialized, people of colour in the public service, or we want to be allies to those people.
And I would just say that I think that by acknowledging that it is a difficult conversation, and acknowledging that so far in the public service the idea of representation and the idea of visible minorities in positions of seniority has really been about setting a floor.
It's really been about, "In your department, do you fill the minimum?"
And we're having this conversation at Global Affairs right now.
And actually, I'll be frank, probably because I'm leaving the public service in few weeks, so I can be more frank than others.
When we're having this conversation now, what we often hear—- and we, I'm saying being myself and Edmond, who's the other only Black senior executive in Global Affairs Canada, we're both at the DG level, there is no Black person at the ADM level, and only one racialized person at the ADM level— what we hear back often is, "Well, we don't have a problem, actually. We have a goal that we need to meet, and we met it, and we're good."
And I would encourage everybody to think about whether what we are trying to do in creating the public service of the future, and the leadership of Canada, of Canada's future, is whether we are trying to set a floor, or whether we are trying to set a standard and a ceiling for others to aspire to, for other organizations to reach to, for those coming up behind us, or youth, to aspire to.
And I'm hoping that we can have that kind of a conversation today as well.
Daniel: Thank you very, very much, Nadia.
So, this is where we'll move into a bit of discussion.
And maybe I can put the first question to Brien Convery.
Brien, you've heard people in sort of the public and quasipublic spheres here, and do you listen in on us and say, "Wow, how did you get so far behind? We've got this all solved here at the Royal Bank, and we have the way,"
or are some of these conversations familiar to you when you talk to the young talent that you're trying to bring into the Bank, for example, or trying to keep in the Bank?
What type of conversations are you having?
Brien: Do we have it all figured now? Absolutely not.
We're on this boat together, we're on this journey together, and I think we're on various stages of this journey together, and discussion like today.
I have the privilege of talking to a lot of youths across Canada in the role I'm in, and in those conversations and the conversations I've been having with the students, they're eager.
They're eager to join the Bank, they're eager to join the government, they're eager to join organizations.
And, what they tell me is, really, they see themselves as contributing to our society and contributing to the roles that we have, and I think they're also coming with a different sense than we grew up with.
A lot of what I hear is, "I don't see colour, I don't see different families, I don't see some of the things—"
that perhaps many of us, including myself grew up with.
So, their perspectives are actually what I would call...
I don't want to say clean, but their perspectives are definitely...
I guess, clean.
And, they're looking at— "I just want to come and be the best that I can be."
However, with that said, when we do start to look at the recruiting engine and the attraction and the engagement and the discussions that are happening, each of us takes a role.
And, how do we engage with the youth, and who do we bring out to talk to the youth?
And if they see nobody that looks like them, or has a background like them, or has 2 moms/2 dads, a Black father/a white mother, whatever the case may be, they're not sure that they're going to actually belong there.
And so, a lot of the conversations I have is around trying to demystify the fact that we do want individualism, we do want you to be yourselves and we do want you to be successful.
One of the things I share often with students, and I often put this up on a slide, is as young children we're told to draw in the lines and colour in the lines.
But as adults, we are told to think out-of-the-box.
There is something wrong with that equation.
Because all your life, you're trying to go in the line, and then you're out told, "No, think out-of-the-box."
So, when I get an opportunity to talk to students now, I say, "Keep drawing out of the lines, keep drawing around the pictures, keep drawing through the pictures."
Because that's the type of creativity and the type of things that we want in our youth and our future employees.
I think, as it relates to where we are and what I see as opportunities, is the fact that, even from a recruitment point of view, I have a very diversified team that I have accumulated over the years, representing all different backgrounds.
And my first, being a gay man in this role as a National Director, has allowed students, whether it's LinkedIn, they see that I'm talking about it or whether they see that I'm out in an event, or an event like today, they reach out and say, "I'm struggling with what you dealt with a few years ago. How do I do that? How did you do that as a first?"
And I tell them that this journey is a journey.
And whether it's any type of background we have, or anything that the panel all talked about being first, I can tell you many times, going to college and universities, even recently in virtual meetings, "You're an American living in Canada, how did you get here?"
I always start to say, "Well, I married a Canadian."
The next question is, "Well, how is your wife, how is she doing?"
Right away we jump to that conclusion.
And I have so many times where I don't want to get into my sexuality in these conversations, I'm here to enable the youth.
But you're constantly dealing with those first, and actually trying to be that person.
And, you know...
So, as I talk to the youth, I say, "Come in, tell us what we're doing wrong, be a part of the solution."
They're eager to do that.
But I think the biggest thing that I see as an opportunity for anyone joining us here today across the panel, as well as on this session, is, we can recruit and we can attract talent, but as I spoke about in a publication I did a few years ago, there needs to be a welcome mat.
The welcome mat needs to be there, so once they arrive, they feel welcome.
Our generations, generations ahead of us, maybe a few years behind us, we were just stup— as we could say, we would stick it out and just put up with things, and be in meetings where things were maybe not said appropriately, or the wrong type of phrases used.
The youth of today and the people of today, if they come to your organization and they see what they would consider inappropriate or not a sense of belonging, they're going to be out that door as quickly as they came in that door.
And they're not going to stick around.
They're going to look for those organizations where they can do that.
And my biggest part of my recruitment strategy is a listening strategy, and as I listen to the youth over and over and over, it's really that understanding that they just want to self-declare who they are, and just be it.
If we can give them that opportunity to say, "I'm not just a visible minority, but I'm Pan Asian, or I'm Black, or I'm multiracial or I'm—
These are the things they're telling me.
And then, when I talk to folks that manage diversity and inclusion in corporate roles, they're not sure that—
They don't think that students might necessarily want to declare that.
And I'm like, "I'm hearing it every day, I'm hearing it from them themselves."
And when you listen to that, they just want to be able to tell-- and as we want to be able to tell, it's just to tell who we are, and then have something beneficial for sharing that.
Not just to be that, as we said, that first, but to be that person who can add value to the organization.
So really, back to what I said earlier: with inclusion you get diversity, and with the diversity if you have belonging, all three of those things aligned, and you'll be in good shape, I think, to move ahead and forward together as an organization.
So... Thank you for that.
Daniel: Thank you, Brien.
I want to say something quickly about the welcome mat, and then I want to ask for a reaction to something that Brien just said, from the other three panellists here.
Some of you might have read a news story this summer about an event that took place at a particular department, where an employee had posted some just objectively absolutely inappropriate and offensive and racist posters.
This is not debatable as objectively as to its degree of offensiveness and impropriety.
And, if you're to believe the news stories, which there's always a challenge in accepting, one person complained about these racist posters on a floor in a very big department, and I'm going to guess there were hundreds of people on that floor.
One person complained, and only one person.
It happened to be a person of colour.
And, in terms of the welcome mat, one of the questions that I have is, an executive walked into that lunchroom, it's guaranteed; an executive walked by that lunchroom, it's guaranteed; an executive heard about that poster, it's guaranteed.
But not one of that person's colleagues, not one, by the sounds of it, thought that that poster warranted a formal complaint.
And, for those who are participating and who may come from backgrounds where you haven't felt that type of exclusion directly, one of the things that I will say on the concept of the welcome mat is, if you see a poster that uses the most offensive language possible deliberately posted in a public place and you walk away, or if you hear about it and you don't hear, you'd have not only not put out the welcome mat, you've rolled it up, and you've tossed it into the bonfire.
There is no way that you can be a welcoming place when you don't see that as something that you need to do about.
We're amongst executives today.
And, I guarantee that some executive knew or should have known about that.
As did everybody else.
We all have a responsibility, but as executives we have different.
I want to be really clear, I am not pointing at any particular department, because I am very concerned that no matter where that it happened, the response would not have necessarily been any different.
Now, to the other three panellists, I will pick up on something that Brien just mentioned, and he talked at one point in time that he didn't want to talk about his sexuality all the time, he wants to do his job.
But it's also clear that we bring who we are to these things and we're not wanting to leave them at the door.
And I'm wondering if the three of you could talk to us a bit about whether or not you feel that tension, and how you feel it.
So, for some of our colleagues who are maybe listening and not been privy to this type of conversation and self-reflection before, love to hear what you have to say.
And I think Nadia's hand is up first.
So, I'll go with Nadia and then, Gail, and then, Myrna.
I would say that I actually want people to see me for a Black woman in the public service, and a Black woman executive in the public service.
And it actually makes me a bit nervous when I hear people say, "I don't see colour," or "Everybody is the same."
Because the reality is, as we see every day on the news, both here and in the United States and around the world, not everybody is the same.
And as we saw, Deputy Quan-Watson, as you put up at the beginning of your introductory remarks, not everybody has been treated the same.
And that might seem like a very long time ago to people, but it's not, and it still exists in different forms.
And so, I think it is only really until we admit to ourselves that not everybody is treated the same and that equity is about recognizing that and bringing everybody up to a levelled playing field, so to speak, and that requires you to see people for who they are and their particularities and the injustices and the aggressions and discrimination that they may have faced in their careers, that are particular to what they look like and how they identify, and very different than how others—- because I'm sure around this virtual room, everybody can say, "Well, I faced struggles before, of course, sometimes I feel excluded, everybody does!"
There was a famous incident on "Power and Politics" where a former politician said, "Well, I was bullied in school, so I mean, that's the same as—"
And people got the feeling that he was trying to say, "Well, it's kind of the same as somebody who's discriminated against, and eventually lost their life at the hands of somebody. You know, I was bullied, everybody faces challenges."
It's not the same.
And I think that we do ourselves, and I think he meant no malice; I really and truly do believe he meant no malice.
And it ended up badly for him.
But it's because we have this jerk reaction of saying, "We don't see colour, that everybody should be treated the same."
And the reality is that people are not.
And so, I would leave that as a thought for folks.
Daniel: Gail! Thank you, Nadia.
Gail: Thank you.
So, I echo Nadia's sentiments.
I mean she said it very eloquently, so I won't repeat it exactly the same way.
But it is true, and I want people to see me, all of me.
And so, by saying, "You don't see something,"
it means you're denying an elemental part of who I am as a human being.
And so, I'm not sure I view it as tensions.
You asked the question, Daniel, about the tensions of being as a Black woman but operating in an organization.
I guess what I would say is, I welcome the opportunity to point it out, to have conversations with people, to explain my perspective.
And I think it's important.
I think we cannot apologize when we talk about things, and when we try to do things, as Nadia said, to make the playing field equitable.
So, we're not talking about equality.
It's not the same thing, because we're not starting from the same place.
So, we have to talk about equity and making sure you do different things for people who aren't starting from where others have started from.
And so we can't apologize for that.
We need to go forward and do what we need to do, and put the initiatives, the structures, the processes in place, so that everybody is free to participate in the way that they can.
I think that we can't be defensive.
And for me, it's important to create a safe space for candid conversations that will allow dialogue, where people can listen and learn from those of us with lived experiences.
And, I'm quite happy--
I work in an organization that's been in the media.
And what I've liked about the RCMP is having a commissioner who is really open to listening and hearing about some of the experiences, and for me to be able to say, "Look, this is what it means. These are some of the experiences I have had as a Black person, and I want you to understand that, so that you know that."
And the police officers know in executing their responsibilities, sometimes even though whatever they're doing might be right, justified, you do something, I'm coming at it from my perspective, my lived experiences, where I've been treated differently because I was Black.
And so, that's going to be my point of reference.
And so, it's good to be able to have those conversations.
And I think what being able to have those conversations does is it goes a long way in cultivating an understanding of diverse perspectives, and it can lead to a greater realization of the need for diverse and inclusive organization where people can belong.
And so, I think it's not just about putting in place initiatives, but I think it's about equipping everybody,
so that they understand and appreciate and want a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
And that's important.
Because if we do these things, but don't get to the point where people actually understand that regardless of who you are, that having this diversity and being inclusive and then allowing people to belong will get you to the place where you have a well-functioning equipped organization to do what it needs to do.
And that's where we want to get to.
I'll leave it there.
Daniel: Thank you.
Myrna: Okay! Again, I agree with everything that's been said, so I won't repeat it.
I'd like to add to it though, and say I want to be seen as a Black woman, an accomplished Black woman, on the one hand, but I don't want that blackness to be used against me.
I want people to understand what it means to be Black without thinking they've achieved something by hiring a Black person.
And I understand that it's difficult for people to understand the nuance embedded in that statement.
But what I do to address this—
Before I tell you that, I want to tell you about a really, really painful thing that happened.
I was talking to a school, and I think it was during Black History Month, and this little girl came up to me after, she was about 9 or 10 years old and she said to me, "I am very pleased to meet you."
And she said, "Is it true that you're a psychologist?"
And I said, "Yes, it is."
And she started to cry.
And she said, "I didn't know we had those."
That was such a painful thing for me to hear from this child.
And this brings me back to answering your question.
What I try to do when I'm training people, at the federal level also, is for them to try to remove some of their defensiveness, try to get people-— and I want you to hear me—- is that this is not your fault.
What's going on is not your fault, so you can listen to us.
It is not my fault; it is not your fault.
It's something that was put on both of us, on all of us, from the 17th century.
You were sold a bill of goods that you are superior; we were sold a bill of goods that not looking at you—- whatever, whether we're Indigenous or whatever, made us inferior—- and we've all continued in our lives as though this was true, which just kept us further and further apart.
So, if we can understand that Black people, Indigenous people, Asian people, gay people, whomsoever, we are all trapped in that vileness of whiteness—- not white people, I'm talking about an ideology now, not about people.
We're trapped in that vileness of whiteness, which has defined a role for each of us, and which makes it difficult for us to extricate ourselves from those roles.
And Brien said young people don't see that.
But when we then take those young people and put them into systems where they're not supported, where there is nothing there to buttress them, to say, "Yes, you are different, and you aren't the same, and you are good, and I'm going to listen to what you've got to say," we destroy them.
Those are the kids who very often pull out and end up on the street because they give up.
Those kids come here, they're born here—- they're not first generation or second generation--, they're born here, they see themselves as Canadian and entitled to everything that it means to be a Canadian, and then they get into situations where the whiteness ideology says to them, "No, you don't!"
Then, they just say, "Why bother, it's not there for me."
So, yes, open it up, but remember: the welcome mat, the programs we put in place...
How do we look at how the people are interacting?
Those posters should have been dealt with, you're right.
Lots of people saw them, no one did anything about them.
The person who said that on "Power and Politics", I worked with that person.
We've had these conversations.
I was flabbergasted when he said that.
So, yeah, there is a whole package that we have to look at.
I'll leave it there for now.
Daniel: Thank you very much, very rich conversation.
I want to draw a link between three things that got said, and then move on to another question.
Myrna, you talked about the child who was disbelieving that this was possible that you could be Black and a psychologist.
And, Brien, you talked about the fact that people look at what is going on in the organization, and they make judgments about whether or not it's possible to move forward.
And, Nadia and Gail, you've talked about being firsts in the public service.
I guess the observation that I would make, and I would recommend that colleagues think about this, is-—
And listen, this isn't about the five of us who are on this panel today, we are representatives of a large group of people—- we were always promised that there would be merit, we were always promised that there would be fair processes.
Except that if you were the first, it means in all the thousands or tens of thousands of opportunities to choose somebody like me before, it never once happened.
Literally never once.
That's what it means to be the first.
So, how do you explain to that child, how do you explain to the young person that Brien is talking to, that yes, everything is possible, when it's never once happened before, or where it's extraordinarily rare?
And I will guarantee that in each and every area of every executive on this call, you will have an area where it has never happened before.
And, I'm going to guess if you ran like an infrared map of sort of the scale, you'd be disturbed to find what you found.
And, if you haven't thought about this before, it's significant.
It means that something that is very real and very present in the lives of an awful lot of public servants and prospective public servants is something that's not even on your radar or infrared.
And I think, as Myrna and Brien both put it very eloquently about people they've dealt with, people are making decisions based on that.
Now, the next question I want to move on to, and in about 7 minutes, so this will be—-
For those of you who are old enough to remember "Reach For The Top", there was a short snappers round.
We'll go to the short snappers round, 5 five points each.
The question that I have for you is, "What would you say are the opportunities that our colleagues most miss to make a difference for the better?"
And I pick up on what Myrna said, this is not about guilt, this is not about blame, because the reason that every single executive is on this call is because they want to do better.
And they want to make a positive change; it's why most of us joined the public service in the first place.
So, I would be interested in hearing-- in 1½ minute or less
from you, what would you say that colleagues most miss, in terms of an opportunity to make something better.
I made Gail go first earlier, so I'll take her off the hook and maybe I'll jump to Nadia.
Just put her on, because she's allowed to be more frank, she says, because she is leaving the public service.
So, we'll give her the first shot.
Nadia: [Laughter] You'll never have me back.
I would say that the number one opportunity that people miss, especially hiring at that first level of executive, is to really not be afraid—- and we've been talking about it--, not be afraid to be intentional about looking for people around your executive-level table that look not like the majority.
And I think that, going to what you said, Deputy, it's because of this idea-- and what I like to call it, and I know it's maybe not a popular opinion--, this fallacy of meritocracy, the idea that we set up a very intricate selection system and that, of course, for the most part, it is going to provide us with those who merit it the most.
And as you very rightly said it, like a little lightbulb went off in my head.
So, if that is the case, that means that what you are saying, that people that look like me and you and around us panellists don't merit it, or have only merited it once in the past 15 years in my example, or never been of merit when it comes to my department at the ADM level.
So, what does that really say about belonging to those coming up?
And so, I think that that is what people miss out on, being intentional and not being afraid to lean into that idea that merit is something that you can actually...
It is also an institution in and of itself that you need to push back against sometimes, in order to create the public service of the future that we want to see.
Daniel: Thank you.
Myrna: I think one of the things is we have to look at the definitions we use, how we're using them from whence they came.
You look at the word like merit, what does that mean?
Who wrote that definition?
Who's interpreting it?
Who's writing the job description?
What is intended by that word?
I think it's a dangerous word, as far as I'm concerned.
I think also, as you said, leaning into that, the fact that people have had to navigate to get where they are, and to look at the roadblocks, and get out of the road but still continuing their trajectory but had to take all these bypasses, you are telling me that you're looking for people who can think out-of-the-box?
That's your person.
That's your person, because they've had to do a lot of that just to get to the door for you to take a look at them.
So, I think that if you are afraid that somebody's going to say, "Oh, you're hiring an Indigenous person just to have one," or "You're hiring a Black person or a gay person just to have one," you can use that if you will, as your answer.
They know how I am looking for people with innovative ideas of how to get from A to B.
That's your person who's going to get you there.
And I think that that is something that's not taken into consideration.
Daniel: Thank you.
I was thinking to the other panellists' responses, and one of the things that comes to mind to me is, I have a good friend, he's an executive who's Black at RBC, and a few months ago, I checked in and said, "How are you doing, what's going on?"
And he said, "You know what, I have my voice now. I have my voice."
And I think that hit me so hard in that, you know, having not felt like you've had that voice before.
And then, subsequently, since then, he's been asked to share his voice, to share his experiences.
And I think, an opportunity that we all need to look at is, many people over the last few months have been sharing their voices and sharing their experiences.
And I ran into another young student who is now working at RBC and said, "How are you doing this weekend?"
And he said, "I'm tired. I've been sharing my voice for three months, and now I have to see some action."
So, I think the opportunity is we're hearing voices, we're hearing what's happening, we're hearing it again, we go through different reactions to what we're hearing.
But now, where do you take that opportunity and now action it?
No more just listening-- which is the first step, we all have to listen--, but then really, now, if I think about all my friends that have told me how much talking they'd done in the last three months, there exhausted.
And now, they're looking to say, "Now what?"
So, I think that's something that, as I'm listening to all of you, I'm thinking, "Yeah, it's time to actually not just listen and to share voices, but it's time to actually take some action and figure out how we all play a role, whether it's an ally or a part of the community or what have you, to take it to the next level."
So, fast forward three years from now, we're not still having the conversation.
And, Gail-- and I just want to point out to everybody, I've been using the shorthand Myrna and Gail, but to be really clear, it is Dr. Lashley and Dr. Johnson.
But I've been going with shorthand.
But properly, Dr. Lashley and Dr. Johnson.
So, Dr. Johnson.
Gail: You know, when you call me that, I feel like I should be wearing a white lab coat.
And I don't wear one...
...except when I go to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation and the Breakfast for the Public Service and host the table.
But, you know, something you just said, Brien, about people tired, the action.
And I think, right now in the federal public service, there is a pent-up demand, and I can tell you, talking to people, people are now looking for the senior leaders of the public service to do something.
And, people are saying, "Okay, it's my turn now, it's my turn now!"
And, it's an important conversation because sometimes when I talk to people and say, "It's my turn", and I say we have to think about this as a whole, in terms of "How do we make the public service better?"
And, it's not necessarily better for ourselves, but it's better for the future generations, so that we make this a place that others can come through and they won't have any of these challenges.
But having said that, it's also a difficult thing to say.
You know, people who've been waiting, and finally there's conversation now; they want to see something come out of this.
And I think that's important.
And so, I think, executives listening in on this conversation, all of you have opportunities at whatever level you are to make a difference and do something that'll actually help diverse groups and take some concrete action.
Because you talked earlier, Daniel, about merit.
We know that so many of the processes that we use in the public service, they have built-in barriers that have a disproportionate negative impact on underrepresented groups.
We know that we have homogeneous interview boards that will lead to the selection of candidates who resemble the board members.
So, if you keep having those homogeneous boards, you are going to keep hiring the same people.
I think often times we have eligibility requirements.
They're not bona fide requirements, and they again result in certain groups being unable to apply.
And so, I think it's important to understand.
People need to get into their heads to realize that people in underrepresented groups don't always have access to the social networks at work, where often information about other opportunities and resources are shared.
And so, these things don't happen.
And so, what is it one can do to make sure you're not missing the opportunity to get that person?
And sometimes it means taking a chance.
It's not looking at, "Okay, where did you—- You did this, this, this."
What's the potential of somebody?
Look at somebody's potential and then help them, help them move along.
And that means you might be doing different things: taking people to meetings, introducing them to new experiences and giving them the opportunities that they might not have had.
And so, when I talk about that, sometimes it's about sponsoring people to make sure that you can help somebody, have a leg up, because sometimes those doors aren't open.
And so, we really have to think about how can we open those doors and keep them open for everybody who wants to come through them.
One of the things I learned in the three prep calls that we had with this group is, there is no way to keep them on time because they are all, all of us are so passionate about this.
And, there's so much to be said.
So, we're going to move on to the questions that came from executives here, and I'm really going to try to hold you very unfairly to too little time to answer to big questions.
But I'm going to point out, make an observation on something that was said in a couple of points.
And, Brien, you talked about the people who have been talking for three months and want to have some action now.
One of the things that I would say about that, linking it to what the other panellists said about merit and the rest, the conversation as I've heard it is only asking about the delivery of what they thought was promised in many of these conversations.
People thought they were promised merit, people thought they were promised inclusion, people thought they were promised the ability to engage and bring their full selves to this.
And the conversation as I have heard it has not been about adding something new, it has been about doing what was already promised.
And I think that is something that would make many of us uncomfortable in that conversation, thinking that this is something new and different.
I think it means behaving differently.
I'd ask executives on this call, if you're looking at the screen and you see Myrna, and you see Nadia, and you see Gail, and you see Brien, and you see me, how many interview panels have you been on in your entire career that looked like this?
And if the answer is none, I can certainly tell you that probably Myrna and Nadia and Gail and I and Brien can say we haven't either.
And that's something, as executives, that will change the way that you hire, will change the way that you put out that welcome mat that's been talked about, that will change the way people see inclusion.
So, look at the screen, look at the five of us, and ask yourself, "Have you ever sat in front of a hiring panel, promotion panel, performance review panel, that looked like this?"
And if not, what message is that sending?
Now, one of the questions that we have here is, "We keep hearing diversity, inclusion and equity.
How could the leadership within the federal public service make employees designated as visible minority—- they use that term deliberately—- or BIPOC feel that belonging is the priority and not diversity, inclusion and equity, and to open up opportunities and more representation?"
So going away, I think, from an obligation to something that we actually want to do because we think it's valuable.
Any thoughts on that?
In 90 seconds or less.
Gail: I'll just say one thing: I think that it's just important to make sure everybody has a voice and an opportunity to participate.
And when you solicit input, you're going across the board from a diverse range of people.
And so, I think that it's so important to make sure that we look at this and we bring people in from diverse places, but then we need to make sure we have the conditions where people can thrive.
Full points, Dr. Johnson, on timeliness.
Nadia: I think it's really important as well, just to add on what Gail said, that once you ask people for their input, and their voices are amplified, that you actually listen.
And you listen with the goal, or from a starting point of "there is something being wrong."
Not listening to then be able to tell that person why it's not actually that.
"Oh no, that's not what me meant."
"Oh no, we did have one visible minority on the board."
"Oh, you know, no, no, no, we don't have any gaps, we're okay."
It's important to hear people and to invite people to tell their stories and give you their ideas, but only if you're listening from a viewpoint of "there is something wrong and we need to fix it," where you'll be able to take input and then operationalize it into change.
Brien: Yeah, I would say, and even adding to the point you just said about listening.
I shared this in one of the prep calls, but I'll share it here too, it was on...
It's not about cultural fit, it's about cultural add.
So, when you look around that table, and you look at who's sitting there, and who's talking and who's not talking, as if because they're not feeling like part of that belonging, but it's really about cultural add.
And even when you talk about the recruitment process, not who's going to fit in at the table and not argue with you, or have a debate or have a discussion, it's about that cultural add.
So, I think that's where the conversation needs to shift a bit too.
Once you have that cultural add, you'll have exactly what you were saying around the ability to be speaking and listening.
Myrna: It is important to develop what we call cultural humility.
And, cultural humility means that you know you don't know, and you're willing to learn what you don't know.
And, to do that, you have to create a space which we referred to as "a space of cultural safety", which means that I have to be, before I will trust anybody to tell them what I'm going through or what I'm facing or what that poster meant, if I were in that situation, I will have to feel that what I'm saying is being heard really, not being heard, as Nadia said, to tell me that I'm not seeing what I'm seeing, but that I feel safe.
And unless people feel safe and unless we demonstrate cultural humility, it really doesn't matter.
People come to work, they'll get their paycheck, do their work and go home, and you'd be surprised what's said around the kitchen table about you and about the workplace.
So, we've got to create cultural safety and cultural humility.
Daniel: So, the final question in the short snappers round, then I'll conclude and turn it back to our host here.
When it comes to moving into the most senior ranks of the public service, under the "Public Service Employment Act", namely assistant, deputy and minister, there are very few of those positions, and as a result, there aren't so many mentors that can help you move into those ranks.
And I'm wondering, and it doesn't have to be ADM because it can be the ADM feeder rank, so the director general level, I think, goes further down from that, from getting on the track in the first place as director.
But interested in people's views on the importance of mentorship, especially when your experience is different than so many of the people around you that might be sitting on your hiring panels.
And we'll go in the reverse order this time, and we'll start with Gail again, and then, Brien, and then, Nadia, and then, Myrna.
Gail: So, I think mentorship is important.
And as you realize where you are in an organization, people who have helped you along the way.
So yes, I think mentorship is important.
I think even more important is sponsorship.
And, anybody can do this; the person doesn't have to look like you, you don't have to have this experience.
Wherever you are in the organization look down, and look and see, "Are there people here I can give a leg up to, a helping hand to help them move, move up the ladder?"
And so, I would just say it's exceedingly important.
Everybody, at whatever level you are, should be seeking to do that.
Brien: Yeah, really quickly.
Mentorship in my mind, or mentor, I think of it as a verb not a noun, you can get that from multiple people.
I agree 100% with Gail on the sponsorship side.
Sponsorship is something different and it's something that helps someone advance their career.
But I think one of the biggest challenges I see in either of those being obtained, is the hierarchy.
And people realizing that they can actually-- can they reach out?
Do you have a culture to allow me to actually reach out and ask Gail for a coffee for 15 minutes of her time?
Or is that still seen as a barrier to some of the folks that are within your organization?
So, mentor as a verb not a noun; sponsorship is key.
But the barriers that might impede those situations of the hierarchy, which I usually point to even in our organization, can sometimes make people not be successful, and in even setting up those conversations to happen in the first place.
Daniel: Thank you, Brien.
I'm actually going to switch the order and go to Myrna, and then give the last word to Nadia, our public servant on one of her last weeks in the public service.
So, Myrna, go ahead.
Myrna: I think mentorship and sponsorship are important, so I won't repeat those.
But sometimes, it's set up in such a way that once someone's entered, because we say we've got one, it makes it very difficult for that person to reach back and help someone else.
Because it becomes "This space is occupied."
And also, "I've got my seat at the table. So, if I reach out and try to help someone else, do I lose my seat at the table?"
And, you're always stuck with, "If I lose my seat at the table, how does that help someone coming at behind me? Do they see that they can't get here?"
Or, "If I go down and help them—- but I hate to use the word up and down—- do you push me out?"
My attitude is, push your elbows out and make space at the table if you're allowed to.
So, we've got to look at what kind of workplace we're creating.
What are the norms and how do we flatten it?
Hierarchy is a killer.
Daniel: Thank you, Myrna.
Nadia, the last word to you.
Nadia: I would sum up what everybody has said already, and I would sum it up this way, that there really has to be courage in being a mentor and a sponsor.
And, going to the situation that you, Deputy, spoke about, about that poster, where nobody had the courage or the wherewithal to say something, it is the same thing with a mentor or a sponsor.
You have to have the courage to be in that room with that senior leadership table and say, "Well, why aren't we promoting this person? Why this don't we look at this person? What do you mean, you're saying this person isn't a good fit or isn't ready yet? What does that mean?"
You have to have the courage to push, to speak up, even though your colleagues around the table might look at you and say, "What are you doing? We're a leadership team here, and we have to be corporate."
You have to have courage in your mentorship and in your sponsorship to push for people that you know should be pushed up and forward.
Daniel: Right. Well, thank you.
And I'm going to bring a close to this part of the event by just pointing out two questions that we didn't get to follow through.
The first one was just how hard each of these four panellists has worked, how incredibly hard.
We're here talking today about aspects of equity, we're talking about aspects of racism, we're talking about aspects of where we've had to fight systems at different points in time.
But to everyone out there, these four people have worked extraordinarily hard and had to carry weight above and beyond what anybody else has had to carry in getting to the positions they are.
That is one of the things I want you to remember.
A question we didn't have time to answer, that we got asked, was, "Have we succeeded yet in overcoming systemic racism in Canada?"
And, I deliberately didn't ask that, because it doesn't matter what those of us on this panel think.
As the largest employer in the country, as the most senior people in the most powerful institution in the country, where we will go depends on your answer to that question.
So, with that, I will thank everybody and turn it back to Jacqueline and to Taki.
Jacqueline: I'll just say a few words, and Taki will do the official close.
First of all, thank you to all the panellists.
We really appreciated your knowledge and your—
It's inspirational to hear and to see you all.
I loved when Deputy Quan Watson said, "Could you imagine if I was going in front an executive board and this was the panel I was facing?"
I have never had a visible minority, a Black person, on any of the panels that I went through to become an executive.
So, executives, you are on this call for a reason.
You are the ones that can make a change.
You can take action.
You can take all these conversations that you're hearing and turn them into real, real genuine change within your organization.
That's where it starts.
We always talk about micro-aggressions and how hard they are.
We all have these micro-aggressions.
Well, you are only going to fix this problem by what I call micro-positives.
We have to start doing every little thing positively and it will build to a crescendo of change.
Don't look for the big silver arrow.
We got to work on those things, but in the meantime, do those micro-positives, do the right thing within your organization, as leaders, and make everyone feel welcome.
And, realize that one person or one person of colour, or one—
That is not the answer.
The answer is true inclusivity and true diversity.
I thank you all for tuning in.
Taki: Thank you, Jaqueline.
So, at the Canada School, our mandate is to help educate the public service.
And Jacqueline, at APEX, your mandate is to help support executives.
And, I think we've done that in spades over the last 90 minutes, with the help of these five pretty extraordinary Canadians.
So, we spent a lot of time talking about different things over the course of this 1½ hour.
I think I would summarize it as saying that you spoke about firsts, you spoke about identities and you spoke about history.
And, Daniel, I want to quote your close friend and colleague, J.-F. Tremblay, who was talking about Indigenous history in Canada and he quoted a French philosopher, I forget if it was Camus or Sartre, but he said, "In history, you're not quite guilty, but you're not quite innocent either."
You didn't actually do anything to make you guilty, standing here today, but you're not actually completely innocent either.
So, with Jacqueline, I want to take this occasion to talk directly to the 400+ executives who are with us right now.
I want you think back to when you were an analyst, when you first join the government of Canada and you saw things, and you said to yourself, "Geez, if I was the director... If I was the DG... When I become an ADM, I will 'dot-dot-dot'."
Well, now you are the director, you are the director general, or you are the ADM, what's your "dot-dot-dot" today?
And think about that, because you have now the power of resource allocation.
And one of the resources that you allocate is who do you hire, and what files do you distribute, and what people get what files.
So, just think about that a little bit.
So... with that, once again, I would like to say a very big thank you to our five panellists.
I am going to say Dr. Gail and Dr. Myrna.
So, thank you very much to you two.
To Brien and to Nadia and to our good, good friend Daniel Quan Watson, thank you so much for navigating us through these very interesting waters for the last 90 minutes.
See you soon!
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