learn more about the niagara falls ryerson innovation hub
June 23, 2020
5 ways your business can stand up for diversity — and mean it.

It doesn't take an HR strategist or budget to lead an inclusive business.

Recent events of institutionalized racism in its most tragic forms have consumed our dialogue around two big questions: are we really on the path forward in eradicating racism? What role do businesses play in this matter?

We’ve seen many SMEs and corporations take a stand on social media against discrimination, but what actions are they taking to ensure that their workplaces are inclusive, diverse, and actively empower minority groups?

We asked HR strategists and experts on diversity planning about this and they provided us with five steps that your small to medium-sized business can take to turn words into action that don’t cost anything or require HR expertise.

Dig a little deeper in your recruitment strategies

Have you noticed that you tend to have the same type of person applying to work for you? Or that those who make it past the first round of interviews have the same experience, education, or physical complexion? If so, it’s time to dig a little deeper into what may be going on and what you can do to bring diverse voices to the decision-making table.

Recognize that there may be subconscious biases in your hiring staff and/ or practices. This does not mean that you or your company are being intentionally racist or exclusionary. It does mean, however, that there are biases you need to examine that directly impact other people. Studies show that someone with a white name needs to send about 10 applications to receive a callback, while minority names need to send 15 or more to get an interview.

Almost 80 percent of employers have made hiring decisions based on the candidate’s accent. — Peninsula Law Firms

Due to racial prejudice and discrediting of international experience, newcomers face the highest unemployment rate in Canada at nearly 10 percent, and a large percentage of those who do eventually find work, are employed in fields they were not trained in.

Yeah, some businesses have hiring biases whether they want to admit it or not.

This means that in your hiring process, you need to stop and dig a little deeper. How might this job search be affecting an applicant with a racialized name differently than one with a white name? Does the job posting contain any inadvertently coded language that might hinder minority or racialized candidates from applying? How do you think most employers might be responding to candidates with a non-white accent on the phone? Even though someone’s experience, national or international, doesn’t line up with what you typically look for, how might their skill set, ambition and desire to work stand out from the rest? Odds are that if you give THAT candidate a chance, they’ll work much harder for you and feel relieved to be secured in a job market with prejudice against them.

Recruiting minority groups is a two-step

We’ve heard some businesses say they just don’t receive many applicants from minority groups, so what are they supposed to do? The two-step.

1. Make sure the image you’re putting out aligns with the one you want to recruit. Odds are that if your social media, marketing materials and staff feature the same type of person, minority candidates won’t see themselves in that role and will look elsewhere.

2. Actively recruit in minority communities. Investigate social groups and community organizations run by minority groups, for minority groups, and invite them to apply to your company. Show them that you are looking to build a diverse staff and culture, and you’ll see them show up.

Set a culture that is intentionally inclusive

Many businesses, executives and managers consider themselves to be inclusive because they don’t think they’re being intentionally exclusive. The truth is that INTENTIONAL inclusivity is needed to foster positive workplace cultures.

The first step is to set a zero-tolerance policy for jokes, statements or words that are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or who target anyone on the basis of their identity. Just because nobody complains about subtle inappropriate remarks doesn’t mean they don’t affect them — it means they’re too nervous to speak up about it.

Recognizing diversity is the goal, not being colour-blind. While we can see the intent of treating everyone equally regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation and other diversities, what it actually does is discredit the reality that people have different experiences based on their identity. Many people of colour have reported having to work harder to receive the same recognition as their white colleagues (even to get hired in the first place), and women have been caught facing double-standards for how they communicate in business because sounding “too bossy”, “too soft”, “too happy” or “too serious”. This is a serious problem. This means that YES, you should actively seek minorities to sit on your panel discussions because their lived experiences cause them to respond to questions differently, and will offer a more engaging experience for viewers.

Support minority-powered charities, non-profits and grassroots organizations.

Whether your business is highly charitable, makes small donations, or offers in-kind services, think about where you’ve been spending your time and money and its impact on your community. Taking the time to dig a little deeper to find minority-powered groups tackling community challenges means that you’re playing a part in amplifying their often silenced voices. Elevating these groups with your financial support, free training in your area of expertise, or offering in-kind services will go a long way in not only making your community a better place, but supporting minorities who have been quietly putting in the work while we cheer on celebrity advocates.

These are only four out of many steps a business can do to stand up for diversity, and mean it. We focused on policies that don’t cost you anything as a small business owner, and don’t take a degree in HR to implement. However, if you’re still wondering how these policies and strategies might impact minority groups at your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our HR Experts in Residence.

Frequently asked questions
What does my membership get me?

Our memberships are all-inclusive pricing which means W.I.F.I, Utilities, Janitorial service, coffee and many other amenities are included. They start at 3 months! Memberships also offer business services including business coaching, perks and discounts, access to Spark’s Member Portal, events and workshops, and much more!

How long can I have a membership for?

Unlike many other incubators, Spark is here for you in the long run. You're welcome to participate in our entrepreneurial community as long as you'd like.

How is Spark connected to Ryerson University?

We work with Ryerson University and the City of Niagara Falls on the Niagara Falls Ryerson Innovation Hub. This initiative is for tech-based startups in or looking to move to Niagara Falls, Canada to grow and scale their business.

Will Spark invest in my company?

We are happy to help provide guidance on the necessary steps towards receiving external investments. That being said, we will not invest in your business nor are we affiliated as partners in your business.

I am a part of another incubator, can I still join Spark?

Spark stands by the mission of building our future with collective impact. We accept entrepreneurs whether they are affiliated with another incubator or not. We aspire to bring together the best talent in Niagara regardless of background.

Do you have a free trial?

We offer a free 7 day trial for serious applicants only.

We're ready to grow your business
Ready to join us yet?
Apply now
Subscribe to our newsletter