“For a long time we heard that the fields of construction and engineering were closed worlds. But we, we show up, we wear the colors! “Said Constantino Soulière, director of business solutions and information technology for Axor Consultants.
A pioneer in diversity, she was the first in the field of engineering and construction to display her openness to sexual diversity and to be involved in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Chamber of Commerce of Quebec.
For Mr. Soulière, who suggested the idea of becoming a member of the Chamber, four years ago, it is a way of expanding the firm’s network, but above all of promoting “this enterprise where it’s good to live, ”he explains.
“No, we don’t have an inclusion policy as such, but everyone from top management to employees is involved,” he said. An openness that demystifies several subjects, such as same-sex parenting or homophobia. And the company is not afraid of showing off, by participating in different activities.
“Of course, at the beginning, most people did not know what the acronym LGBT meant, but there was always a very favorable atmosphere of openness. Large signs are displayed to denounce homophobia and discussions, formal or not, to break down prejudices are on the menu.
An example to follow since, whenever a company shows its colors, it has the power to influence its competitors, estimates Steve Foster, president of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Quebec. In fact, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies followed suit in late 2017 to counter discrimination.
This was also the case ten or fifteen years ago with the banks. Since then, if the road traveled is difficult to assess, several large companies have set up LGBT committees, in addition to having added explicit policies on diversity and inclusion. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done in SMEs for example,” explains the president.
But for Steve Foster, the trend is irreversible. “In a context of labor shortages, the work environment must allow employees to develop. If you find yourself in a non-inclusive climate, you won’t stay there long. So all of the inclusion measures offer a great solution to attract, retain and drive employee engagement.
When diversity leads to innovation
It is to make sure that it attracts the cream of the workforce that diversity in all its forms is part of the DNA of Accenture, a global consulting and technology firm. “What we sell across 120 countries is the gray matter of our employees. We have no choice but to seek out the best talent from all walks of life, which makes our organization not only stronger and smarter, but also more innovative, “explains Ann Gaboriault, senior director of the Montreal office of this firm.
“Diversity in business is a fact in 2018. But inclusion is a choice,” she adds. Thus, everything is done so that the work teams reflect the multiple realities of the customers to whom the company must go.
To do this, Accenture has set itself significant scales in terms of diversity, in particular that its teams have 50% women by 2020. Already in Canada, there are 42.8% female employees, while 45.1% of workers are from visible minorities. The firm is also actively working on integrating LGBT people into employment.
The company has also received an award from the Quebec LGBT Chamber of Commerce for this component.
A sometimes more delicate question, while some people prefer to remain discreet about their sexual orientation. This is why Accenture is working on an inclusive climate.
This is one of the reasons why the company organizes a 16-hour training course for its senior managers every year. Thus, 120 executives from all countries go there for training solely dedicated to the cause. “The idea is to inform these senior leaders so that they become agents of change, to set up a network of allies to create a climate where people will feel comfortable being themselves . So if the bosses who want it are trained, the company also has 5% allies, or 20,000 people who signed their support for the cause.
Accenture therefore focuses on raising awareness so that this diversity is truly embodied. Because, we must not hide it, one of the obstacles in terms of diversity, it is the often unconscious prejudices of people vis-à-vis certain groups, indicates Ann Gaboriault. Hence the importance of having trained people who will be able to identify their own biases and those of others.
“It is also complex because, if we have made a lot of progress in Canada, around the world, it is very different,” she adds. Indeed, if every office in the country has set up a group in LGBT colors and has two leaders responsible for the file, this is not possible in certain places of the world when homosexuality is downright illegal. “We also have several cases of employees who have been transferred from more welcoming countries, such as Canada or the United States. This happened in particular to one of our great leaders in Toronto. Seven or eight years ago, we helped him and his spouse settle in Canada, “says Ann Gaboriault.
In the same vein, a global mentoring system has been established by the company. Each person, according to their profile, can share their experience with employees from another country. For example, a mother in a same-sex couple in Quebec could chat with a woman from the Philippines living in the same situation.
A service also useful for allies who want to know more. “Because we may have the best inclusion programs there is, if they are not used, it does not work,” said the director. As the important thing is humans, Accenture therefore relies on the creation of links between people to open up to different realities and create enriching exchanges. Quite an asset in business!