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Elisabeth Cooke

How is DEI Portrayed in the Media?


Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been buzz words for at least the last decade – longer depending on who you ask. Frequent examples of a racism, sexism, or ageism (to name only a few of the ‘isms’) in the media have shown us what happens when DEI isn’t a business priority or a strategic imperative. Over the past few weeks in Canada, we have seen our own example play out.

Diversity in the Newsroom: Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, states that “[m]aintaining diversity in the newsroom, and providing inclusive content is imperative for the longevity of any media platform.”

More diverse and inclusive newsrooms can provide better representation of society, build audience trust, and even make news organizations more profitable. News outlets that do not actively make diversity in the newsroom and inclusion a priority could face a decline in both viewership and profits.

Diversity in the newsroom is no exception: according to a 2016 Pew Research Center analysis, “just 23% of newsroom employees were people of color, while 61% of newsroom employees were men”. Having a diverse workforce bodes well for producing accurate and well-reported news content. The world is becoming more diverse, and it is a newsroom’s responsibility to reflect this – failure to do so can result in news outlets becoming immaterial.

Furthermore, the rise of user-generated news platforms, for that matter, anyone with a smartphone, often outperform traditional outlets in attracting new audiences. Audiences are drawn to user-generated news platforms because the content reflects their own experiences and perspectives.

To reflect society, the make-up of a newsroom must include journalists from different cultures, religions, and genders. Audiences are aware: outlets need to remove their biases, and objectively report on stories that explore perspectives different from their own. This lack of knowledge or unconscious bias can lead journalists to produce culturally insensitive and inaccurate reports.

Bell Media’s Fumble: being diverse and inclusive is not only about who is in the newsroom, but how they are treated. In Canada, we have witnessed national outrage over the firing of Lisa LaFlamme – a sentiment that has now been shared around the world. Bell Media reported they wanted to take CTV News in a “different direction”, however it seems that ‘direction’ was away from a woman with grey hair. I will say, that ‘woman with grey hair’ is also my father’s partner making my outrage at the situation both professional and personal.

For the past two weeks we have seen Bell Media fumble their way through the public and internal backlash which reeks of the need for a strategy, or at least a communications plan to manage such a high-profile situation. The public noticed that Lisa was treated differently than her male peers and so did companies – Wendy’s, Dove and Sports Illustrated have all come out to support women going grey #keepthegrey.

Business decisions aside – the way you treat your employees reflects the value you place on them. Bell Media has been called out for terminating an employee for what are alleged to be sexist and ageist reasons, and for the mismanagement of the entire situation. This is exactly the point where we see the business value of a solid DEI strategy.

Bell Media is not an outlier. Another example is found with the Guardian. They ran into trouble and were forced to issue an apology for mistakenly using a picture of UK rapper Kano when referring to Wiley. Wiley, at the time, was under scrutiny for his anti-Semitic comments. Even though the newspaper claimed this was an “honest mistake”, it started an online conversation regarding the lack of diversity in the Guardian’s newsroom. Journalists from minority groups expressed that had there been a more diverse newsroom this blunder would have been caught before the paper was published.

 In popular culture, be it in film, television, advertising or on the streaming services, and on the countless 24-hour news channels; each is a product of those wielding the power. A direct reflection of a narrow point of view. The people who are “calling the shots” are the same ones who decide on who is cast or what story is followed. These individuals are generally more concerned with ratings and revenues than optics and principals.

Traditionally, these individuals were affluent, middle aged, white men, completely disconnected from the new world reality – but media and entertainment companies today are increasingly recognizing the importance and challenge of closing the gap between intention and action on fostering diversity and inclusion.

In the aftermath of civil unrest, which followed the murder of George Floyd, businesses were criticized for failing to act appropriately or failing to act at all.

Ironically, when Russia invaded the Ukraine, these same businesses who failed to act when George Floyd’s murder was aired on TV, stumbled over one another to pull their assets out of Russia whilst making a point to let everyone know that they had acted swiftly and decisively in protest to the Russian onslaught.

What is becoming clear is society is no longer turning a blind eye to companies that do not act. It does so with its pocketbook by boycotting brands, through the media by marching and protesting outside corporate head offices or stores, by humiliating leaders, and through their new weapon of choice, social media. Publicly traded companies agonize over and fear any actions, comments, or stories posted on social media, especially those that take on a life of their own by going viral circumventing the planet in the blink of an eye, all of which can have an adverse effect on stock prices, to the displeasure of their stakeholders. Today, there are entire departments dedicated solely to monitoring the chatter and noise on all these outlets.

The World Economic Forum-Accenture paper on The State of Diverse Representation in Media and Entertainment asserts that “[o]rganizations not only have a social responsibility to represent the consumers of their content, but by doing so also stand to gain significant financial benefits.”

 Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be considered as a business imperative: companies failing to understand and take action on DEI risk damage to their reputations, bottom lines, and attractiveness as an employer.

Partnership announcement LedaHR 2022

diversity partnership

We are pleased to announce that Dignii and Leda HR have formed a partnership! We have respected and appreciated each other’s contribution to the advancement of DEI in Canada for years. While each company remains distinct, this partnership allows us to draw upon each other’s expertise and work together to support our clients and the community on their respective DEI journeys in new ways.

Led by Kristin Bower and Annika Lofstrand, Leda HR brings over 20 years of experience creating equitable and inclusive workplaces as inhouse experts and as consultants. Read more about their expertise here

We have some terrific events lined up together for the second half of this year (where did that time go!) including free webinars and our take on a fireside chat. Sign up here to learn more:

Engagement Down Overall, Increases for Minority Groups


At Dignii we use our software to measure for all metrics of diversity and employee engagement. This allows us to get a clear picture of the representation of diverse groups as well as understand everyone’s level of engagement at work. Our solutions provide the analytical tools to explore intersectionality among respondents to best reflect the realities within each workplace, (for example we can report on the experience of women and visible minorities, but we can also show women who identify as a visible minority or men who identify as having a disability which often best reflects the reality of who we are).

Generally, employers are curious to know what employee engagement looks like across their organizations. High engagement can lead to increased performance, better staff retention, and attraction of new talent. Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of clients specifically targeting the “working from home” experience, which makes sense given the upheaval we have experience for nearly the last 2 years.

‘Are you really working from home’?

I think we can safely say that working from home is viewed differently in a post pandemic world. Before the pandemic there was an air of distrust and an ‘are you really working from home?’ furrowed brow to those that tried to have a ‘home office’. Whereas post pandemic, we have realized that people can work from home – and often do so with higher productivity. Naturally it’s not possible for all types of workers to work remotely, but for those that can, they have developed a new normal that tends to work well.

Of course, not every single employee is breaking productively records working from home – but the same could be said of people working in offices or in open floor shared space. Anyone that has worked in an open concept office knows what I’m talking about. It’s easy to get distracted and lose focus when the entire office plan feels like a water cooler.

Employee Engagement Shift Since the Start of Covid

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an overall decrease in employee engagement. However, when we look a little deeper, we see that decreased engagement is not the case for everyone.

The groups with higher employee engagement are women, people with disabilities and visible minorities: All have reported an increase in employee engagement when compared to their peers at a statistically significant rate.

The output of work has remained relatively the same the change has been working from home, and importantly, the experience of these groups has increased positively. This leaves us wondering why? And how?

There are a few things we already know:

  • We know that certain groups experience more harassment and discrimination in the workplace that others (Surprise! These groups are often women, people with disabilities and visible minorities).
  • Micro aggressions are often present in the workplace, particularly during in-person interactions
  • Commuting to work can be challenging and time consuming – especially for folks with a disability
  • The past year and a half have given us more insight and understanding into the experience of people with dependents and children.

Why the Increase in Engagement for Women, Visible Minorities and People with a Disability?

One of the hypothesises we are exploring is whether working from home is providing women, people with disabilities and visible minorities with an added benefit – or rather, is removing a barrier from their previous work routines. Anecdotally, the answer is yes.

The COVID19 pandemic has left us all with a lot of questions about how to move forward: The key is to ask the right questions in the right way to receive the answers you need to have an engaged, diverse, and productive workforce.

Where Do We Go from Here?

What we need to start asking is how can we use this data to help us beyond increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace so that we can strike the right balance as we build hybrid models to return to the office?

We will continue to analyze the data and benchmark what we already know. We will test our hypotheses, steering our course of inquiry to better support diversity among workforces, and importantly, to measure the shifts and changes as a result of implementing a more informed approach. This will allow us to support our clients to increase the diversity and engagement within their organizations as well as create more effective and hybrid return to the office plans for employees.

To learn more about measuring and enhancing the diversity and engagement in your workplace, reach out to Elisabeth via [email protected]

How Companies Can Be Serious About Anti-Racism

Board walk rising out of fog

Everyone is talking about racism, or more importantly, the need for anti-racism. The talk has moved beyond person to person conversations, and we are now seeing companies and politicians join the chorus, calling for significant change. It’s a monumentally positive development, but the answer to that call – the change that is needed to combat racism – is complex: Changing attitudes is one thing, breaking down systems that have discriminated against some groups of people for generations while providing significant advantage to others, is quite another.

Companies are in a unique position to advance anti-racism and have a positive impact on the lives of their employees and customers, by focusing on diversity and inclusion within their workplaces. Not only is this the moral thing to do, it also has a strong business case: There is approximately 15 years’ worth of research clearly proving that diverse and inclusive companies do better. They are more innovative, and more agile – two attributes in very high demand right now. It involves work, but there are no business cases that say the status quo is a better option.

So, if your company is serious about advancing diversity and inclusion here are three areas for action:

  1. Education and Training
    Provide education and training – and value it. Make sure everyone in the company from C suite to intern takes part. But don’t stop there, look for D&I knowledge and awareness on resumes and applications. Build out your internal resources and develop a culture of learning. Set yourself up to have lasting impacts from education and training.
  2. Measure your Diversity
    Use data to see your strengths and weaknesses. Set goals and measure your successes and assess your progress frequently. Get access to the data that not only shows you what groups are employed at your company, but what groups are missing.
  3. Recruiting
    Target your recruiting to reach diverse candidates. Strengthen your management paths internally.

Collectively, we at Dignii have been advancing diversity and inclusion for decades. We are a mission driven company – we elevate dignity in the workplace. Our software solutions and professional services help companies to increase team performance and increase team innovation.

To start a conversation with Elisabeth about getting serious about anti-racism in your workplace, she can be reached at [email protected].

Update: Diversity Reporting For Publicly Listed Companies In Canada – How To Do It

Laptop with Candle Stick Chart

Diversity has been building momentum in business for nearly 20 years. We have had significant changes in law that identify the importance of diversity and inclusion, for instance, the express inclusion of ‘gender identity and gender expression’ and Community Benefits Agreements in BC. Helping to fuel the enactment and compliance of that legislation has been 15 years’ worth of powerful business cases articulating the financial and cultural value of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Publicly listed companies in Canada are facing an increase in the legal requirements regarding reporting on diversity on boards and senior management. 

In late 2014, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published “comply or explain” rules regarding women in director and executive officer positions in publicly listed companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). These requirements were codified in the National Instrument 58-101 (the Disclosure Requirements), thereby creating an annual positive duty for issuers in participating jurisdictions (all but BC and PEI) to disclose female representation. The requirements go a step further, requiring issuers to disclose if they have issued policies relating to female representation, term limits, and targets and mechanisms to address female representation in director and executive officer roles. If issuers do not adopt any such mechanisms or consider female representation more broadly, they must explain their reasons for doing so, thus creating a “comply or explain” rule. 

More recently, the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) published a notice and request for comments asking for comment on the gender diversity Disclosure Requirement in NI 58-101. Notably, BC based TSX-listed and other non-venture issuers must comply with the Disclosure Requirements as they do report in at least one of the Participating Jurisdictions (i.e. all but PEI).

The BCSC’s request for comment on gender diversity tells us one thing – the Commission is focusing on how the disclosure process can be improved and what mechanisms and governance policies are satisfactory to demonstrate gender diversity on publicly listed companies on the TSX.

New Reporting Changes as of January 2020

As of 1 January 2020, Canada became the first jurisdiction in the world to require the disclosure of diversity beyond gender. Currently, all federally incorporated public companies in Canada must report on their policies and practices relating to board of directors and senior management, and, going a step further, they must include the percentage of people in those roles who are women, Aboriginal persons, members of visible minorities, and persons with disabilities. 

How to Measure and Report on Diversity

This is where we can help. Our products help you to measure diversity and improve inclusion.  We safely and securely measure data using evidence-based research to get a real picture of diversity and employee engagement. Essentially, act as the ‘go between’ – a trusted third party for employers and employees. Companies face significant challenges trying to gather this data on their own, including: compliance issues, data security, and expertise in diversity and inclusion. Not to mention the fact that employees can be reluctant to share that information with their employers! We go a step further than other companies and help you identify problems and create real solutions that help your company reach your diversity goals. We also use Canadian servers and comply with all Canadian privacy legislation and global best practices. 

When it comes to reporting on diversity we can provide you with the most robust data points you need for reporting and help you build the map to achieve your goals for the future. 

Elisabeth can be reached at [email protected]

Dignity in the Workplace


Half way through 2019 and the conversation about “diversity” and “inclusion” continues to build momentum. These terms have been drawing attention for over a hundred years. Different groups throughout history have worked to define these terms and give them a life of their own in the hopes of fostering change. Important work has been done to encourage people shift perspectives and recognize marginalized groups: the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, marriage equality, and Truth and Reconciliation. Thanks primarily to changes in law, the work needed to create diverse environments has become a priority for companies and organizations.


It has been established in research that diverse workplaces that are often, by their nature inclusive – when employees feel valued and respected, they demonstrate higher levels of employee engagement and have better outcomes for the organization (Swiegers & Toohey, 2012).


But we’ve been talking about it for so long – why haven’t we achieved ‘diversity and inclusion’? Why is it still necessary to advocate for equal pay and equal representation on boards? Why are people afraid to ‘come out’? And why do we still see bias and discrimination in the workplace?


We need to remember that ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ are not synonymous. The term ‘diversity’ refers to the fact that people are inherently different from one another, and that each of us is unique in our own way despite some shared experiences. Whereas the term ‘inclusion’ means that within a group of people everyone feels valued and respected, and that the “mix” of differences is working well together.


There is a piece of the ‘diversity and inclusion’ conversation that is missing. Recognizing that we are all individually different, and having different groups of people feel acknowledged and working well together is great, but currently the conversation around inclusion exists as a repetitive cycle of introductions where we are constantly recognizing “new” underrepresented groups or minorities.


We currently approach inclusion as a concept that applies only to minority groups, but that still leaves some people missing. If the premise is that everyone is diverse by the mere nature of their origins, experiences, and expressions, then the solution must include everyone.


The concept that is missing here is dignity. If we focus on human dignity: the right of every person to be valued and respected, being truly inclusive follows. The origin of human rights is the recognition of a person’s dignity, and every human rights “movement” is a move toward having this dignity reflected in our laws and shared notions of equity, diversity and inclusion. “Dignity” is what people are trying to achieve when they talk about fostering inclusion, and if we shift our thinking toward acknowledging the dignity of every human being, we bring ourselves closer to creating an inclusive world.


Using the lens of ‘diversity and inclusion’ is not enough. If we begin with recognizing the right of each person to be valued and respected, we are essentially elevating dignity in the workplace.  Elevating dignity creates inclusive workplaces and increases employee engagement in the way we’ve been aiming for over the past century.



Swiegers, G., & Toohey, K. (2012), “Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup? A new recipe to improve business performance.” Research Report. Deloitte Australia and the Victoria Opportunity & Human Rights Commission.