Building Equitable Organizations: Equity Ottawa
Diversity and inclusion are good for business—but they’re the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating equitable organizations.
That’s the wisdom emerging from a group of leaders and equity specialists in Ottawa who have been working together on inclusion in their organizations for the past eight years, through the Equity Ottawa initiative.
Created by the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) and Centretown Community Health Centre, Equity Ottawa enables local organizations to strengthen their capacities for equity. For partner organizations, that means improving human resource policies and practices so that immigrants, racialized people, and other equity-seeking groups have equal opportunities to contribute their talents. It also means removing barriers to equity in organizations’ governance, service delivery, product development, and marketing strategies, community and client engagement, performance measurement, and organizational culture—including practices that may unknowingly perpetuate biases, such as assessments of an employee’s “fit” that don’t accommodate cultural differences.
“Strategic and sustained actions in a range of domains are essential to achieve equitable organizations purposefully and progressively over time,” explains Hindia Mohamoud, director of OLIP. “Equity Ottawa provides a forum for partners to have ‘courageous’ conversations about persistent inequities, and to co-create solutions.”
Equity Ottawa provides organizations with opportunities for learning, dialogue, peer support, and collaborative planning. Together, the partners have developed an action plan to address equity barriers—and monitor results.
First up is to measure progress across Ottawa organizations in improving the representation of equity groups at senior management levels.
“Ottawa’s population and workforce are increasingly diverse, and the city’s economic prosperity will depend increasingly on immigrant talent,” says Mohamoud. “Local organizations are making progress, for example in enhancing diversity in senior leadership.
Partners are also introducing equity and anti-racism policies, implementing workforce diversity audits, improving their equity data collection systems, and establishing structures for planning and monitoring equity, such as the City of Ottawa’s new anti-racism secretariat. We look forward to continuing to facilitate these important efforts.”
Equity Ottawa includes municipal organizations, health service providers, educational institutions, social service agencies, and other organizations and community stakeholders. Participation is open to interested organizations. Equity Ottawa has received support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and is sustained through partner engagement.