Inclusivity at work


Finding a job is about more than just making an income. It’s about finding a sense of purpose, and a place to belong. 

But many newcomers, people with disabilities, and youth continue to face major barriers to inclusion in the workforce.  

  • 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed, compared to 80% of those without disabilities.  
  • 20.9% of Ontario youth aged 15-24 are unemployed as of February 2021, up 9.8% from February 2020. 
  • 9.2% of racialized populations are unemployed in Canada, compared to 7.3% of non-racialized people.   

Talented people aren’t getting in the door. We need to talk about it. That’s why we invited 
industry leaders Heidi Hauver, Lianne Berne, and Sowmya Rajasekaran to GenNext Amplify to discuss inclusive employment for all spectrums of diversity, and tangible practices that we can all adopt to support an inclusive workplace culture.  

Build inclusivity through communication

Communication is key in any organization, but is especially important when aiming to achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce. Heidi Hauver, Vice President of Talent and Human Resources at Invest Ottawa, shared some insights for how all organizations can improve hiring practices and build inclusivity through communication. 

“It’s about creating a welcoming environment from the very moment you connect with a candidate. Responding to candidates in a timely fashion is a challenge that many employers face, but it doesn’t need to be."

— Heidi Hauver

 “We have a lot of tools at our disposal now—automating applicant tracking systems to respond with a message that reflects your organization’s personality goes a long way for candidates,” she says.

However, improving the hiring process doesn’t end there. You can also seek out feedback and ask questions, such as, “How could we have made this interview more comfortable and inclusive for you?”  

Make basic needs a priority

Lianne BerneResearch Manager for Employment Initiatives at United Way East Ontario, says that inclusivity needs to be thought of beyond the context of the workplace as well.  

“If you don’t have access to childcare, food security, affordable housing, internet access, there’s no way that you can have the mental capacity during the day to brush up on your resume. Or if you don’t have someone to watch your child during an interview, you’re never going to make it to the interview.”

— Lianne Berne

Accessibility in the workplace requires accessibility to the workplace, which means those struggling to meet basic needs like food security and affordable childcare are much less likely to succeed in either finding a job or remaining employed. These challenges have only been made worse by the effects of COVID-19 

No diversity without inclusivity

Sowmya Rajasekaran is an outspoken advocate for women’s inclusion in the workplace and recently launched Buildupwomen an online community that aims to inspireeducate, share, engage, supportand build women up during the pandemic and beyond. 

Sowmya says that when we talk about diversity in the workforce, we must also ensure we’re thinking about inclusivity 

“A person at the table is different than a person having the opportunity to speak at the table.”

— Sowmya Rajasekaran

She says that organizations can improve inclusivity by focusing on accountability 

You can’t have diversity without inclusion. It’s very simple but unfortunately, it’s not always included that smoothly. Having positive engagement amongst your team members is crucial, but it’s equally as important for organizations to know what they’re not achieving.” 

To learn more about how you can be an advocate for change, watch the full panel discussion below. 

How you can help

GenNext East Ontario partners with organizations like the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN) and Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO) to promote workplace inclusivity and create opportunities for people living with disabilities and immigrants. 

With your support, we can get at the root causes of the issue to create long-term solutions that pave the way to a more inclusive workforce.  


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