Smith School teams up with Catalyst Canada

Partnership explores workplace diversity, inclusion programs through survey

Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
The partnership began with a survey exploring workplace diversity.

The Smith School of Business has announced a strategic partnership with Catalyst Canada to explore diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  

Catalyst Canada is a global non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women in the world of business.

“Enhancing diversity and inclusion is a priority for both the Business School and the University,” Mitch Gudgeon, Smith’s director of strategic partnerships, wrote in an email to The Journal. 

Gudgeon said workplace dynamics are shifting, and that Smith recognizes the importance of developing inclusive leaders who can manage diverse teams.

As a first step, Smith commissioned Catalyst to conduct a survey exploring attitudes toward diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace, a press release from the University confirmed last week.

The survey, which polled 1,000 working Canadians, found that while the majority, 69 per cent, are positively inclined towards diversity and inclusion programs, roughly 40 per cent of employees are unaware whether their companies even have such programs. 

The survey also explored different perceptions of diversity and inclusion initiatives across gender divides, finding that men are significantly more likely to believe diversity and inclusion narratives are no longer necessary and that Canadian society is sufficiently inclusive. 

Notably, the survey found women in companies without diversity and inclusion initiatives are less likely than men to report they feel comfortable acting like themselves in the workplace. The gender difference on this metric disappears in companies that have pursued these initiatives.

This survey marks the beginning of what Smith and Catalyst hope will be a fruitful partnership. Moving forward, the relationship between the two will focus on three key areas. 

First, a corporate discussion forum will unite industry leaders, Smith faculty, and Catalyst experts to share challenges and strategies for fostering greater inclusion in the workplace. 

Following that, a new research hub led by Smith faculty will conduct research on new endeavours in workplace diversity and inclusion with input from Canadian companies. 

Finally, Smith will integrate core content from Catalyst’s inclusive leadership training into the academic curriculum for commerce students. This will include courses on managing unconscious bias and building inclusive communication workplace.

Smith hopes the partnership with Catalyst will add to their already extensive set of programs designed to foster diversity and inclusion both in the business school and in the workplace. 

For example, the Centre for Social Impact at the Smith School is initiating a Diversity and Inclusion Professional Series that seeks to address diversity gaps in senior management roles. Focuses will include development in leadership for LGBTQ+ people, women, new Canadians, and Indigenous peoples. 

Smith was also the first Canadian school to join the Forté Foundation, a non-profit that aims to bolster women’s ranks in business schools and c-suites. Over their 11-year partnership, the schools have provided $40,000 in Forté Foundation Fellowships each year for up to four women in the full-time MBA program.

Smith aims to remain in a leadership position regarding diversity and inclusion going forward.

More details on the Smith-Catalyst partnership, and details on training programs, will be announced later in 2019.

“We believe there is a great opportunity to accelerate our shared goal of creating a more inclusive workforce,” Gudgeon said. “We look forward to seeing the impact this partnership will make moving forward.”


Smith School of Business, survey, workplace

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