Why is Multiculturalism so Important?


Which country first made multiculturalism a policy?[1] Canada! The 1971 Multiculturalism Policy of Canada confirmed the importance of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is the recognition of the existence of many cultures within one country. The value of equality, diversity, and inclusion that Canadian multiculturalism brings to society and into offices nationwide, I personally consider to be indisputable.

Equality in the Workplace

A fundamental concept that goes along with multiculturalism is equality; the respect and acceptance of one another that gives people the same rights and opportunities. Equality is important to ensure that everyone feels they can reach their fullest potential. Equality is necessary so no one is held back from moving the world forward. Equality is valuable because without it, how does one create mutual respect? The freedom that comes with equality is liberating and allows people to feel like they can give their all to the tasks at-hand by being their whole self. The confidence that comes with everyone being on an equal level means that everyone is able to better contribute their ideas. It gives everyone the opportunity to better educate themselves about the world they live in and resources to thrive in the environment they work in. The dialogue that opens up when people are equal and feel respected is enormously beneficial for gaining deeper insights. In the workplace, this same idea prevails. I think equality brings a higher engagement from within people, yielding the best possible results a team can produce.

Diversity in the Workplace

Canada is known as a mosaic representing a broad range of diversity. It is accepted and encouraged in Canada to celebrate culture, to continue traditions, and to be who you want to be. Within this idea of many diverse individuals existing within Canada, comes Canadian culture. To me, Canadian culture is made up of all the cultures from around the world. I am proud to be Canadian and to witness the many cultures around me. I am happy to be able to learn and explore new cultures right at my fingertips. To me, multiculturalism and the diversity that comes with it, is part of what makes Canada so rich and vibrant. The diversity that exists within Canada is spectacular and with this comes diversity of thought. This valuable diversity of thought that is brought into initiatives and brainstorming within the office is a product of celebrating multiculturalism within our communities. Imagine the solutions and the conversations that are had because of the many different views that contrast and cause further ideas to be brought to the surface. The backgrounds and different understandings that exist from people being encouraged to continue their ethnic traditions and explore their interests are assets. The many different perspectives, viewpoints, and backgrounds that everyone in a room has, means that these people have different insights. These insights are a product of these people’s past experiences that have shaped their knowledge. This wisdom can be brought together and discussions can reach a greater depth than otherwise would be possible and more informed decision-making can occur.[2] Diversity brings about individuality and innovation. Diversity can reach its full potential when multiculturalism is celebrated.

Inclusion in the Workplace

Inclusion is the third valuable piece that arises from multiculturalism. Human capital is a huge resource for many firms. By respecting and encouraging the continuance of individual cultural practices, everyone feels more welcome and comfortable being themselves. This capital is worth more when everyone is able to thrive. I believe when everyone is truly included then there is the power to bring values above self-interest. When people feel this way, there is less resentment and there is increased respect for each other because people understand that people can and should do things a little differently from one another. The inclusion that comes with multiculturalism means that people do not feel like they need to give up a part of themselves and they live how they want to live without needing to conform. People are more empathetic and more receptive to each other, opposed to being exclusive of thoughts other than their own. With multiculturalism comes a smaller divide between what people assume of others and what they learn about others. There is less ignorance when multiculturalism persists because people are more inclined to accept one another’s differences. The existence of many cultures and including everyone from these cultures, means that cultural barriers disappear because people accept one another and move past the surface to get to a deeper level. This translates into an office setting, when people listen and truly hear what others say or when people pay less attention to the surface and grasp at depth. When people recognize the value of including everyone then teams are more cohesive and workplace culture is more enjoyable. Multiculturalism provides a basis for inclusion, in turn creating an harmonious environment.

I truly believe multiculturalism brings unity within a community and a compassionate attitude amongst Canadian citizens; we feel the pain of others because we understand that beneath the surface differences, we are made of the same humanity. Individuals are more likely to act with their peers in mind when they recognize the connections that exist between one another and when they understand the support that everyone is able to offer each other. In my life, I have experienced the importance of equality, diversity, and inclusion and I think multiculturalism is important because it brings these notions to the forefront of society. I am proud to be Canadian when I hear the difference multiculturalism has made for the people around me. I am proud to be Canadian when I experience the mosaic I am a part of. And I am proud to be Canadian when I hear people talk about Canadians forming a welcoming nation.

Written by Rebecca Adkins

HBA student reflects on leading in a diverse workplace

Take a moment to read Ally Co-Director Annika Lui's thoughts on expressing personal values in the workplace.

About the Author: As the Co-Director of Ally@Ivey, my role is to actively work with various stakeholder groups in the community in order to design and implement strategies on how to educate on diversity and advocate for inclusion within the Ivey community. My goal is to help prepare Ivey students to be leaders and allies in the diverse 21st century workplace.  To me, inclusion is about creating an environment of equal access and opportunity through removing discrimination and valuing all individuals. Inclusion is important because everyone should be empowered to thrive being their whole selves.

Throughout my HBA journey, there is one class that particularly stood out to me – Giving Voice to Leadership. Although there is tremendous value in learning the technical skills required for professional success, learning how to navigate the workplace through soft skills is incredibly important. Soft skills such as communication strategies can both be taught as well as make or break your professional reputation and your ability to bring your whole self to work. Giving Voice to Leadership is not your everyday ethics class that aims to distinguish right from wrong. Giving Voice to Leadership focuses on how to individually script strategic communications and create thoughtful action plans when facing values-driven conflicts.

These communication skills gained in the course teach you to critically analyze and respond to questions such as: How, as a recent graduate, do you voice your opinions in the workplace? How do you voice your values when your values conflict with the industry or company norms? How do you stand up for workplace inequality? How do you handle company information that you believe the public needs to know? How do you deal with sexual harassment in the workplace?

Being able to answer these questions through utilizing the advice and strategies explored through interactive cases led by guest lecturers featured in the cases has been an invaluable experience. This is the typical case based learning of Ivey taken to another level, through the involvement of people within the Ivey network who deliver in-person answers to your case-related questions.  These insights can drastically transform your career path.  Learning what to do when it comes to whistleblowing, discrimination, quality decisions, and international expansion into violent and corrupt nations is crucial should you ever come across them in your career.

Often business schools paint a rosy picture of what the workplace is like.  Not that the workplace is somewhere that is dramatic, but these things can happen.  You want to be fully equipped to deal with business decisions of all sorts.  Knowing how to voice your values in the workplace as a leader has an impact on both yourself and the community in which you live and work.

This course, Giving Voice to Leadership, is about being an ally to yourself and those around you.  It is not about falling on your sword, but rather strategically navigating situations in which values are at play.  You never know when these key take-aways will be drawn upon, but I strongly believe that they will be in some shape or form. 

Through working as Co-Director of Ally@Ivey, a student service at Ivey that educates on diversity and advocates for inclusion, I find tremendous value in these course learnings. Working in the 21st century workplace presents challenges and we are no stranger to the challenges of inequality faced by diverse groups.

Name Pronunciation: A Simple Step Towards a More Inclusive You

First, watch this: 

Is your name often mispronounced? If so, how does it make you feel? If not, think about how you would feel. Would you feel, for example, awkward, different, or maybe annoyed? When fostering an inclusive environment, it is important to think about how name pronunciation can play a role in how welcome someone feels. Generally, the first encounter between two people starts off with introducing names, and for some people, this comes with a feeling of being embraced or rejected.

Have you considered how many people with ethnically diverse names, adapt their name for the “ease” of their peers or go by a nickname to avoid the repeated mispronunciation of their name? Consider someone who has their name mispronounced every day, now, consider how much more comfortable that someone would feel if you asked, “Your name is pronounced (insert name) right?” instead of them having to choose whether to correct you or avoid the scenario and deal with their name being mispronounced. Name variety comes from many origins including, culture and ancestry. We should celebrate name variety, and avoid creating an emotional boundary in many daily encounters. A person’s name is part of their identity, and more so, their uniqueness.

Has anyone ever spelt your name wrong after you’ve spelled it out for them? Maybe this happened to you while exchanging information during a meeting or a networking event. Try to think about the frequency of that frustration for some people, while they walk away from the encounter thinking “Were they even listening to me?” Listening to the spelling or pronunciation of one’s name can be an initial first step in showing your care and regard for others.

Mispronunciation of names can have an effect on one’s feeling of belonging according to Karen Pennesi, a professor of anthropology at Western University [1]. At times, there seems to be a lack of attention put into pronouncing a name right if it seems like it is “different” from what one is used to. This lack of attention, can be received as a lack of respect. Now think about how simple and fast of a fix this could be! Here are some tips to making those around you feel more welcomed:

1. Listen to the people surrounding you to avoid name mispronunciations. Tune in when people introduce themselves instead of speeding along to the next part of the conversation.

2. Avoid making a big deal about someone’s name being difficult for you to pronounce [1].

3. Politely verify the pronunciation [1]. “Just to make sure I heard correctly, your name is…”. This five-second exchange could make someone feel a lot more welcome. Also, repeating the name aloud helps with memorizing the name.

4. It’s not “close enough” when pronouncing someone’s name. It’s one’s name, a part of one’s identity, not some trivial matter.

Try your best to get the pronunciation of names right or as close as possible, you don’t have to get every name perfect; the effort and respect will be appreciated! Keep reflecting on these ideas and tips, for a step towards a more inclusive YOU!

Written by Rebecca Adkins


[1] "How Canadians Can Be More Inclusive of Diverse Names." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 24 Nov. 2016. Web. 29 Jan. 2017. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-november-24-2016-1.3864332/how-canadians-can-be-more-inclusive-of-diverse-names-1.3864356

[2] Furr, Amy. "Mispronouncing Student's Name Now Considered a 'Microaggression'." CNS News. N.p., 21 Sept. 2016. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.http://www.cnsnews.com/blog/amy-furr/mispronouncing-students-name-now-considered-microaggression

[3]Mitchell, Corey. "A Teacher Mispronouncing a Student’s Name Can Have a Lasting Impact." PBS. PBS, 16 May 2016. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/a-teacher-mispronouncing-a-students-name-can-have-a-lasting-impact/

[4]Thornhill, Alyce. ""Actually It's…": Having a Hard-to-pronounce Name." The Aragon Outlook. N.p., 15 Dec. 2016. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.http://aragonoutlook.org/2016/12/actually-hard-pronounce-name/