Ask the DEI Expert: Building Diverse Pipelines & Equitable Systems

October 20, 2020

We have the power to drive meaningful conversations and change in the workplace. In this series, we’re connecting with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leaders to learn more about them, understand how their work affects the employee lifecycle, and how they can help our organizations do the important work of removing bias and becoming anti-racist

Meet Dean Delpeache, the founder of Strasity (a clever mix of Strategic Diversity). Strasity is a consulting firm that works closely with clients to transform workplace culture through strategic HR design with a huge focus on diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, for the past two years, Dean has also been leading Talent Acquisition at Fiix Software. One half of Dean’s role is leading the recruiting and Talent Acquisition team, and the other half is working with the Social Impact team and the C-suite on diversity initiatives. Keep reading to hear some of his brilliant bits of advice!

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’ve always been fascinated by and drawn to talent acquisition and recruiting, especially helping recruiting teams be more accountable for DEI strategy. My Master’s degree is in HR Management and all of my writing during graduate school was centered around diversity. I also created and am a professor for the first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program at George Brown College in Toronto. 

A lot of companies want to build a pipeline of diverse talent, but don’t know how to get started. Where should they start? 

Many companies say they want to hire people from more diverse backgrounds, but the problem is most organizations have systems of inequity. The real work goes beyond an unconscious bias training session. Here’s what needs to happen first:

  • Collect data to better understand your people and the demographics of your key markets—this insight needs to be gained before you even think about external candidates! 
  • Start looking at systems at your company/organization, such as recruitment, compensation, etc. What is the strategy behind each one, and what barriers exist? Go deep and look at all the layers of each system to understand how they could be better and more equal to all of your candidates and employees. 
  • Then, develop a plan to start addressing and truly creating equitable systems. 

Do you see differences between how companies address DEI in Canada vs. the US?

There are slight differences, given that Canada has a smaller population; but ultimately, both countries are built upon white supremacy. Canadian companies have the same issues of systemic racism and inequitable systems that American ones do.

What can HR and Talent Acquisition teams do to combat racism at work? 

There are lots of things to consider—even starting with job descriptions. Here are some points: 

  • HR folks can push to make descriptions more gender neutral, e.g. “a strong leader” is very masculine, so instead say, “an exceptional leader.” 
  • Ensure job descriptions are clear and defined because it’s been shown that women are reluctant to apply unless they check all the boxes included in a job description. Show what’s a must-have requirement vs. a nice-to-have, and you’ll encourage more people to apply.
  • Create an equity statement. This can urge candidates to apply to the job, even if they don’t necessarily have every single qualification you’re looking for. You’ll find that more people, especially women and BIPOCs, will raise their hand for a job if they feel encouraged.
  • Send candidates a diversity and inclusion survey! You might be surprised at your high response rate, and what’s better than collecting more data and feedback to improve? 
  • A structured interview process, including an applicant tracking system, is crucial. It’s also important to ask candidates similar—if not identical—questions and evaluate folks in the same way. You need this data and structure to make unbiased decisions and stay true to your DEI commitment. 

If you could wave a magic wand, where would you like to see DEI work go in the future? Where should Fortune 500 companies be in a few years?

I would love to see DEI as a business imperative with a strategy behind it. We need to start doing the work and be intentional about it—not go dormant.

If company Boards say that diversity is important to us and part of our overall company strategy, it puts pressure on CEOs and senior executives to actually do the work. It’ll ensure that there’s someone accountable (like a Chief Diversity Officer or diversity lead). This intentionality is what’s needed to secure buy-in and drive real change.

And remember: Marginalized communities want fairness—not an advantage or a leg-up. All they want is fairness. If we can start the work to make that happen, we’ll be on the road to something great.

Connect with Dean on LinkedIn and Twitter @delpeachy. Dean is accepting clients from around the globe and would love to support you on your journey! For more best practices, perspectives, and tools to help you build a more diverse and equitable workplace, visit our Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Allyship Resource Center.

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