Q&A: Michael Bach makes the business case for diversity and inclusion

posted on November 17, 2020

October 30, 2020

By Nick Rockel, BC Business

To build a workplace that welcomes everyone, organizations should make creativity and innovation the end goal, the D&I expert says

Michael Bach wrote the book on diversity and inclusion (D&I). But he also walks the talk as CEO of the Toronto-based Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, which he founded in 2012. Before that, he was national director of diversity, equity and inclusion for KPMG in Canada.

We spoke to Bach about his new book, Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right, which helps entrepreneurs, managers and senior leaders make better D&I decisions.

For the complete interview, check out the BCBusiness Podcast.

The book’s title is Birds of All Feathers. What were you trying to get across with that name?

It’s really just a metaphor for how I like to perceive or approach diversity and inclusion work, where it’s about everyone—and that includes straight, white, able-bodied men—to make sure that they feel like they’re part of the conversation.

What does diversity and inclusion actually mean?

Simply put, I would say diversity is about all the things that make us unique. And the subtext to that is yes, it includes your gender and your ethnicity, but it also includes things like your learning style and where you grew up and where you live in the country and the job you have.

Inclusion is about creating space where all of those things can exist and thrive—in this case, workplaces where people can come to work and bring their whole self, and not feel like they have to leave a piece of themselves at home. And whether that piece is visible or invisible, they don’t get to hang up their ethnicity or their religion or their ability at the door when they walk in the office.

You say that you can’t have one without the other as an organization.

Theoretically you can have diversity without inclusion, and you can have inclusion without diversity. Having inclusion without diversity means you have a good culture, but it means that you’re lacking the diversity of perspective that comes with diversity of personal identity.

You can have diversity without having inclusion, but the truth of the matter is, it won’t last long. People will underperform, they will be disengaged, and they will not last in the organization, because they’re hearing racist comments in the hallway, they’re not being invited to events because of whatever they are. So the diversity won’t stay.

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