Is it truly the most wonderful time of the year? As December approaches, so does the holiday season! With lights donning every street in the city, store shelves filled with chocolates and decorations and shoppers trying to get through their ‘Christmas Gift List’, there are also corporations, workplaces and organizations trying to bring the holiday cheer to their employees as another way of building their company culture. What is often forgotten in the efforts of this December celebration is the different festivals that are celebrated around the year by people from different ethnicities in your team, the lack of representation of various Christmas cultures and traditions (not everyone puts up a Christmas tree), and how holidays are not always ‘happy’ for everyone.
The Canadian tech and innovation ecosystem continues to learn and grow on their diversity journey. However, a recent study by TrustRadius found that 65% of people of color view diversity in tech as having increased over the last ten years. While this looks like a silver lining, the same respondent group also mentioned persistent concerns with diversity of top leadership positions in the tech ecosystem. These statistics and data had us reflect on the reason(s) behind this lack of representation in one of the world’s most attractive countries for migration. This research brought to light the concept of ‘emotional tax’, that feeling of being different from peers at work because of gender, race or ethnicity, being on guard for experiences of bias, and the associated effects on health, well-being, and the ability to thrive at work. Canadians of color feel that they’re ‘on guard’ and avoid bringing their authentic, real selves at their workplace out of the fear of being isolated and judged. This has led to approximately 59-60% of Black, East Asian and South Asian professionals reporting an intent to quit their current jobs.
When we think of holiday celebrations at the workplace, this lens of inclusivity is an important consideration. As a country with skilled immigrants at its hands, it is critical to support, embrace and set your employees up for success, regardless of their race, ethnicities, and religion, to make them feel seen and welcomed. While some Canadian tech companies have now started realizing the importance of DEI, others are one step ahead in the game. One such venture is Mobials Inc., TechAlliance’s 2023 Limitless Scaleup Award Winner and a software development company focused on lead generation for its clients. Based out of London, ON, the company already has policies in place that help their diverse employees in truly embracing and bringing their authentic selves to work.
Hiring people with differing cultural and social backgrounds has pushed us to rethink our existing policies and find new ways to be more inclusive. One example of this is a policy that provides our employees with the option to exchange statutory holidays for religious or cultural holidays of importance to them throughout the year. We strive to make employees feel that the company is not only embracing their cultural differences, but excited to celebrate and learn about them
Another simple way to start making this change is by encouraging a diverse planning committee. There’s only so much that you can find out on your own about the different religions, their practices, festivals and cultures. Having a diverse planning committee is another way to ensure accurate representation of different festivals throughout December and beyond. London’s innovation hub, TechAlliance, activates this through a social committee with diverse team members to ensure equal representation of all celebrations. “When I was asked for a way to celebrate Ramadan, I felt included, appreciated and a part of the team. The thought of having a celebration counts and goes a long way and has always encouraged me to bring my authentic self to work,” shares Farida Abdelnabi, Communications Manager at TechAlliance. Companies have also started taking surveys, asking employees what/how they would like to celebrate the holiday season. The more voices are brought forward, the more inclusive the celebrations will be. By giving generic names such as a ‘Holiday party’, you create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.
Diversity and Equity does not stop at racial inclusion. Holidays might be a tough time for some individuals who have grief, trauma or seasonal depression around this time. It is always encouraged to be mindful of such team members and extend them any support possible, recognizing the holidays are not a joyful time for everyone. A lot of ventures also believe in throwing corporate parties as a way of celebration, but these gatherings should consider varieties for food options, non-alcoholic beverages and an easily accessible location to involve anyone and everyone who would like to be a part of this celebration.