For the sixth year in a row, the YMCA of Greater Toronto has been selected as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers! This competition recognizes employers across Canada that have exceptional diversity and inclusion programs.
The Y’s approach focuses on making diversity and social inclusion a part of our DNA. For Lindsay Sweeney-Hockin, Senior Development Officer at the Y, the lived experience is what matters most. “I have worked with diverse populations throughout my career, where we had mandates to embrace diversity,” she says. “However the Y is the first place where I really feel that this concept of embracing diversity really exists and it is not just talked about. You see the diversity being lived at the Y every day: through people in leadership; opportunities given to us for professional development; and the encouragement of conversations around difference and acceptance.”
Lisa Paulo-Alberto, General Manager Child and Family Development, sees a cyclical connection in making sure staff feel included. “I have the pleasure of saying that I have worked for the YMCA for 16 years and have always felt appreciated and supported,” she says. “As a leader at our YMCA, I strive to be an effective role model in making others feel the same way; valuing and demonstrating diversity and social inclusion every day!”
Employees and leaders at the Y engage daily in conversations to deepen awareness and understanding about diversity. Right from onboarding, new employees attend an orientation where they learn about the Y’s approach to diversity and social inclusion and each other’s experiences and stories. These stories are often what builds connections and feelings of inclusion. “I got to share my story with other newly hired staff from across the GTA, and many people let me know that my experience with diversity resonated with them,” says Amy Soden, Communications Manager, Major Gifts and Capital Campaign. “People at the Y have always treated me as a whole person, rather than focusing on my impairment. This allows me to keep channeling my diverse experience into positive approaches to impact at work.”
Diversity occurs because of the many dimensions people have, including those that are visible and non-visible. Staff members dedicated to diversity and social inclusion initiatives lead workshops year-round to encourage discussion related to diversity dimensions and diversity and social inclusion topics. Employees from all areas of the Y contribute their experiences and insights. Through ongoing collaboration and dialogue, employees bring a pluralistic lens to their work and the communities we serve.
Being selected as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers is a great honour for the Y because it means that, against national standards, our diversity programs and initiatives — as well as our overall approach — is considered to be progressive. Making diversity and social inclusion an important cornerstone for the Y is vital to our commitment of building a healthy workforce and healthier communities.