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Moving from targets to commitments – reflections from Agents of Change 2022

October 16, 2022 | By Anthony Capkun

ECAO’s campaign to combat racist/discriminatory acts and behaviour. Source: ECAO.

October 16, 2022 – Agents of Change is Electricity Human Resources Canada’s (EHRC) annual flagship event on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and EBMag caught some of the action across the national two-day forum.

The event’s theme this year was “The Power of Change”. Like all Agents events, the ultimate goal is “to create workplaces where all employees feel valued, respected and heard”.

To that end, EHRC lined up a powerful roster of speakers and presenters on topics such as:


• Gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
• Supporting reconciliation and strengthening relationships with Indigenous peoples.
• Becoming a DEI ally and champion, and making DEI an enterprise priority.
• Supporting people with disabilities (not “disabled people”) with accessible workplaces.

Considering all the delegates assembled, I imagine some discussions from Agents will stick out more than others. For me, there were two: 1) mental health and 2) anti-DEI behaviour in the construction sector.

1. Mental health by the numbers

During his keynote, Dr. Ryan Todd stated 81% of employees reported feeling they were at risk of burnout—an 18% increase since 2019. Furthermore, 50% of employees who left their jobs last year did so for mental health reasons.

Noticing this trend, 42% of companies redesigned their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in 2021, realizing the status quo just wasn’t cutting it. Rather than an EAP, Todd suggests companies adopt what he calls a “Pre-AP” a.k.a. Pre-Assistance Program. This way, companies have a better chance at getting ahead of potential issues that could befall their employees.

2. Anti-DEI behaviour in construction

“We are all agents of change… at least we can be,” said Graeme Aitken, executive director of Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (a sponsor of Agents of Change).

While he only spoke for a few minutes, Aitken shared some statistics* that should give us all pause:

• 63% of women who experienced harassment did not file a complaint, and 79% of men kept issues to themselves.
• Nearly 3 in 4 sexual harassment claims in the workplace go unreported.
• 55% of victims experience retaliation after speaking up or making a claim.
• According to victims who have reported harassment, 95% of the men go unpunished.
• 72% of victims were harassed by someone more senior in their workplace.
• 77% of respondents said that nothing was done to address the incidents they witnessed.

“Very few in our industry feel such behaviour, these actions, are acceptable,” said Aitken, “yet even fewer take action—even the seemingly simple act of reporting such basic violations of their fellow workers.”

How can we all be agents of change? “See it. Stop it. Say it,” said Aitken, referring to the simple, straightforward messaging of ECAO’s campaign that was launched to combat racist/discriminatory acts and behaviour (below).

ECAO’s campaign to combat racist/discriminatory acts and behaviour. Source: ECAO.

However, Aitken added, “we feel strongly that [this message] is a basic call to action for anything unwelcome in the workplace and beyond”.

“Our industry—our community—is striving to be able to loudly and sincerely declare: ‘We welcome all’.”

Don’t set a DEI target, make a commitment

During the discussion “Getting it done: making DEI an enterprise priority”, Beth Buckmaster explained her company, Hatch, has established a rule that 50% of all new-hires have to be women. And, before a final job offer is made to anyone, 1/3 of the finalists must be female. If not, it’s back to the drawing board (except in truly rare circumstances).

Hatch is also reviewing its remuneration scheme, and bringing women up to par with men. Buckmaster noted these kinds of initiatives do not happen overnight; they continue to make progress. Most importantly, progress is being made.

Bruce Power’s Danielle Short perhaps said it best: “We’ve moved from setting [DEI] targets to making commitments”.

The Agent of Change, 2022

Of course, the event would not be complete without EHRC announcing this year’s Agent of Change, and that distinction falls to Carol Dayment, senior advisor, DEI with Nova Scotia Power. (Although, according to her LinkedIn profile, she became director of DEI at Emera last month.)

“My role starts with enabling conversation about diversity and inclusion because, before change can happen, there needs to be a foundation of education and understanding,” Dayment was quoted in a Nova Scotia Power blog.

“Diverse perspectives put us in a better place to be creative, solve problems, and understand our customers—and it’s our job to harness the power of every unique employee. Every person who shows up here deserves to feel supported, included and heard in order to do their best work.”

“Building a culture of inclusion and diversity doesn’t happen overnight,” Dayment was quoted. “It must be driven by leadership, but employees make it happen.”

— Anthony Capkun, acapkun@ebmag.com.

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* via Alex Willis of Leadership Surge, who was citing Construction Dive survey data about jobsite experiences.

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