Mediaplanet spoke with Ben Borne, Canada’s first self-identified Indigenous certified Communication Management Professional, about the importance of representation and diversity in the workplace.
As a co-founder of a thriving business and the first Indigenous certified Communication Management Professional, what does representation mean to you?
Representation in the communications profession means that more people are being seen and heard by organizational leaders everywhere. More diversity among communications professionals means more people listening to and raising the voices of those who are often excluded from the broader conversations held by predominantly cisgendered white folks.
Representation in the profession means we can have difficult conversations around systemic racism and more positive conversations around how to be more anti-racist in our day-to-day work. These are tough conversations to have, but they’re critical to making our workplaces and broader cultures more diverse and inclusive.
Why is diversity in the workplace important?
I’m a firm believer that more diversity in the workplace means more innovation and creativity. An office full of people who all look the same and come from similar cultural backgrounds runs the risk of people conforming and ultimately groupthink.
As an Indigenous communicator, I’m keenly aware that introducing diverse voices into organizational networks can shake things up inside the workplace.
Being well-versed in the corporate sector, where do you see gaps or barriers to entry for Indigenous professionals or Indigenous-owned businesses, and how do you think we can mitigate this?
I’m very pleased to see the increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) inside organizations. However, there are still significant gaps in recruiting and retaining Indigenous talent. This is partly due to a growing talent pool that’s still being nurtured, but also due to organizations not adopting long-term strategies to nurture diverse talent and promote them throughout the organization. Personally, I left an organization because I only encountered barriers to my desire to enter leadership roles. I could only move horizontally, not vertically. This ultimately caused me to resign and grow my skill set on my own. In cases where people leave on these terms, it’s only to the detriment of the organization — and I think organizational leaders need to start recognizing that this happens a lot, and they need to stop letting talent walk out the door.
Do you have any additional recommendations for a more inclusive Canadian business landscape?
I have a couple of recommendations for a few more inclusive Canadian business landscape. First, develop or re-evaluate your DE&I practices. Make sure that DE&I isn’t housed in one department but embedded across the entire organization. DE&I should become part of your daily practice — not just a philosophy or strategy.
Second, give deep and meaningful consideration to how your organization is responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. These calls to action are more than a document with ideas, but a map for a pathway forward for organizations to build more respectful nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous people.