What we’ve learned

What we’ve learned

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you | Contributors: Rebecca Davison (Vice President Marketing, Halifax Chamber) | Published: March 1, 2023

Examining advances, challenges, and opportunities in DEA&I at the Halifax Chamber

It’s hard to believe it was two years ago that we gathered to talk about the role our Chamber needed to play in diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEA&I) in our community. In a way, it feels like just days ago that we joined with community leaders to talk about what real change means and could look like.

Since then, we have made strides to grow our Chamber membership, and — within a period of less than 24 months — we have seen a more dramatic increase in the diversity of business leaders and owners joining than in the whole of the time I've witnessed since I started at the Chamber in 2012.

In early 2021, starting with a revision of our policy and the creation of our DEA&I Action Plan, your Chamber has made strides to improve how we create, execute, and run our over one hundred annual events and training programs, Business Voice magazine, and the work we do to create an inclusive membership and Board of Directors.

But creating an action plan was just our starting point. I once believed that to improve our diversity and inclusion efforts, it was enough to reach out to a few associations a few times a year to invite guests to join our larger dinners, asking them to nominate their businesses, and ensuring we had true representation on our event stage. It took the community to shine a light on our blind spots in January 2020 for us to realize that our efforts were lacking. I knew we needed real change that amounted to more than a few phone calls a year if the Chamber really wanted to become an inclusive community leader.

This is where things got interesting, and when real growth began. Difficult conversations were needed on how we still had learning to do and how our efforts were sometimes misguided, but these conversations were transformative. If you walked into a Chamber event in 2022 or our 2023 Halifax Business Awards, you would notice new faces in the crowd. You would see young Black entrepreneurs, businesses with primarily 2SLGBTQ+ staff, and plenty of women-run businesses. I want to continue to see new faces from communities at our events that haven’t always seen themselves as part of the Chamber.

We will continue to do the work to build a more inclusive business community, and part of that means offering free training in all areas of DEA&I. We’re hosting events exploring intersectionality, building your own DEA&I action plan, how to build diversity into your supply chain, gender equity training, and more. Our original goal was to offer training once a quarter, but our event calendar is filled with opportunities to learn.

We can’t do this work alone, and we are fortunate to partner with organizations with extensive experience in their fields, including the Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Council, Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce and the 50/30 program through Toronto Metropolitan University. This challenge encourages organizations to advance gender parity––to 50% for women and nonbinary people––and increase diversity––to 30% for other equity-deserving groups in senior leadership and board roles. Read more about it on Page 23!

While the Chamber has been working on gender parity for many years, and ensuring our board is a true representation of our community, targets were not specifically identified. Over the next 18 months, we will be encouraging businesses to commit to the 50 – 30 Challenge.

This article doesn’t cover a fraction of the work that we’re doing — and need to keep doing. While it isn’t always visible, your Chamber team is working hard to incorporate diversity in all we do, including our speakers, suppliers, attendees, content, awards nominations, and staff and board. We are committed to our Action Plan and report quarterly to our Board of Directors, our members, and the community. These reports can be found in our DEA&I Tool Kit at halifaxchamber.com/diversity.

We don’t have it all figured out yet, but we continue to learn and grow. On Thursday, March 23, we are hosting the Canadian Chamber of Commerce as we bring together Chambers from around the region to discuss how to support Black entrepreneurs in their communities by creating a place for growing and understanding, together. Following this, we will be hosting our first-ever SURGE Conference, where we aim to create a safe space to learn and move forward. Please join us on the path to inclusiveness and understanding.

If you have questions or ideas when it comes to supporting DEA&I at the Chamber, please connect with me at:


< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you

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