Building a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture at Medavie

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is much more than just a business or HR strategy. It is not something that is fabricated in an office and is taught or declared to the masses. It is an organization-wide roadmap to get to a place where diversity, equity and inclusion is an essential thread in the fabric of Medavie. Yes, DEI helps attract new talent and drives sales, but most importantly it enriches our culture and allows us to be stronger, both individually and collectively.”

Anita Swamy, Vice President Operations, Medavie Blue Cross
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Anita Swamy

These insightful words were expressed during a recent all-employee webinar at Medavie in which Anita and her co-host Pierre Marion, Regional Vice President Business Development, Quebec, shared thoughts and perspectives on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Medavie with Michael Bach, founder of Pride at Work Canada, and founder and chair of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI).

Described by Michael as the “de facto centre of excellence on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in Canada,” CCDI is providing insights, tools and resources to help guide Medavie on our journey to build a diverse and inclusive culture.

Respecting and celebrating differences

Anita described the culture Medavie envisions as one “that accepts and respects everyone just as they are, where we celebrate our differences, be it our sexual identity, our race or religion — even differences in opinions. A culture that understands and appreciates the value of diversity to each of us and collectively to our organization, and where employees can be their authentic selves and succeed in their roles.”

She explained that Medavie’s DEI strategy will be “grounded in the principles of inclusion and embedded into the framework of our organization at every level — whether it be attracting talent from outside, developing it from within, serving our clients or being active in the community.”

Medavie is looking toward a number of significant steps in our journey, including reviewing our health benefits, public-facing materials, member correspondence and back-end processes to make sure we’re inclusive.

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Michael Bach

Driving industry change

Michael praised the work that Medavie is doing. “It’s fantastic and I think it’s really going to get around and drive a lot of change in the insurance industry. Because what it says is that Medavie strives to be inclusive both as an employer and as a provider.”

Both she and Michael emphasized that building a culture of inclusion isn’t something that can be accomplished overnight.It represents a very significant commitment and investment of time, money and resources, and is an ongoing, evolutionary process,” Anita said.

Michael added that DEI is “a journey without a destination. There will always be something evolving, there will always be a next step. It’s not a box-ticking exercise …”

Michael gave his presentation as part of Medavie’s month-long Pride celebration. He shared the significance of our activities to recognize and support the important work that is being done to achieve equality, dignity and greater visibility for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited (LGBTQ2S+) Canadians.

“LGBTQ2S+ people are looking for a sign that yours is an inclusive space either as an employee or as a patient. And that sign can come in form of a rainbow flag, or a pink triangle or lighting up your buildings for Pride Month. Something that says you’re safe here. Because for a lot of LGBTQ2S+ people, we’re the invisible minority.”

Michael Bach

Pierre described Medavie’s Pride Month celebration as “but one step toward a culture where everyone feels accepted and respected and can be successful within the organization. And if everybody’s successful, the organization will be successful.”

Making DEI a priority

Using workforce population numbers and research studies to illustrate, Michael made a compelling case for why businesses should make DEI a top priority including how, nationally, 50% of workforce is female, and 23% are people of colour. (The latter percentage changes dramatically depending on location, with people of colour making up about 53% of Toronto’s workforce, compared to about 10% of Moncton’s.)

Canada’s workforce is also comprised of approximately 5% Indigenous; 13.5% people with disabilities 7.5% people from religious minorities and somewhere between 7-10% LGBTQ2S+.

“If you run all those numbers together, people that would identify as straight, white able-bodied men make up less than 30% of the workforce population nationally; and in some centres like in Toronto that number drops below 15%.”

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Medavie Blue Cross, Ontario
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Medavie Blue Cross, Newfoundland and Labrador
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Medavie Blue Cross, New Brunswick
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Pierre Marion

Retaining diverse talent

“Employers need to not only attract diverse talent, and this is the important point, they need to retrain diverse talent. It is not a safe argument to say anyone can be successful in our organization because there are all sorts of mitigating factors involved in creating an equitable work environment.”

Michael quoted a tweet to explain the difference between equality and equity: “Equality is giving everyone a shoe; equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.”

In his words, “equality “is about treating everyone equally but equity is about recognizing that people have different needs.”

“I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together on our journey to becoming a more inclusive culture. We’re not there yet, there’s a lot of work to do upfront, but we’ll do it.”

Pierre Marion

When asked what companies can do to ensure a diverse and inclusive culture, Michael underlined the need for both leadership buy-in and accountability.

“Leaders need to take ownership of an organization’s DEI journey and really drive the change. I would also point out that in a lot of ways we are all leaders. We can all play a leadership role. So, it’s really important that we all understand what our role is in creating an inclusive work environment and act in that way.”

Michael Bach

He expanded on that role in his final words to Medavie employees. “It’s just a matter of, being willing to learn, to understand your privilege and to step up and engage. And I would challenge you all to do that.

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Medavie is a health company that oversees Medavie Blue Cross and Medavie Health Services. Together, we’re bringing Canadians better health and access to care.