Driving change in any workplace so it is more diverse, equitable and inclusive requires innovative change champions. DiversityCan Magazine identified 10 HR and Chief People Officers who have developed remarkable strategies for making significant social impacts.

DiversityCan Magazine staff reviewed the nominee applications for the 2023 Top 10 Chief Human Resources and Chief People Officers, and it was with great admiration for the persistence, creativity, innovation, humility, and passionate belief in people that each nominee portrayed. The editorial board had difficulty selecting the final 10 for the 2023 Top Chief Human Resources and Chief People Officers because each nominee is a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) change champion improving lives in their organization, locally and globally, and in communities. That is really what DEI is all about. It is not about the bottom line or impressing the CEO. It is about equal opportunities for talented people in underrepresented groups and communities who must overcome significant barriers to take advantage of job and promotion opportunities.

The 10 Chief HR and Chief People Officers selected are on a mission to ensure their respective organization removes the barriers to equal opportunities, and not just for current employees. They also reach into underserved communities, lifting people up with programs and initiatives that give them visibility, a voice, and a future. What was so apparent from the nominees’ responses to the questions (which asked about their achievements, best practices, and leadership strengths) is a genuine caring for people in general, and a determination to embrace all people and level the playing field.

There are some common themes. One is the importance of creating safe spaces for holding conversations about DEI and people’s lived experiences in communities and the workplace. Another is using data to ensure strategies stay on track to meet measurable goals. A third theme is the value of internal networks of supporters who are often members of Employee Resource Groups or Diversity Councils or diversity ambassadors. The Chief HR and Chief People Officers employ tactics like setting measurable goals, recruiting employees as advocates and initiative participants, establishing mentoring programs and eLearning programs for different learning styles, and removing bias from talent recruitment, hiring, and career advancement systems. They have established “firsts” in their organizations, focused on employee total well-being, and targeted groups that have historically been the most likely to be excluded, like Canada’s Aboriginals. They push for changes such as recruiting at colleges often bypassed for prestigious universities, leadership accountability, and a commitment of resources to support strategy implementation and ERGs.

The 2023 Top 10 Human Resources and Chief People Officers are working in various industries, too, helping to embed DEI as a way of doing business. They are Ellyn Shook at Accenture, Mona Malone at BMO Financial Group, John Pershing at Canadian Tire Corporation, Laura Salvatore at Centurion Asset Management, Mary Alice Vuicic at Thomson Reuters, Kelly Davis at Sunwing Travel Group, Frank Monteleone at Rexall Pharmacy Group, Kim Carter at Altus Group, Sherry Dondo and HomeEquity Bank, and Brigid Pelino at Definity. These change champions have designed a variety of programs and initiatives that best fit their organizations. They include hiring victims of domestic violence, increasing employee self-identification numbers, addressing total well-being, creating a legacy space for safe learning and reflection on Indigenous cultures, and more innovations.

The diversity advocates have taken bold actions, such as developing an employee Learning Academy, establishing a mentoring program for new employees who participate from day one, and creating Employee Resource Groups and DEI Councils that give women, minorities, and Indigenous a seat at the decision-making table. The breadth and depth of strategies are remarkable, but the professionals have one quality that enables them to keep learning and advancing: humility. All the Chief Human Resources and Chief People Officers said they constantly learn by listening, and understanding what people say. DEI is a journey with no endpoint. The awardees talk about creating brave spaces for employees, but they themselves are brave.

It is frequently challenging to work in the DEI space, because biases close people’s minds to others who are different in some way. Opening those minds is often not easy. That is why the world will always need people who are passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and communities, like the 2023 Top 10 Chief Human Resources and Chief People Officers. The staff at DiversityCan encourages reading each bio with an open mind to find ways to leverage the experience and success of the awardees and find new ways to connect with people. Always remember, that is what DEI is all about – people.

Ellyn Shook

Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer

Mona Malone

Chief Human Resources Officer, Head of People and Culture
BMO Financial Group

John Pershing

Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer
Canadian Tire Corporation

Brigid Pelino

Senior Vice-President and Chief People & Cultur Officer

Frank Monteleone

Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer
Rexall Pharmacy Group