2017 TOP 5 Influential Women in Diversity & HR

More Than Talk: Influential Women in HR and D&I Bring Action to Corporate Canada


Everyone agrees that Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the corporate organization benefits the bottom line, increases employee engagement and productivity, and is good business practice. After all, Canada has one of the most diverse workforce in the world, proving there is an appreciation for new perspectives and experiences. However, being diverse is not enough because people must be fully included in order to perform at their highest levels. It takes more than talk, and that is why DiversityCan Magazine showcases the Top 5 Influential Women in HR and D&I in Canada's corporations: They are women of action bringing measurable results.

The honorees named this year have a lot in common, even as they develop and oversee initiatives customized to meet the needs of their organizations. They all deeply believe that developing an inclusive culture is the right thing to do. A truly inclusive organization operates on principles that include integrity, accountability, and respect. The women bravely challenge the status quo, questioning traditional talent management processes, health and safety practices, policies and procedures, and leadership practices that create D&I barriers. They are all working to build barrier-free environments across organizational functions or units.

It is enormously pleasing to read about the approaches and achievements of Elizabeth Auceda at Sodexa, Geneviève Fortier at McKesson, Norma Tombari at RBC, Ave Lethbridge at Toronto Hydro, and Leanne Bellegarde at Potash. It is also satisfying to recognize that the principles of diversity and inclusion are taking root in an eclectic mix of industries, and from those roots are springing programs and initiatives that bring real change.

The actions include volunteering to sponsoring advocacy groups, developing a responsible procurement program, realigning talent review processes, sponsoring women for leadership positions, implementing reciprocal mentoring programs, dramatically improving workplace safety, diversifying supply chains, and working with leaders across the organization to enlist them in the building of an inclusive culture. They also asked executives to hold senior leaders and their managers accountable for results. This is a major step forward because organizational transparency is critical to the success of HR, D&I, and health and wellness programs. Thus, the Influential Women have developed engagement surveys and scorecards for determining the ROI of diversity initiatives.

Another important strategy the Influential Women have successfully implemented is engaging local communities. This reflects what Norma Tombari calls a holistic approach in which HR and D&I embraces employees, clients and customers, and communities where local suppliers and talent are engaged. The holistic approach operates on the principle that D&I brings economic empowerment to all people. As Elizabeth Auceda points out, D&I is about communities and not just profits. There are internal and external communities, and all are leveraged because success depends on the involvement of people across the spectrum. It is why Geneviève Fortier sits on several Board of Directors in the healthcare industry. It is also why Ave Lethbridge works with colleges and universities to influence curriculum that develops future diverse employees.

As Leanne Bellegarde says, changing policies and practices from "how we've always done it" to "here's how we're going to do it" is a plan for action. Success depends on the support of the top leadership, so another common factor in the efforts of the Influential Women is that they garnered the support of the CEO and other C-suite members. With top–down support, the diversity professionals get the resources they need to develop, implement, and manage D&I and HR programs, and organizational members recognize the importance of embracing diversity and inclusion.

One other strategy was evident this year. The Influential Women are deepening the conversation on D&I, addressing difficult topics like unconscious bias. This is a strong indication that D&I is rapidly becoming embedded as a core value in Canadian corporations. Please read each bio with the knowledge that the Top 5 Influential Women in HR & Diversity are pioneers who have cleared pathways to building more inclusive organizations and communities. The staff at DiversityCan believes it is a great honor to be able to showcase their efforts and hopes that more companies are inspired by their efforts and successes.

  • Geneviève FortierGeneviève Fortier
    Senior Vice President,
    Human Resources and Public Affairs

    McKesson Canada's Geneviève Fortier Develops Leading Edge HR Programs

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  • Leanne Bellegarde Leanne Bellegarde
    Director, Diversity & Inclusion

    Potash's Leanne Bellegarde Develops Holistic Strategy to D&I

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  • Norma TombariNorma Tombari
    Senior Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion

    Norma Tombari Designs and Implements RBC Diversity Blueprint

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  • Elizabeth Auceda Elizabeth Auceda
    Canadian Supplier Diversity Manager

    Elizabeth Auceda Expands Sodexo's Supplier Diversity to Drive Growth and Personal Passion

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  • Ave Lethbridge Ave Lethbridge
    Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources and Safety Officer

    Ave Lethbridge Builds Relationships to Expand Diversity at Toronto Hydro

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