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Embracing LGBTQ2+ pride and inclusivity: BDC’s journey to Rainbow Registered certification

As we take stock of this year’s Pride Month, we recognize and salute the hard work, determination and courage of past and current generations to create a safe and welcoming society for all.

We’re also reminded that these efforts are crucial year-round—not just in June—and require daily commitment.

A lot remains to be done. Nearly half of Canadian LGBTQ2+ business owners have hidden who they are in business dealings in order to avoid discrimination. Sadly, more than a third have lost opportunities due to their LGBTQ2+ status. LGBTQ2+ employees also report significantly higher unemployment and harassment at work.

The impacts are grave for all Canadians. Discrimination hurts productivity, the ability to attract and retain employees, workplace engagement and innovation, and an organization’s reputation. It’s not only illegal and wrong; it’s also bad for business.

Canada must do better for our millions of LGBTQ2+ people and the country’s 28,000 companies that are LGBTQ2+-owned. These businesses employ over 435,000 Canadians and generate over $22 billion in annual economic activity. They’re a vital part of the economy.

How to do better

How can organizations take action for LGBTQ2+ employees, clients and partners? This is a question we at BDC have devoted a lot of effort and time for many years, and we feel it’s important to share what we’ve learned in order to inspire others to act.

Spearheading our efforts has been BDC’s very active LGBTQ2+ employee resource group (ERG). It not only offers a safe and welcoming space for employees to be themselves, discuss challenges and celebrate successes. It’s also a key focal point for spurring and planning action and an invaluable resource for the entire organization.

The ERG has participated in the development of numerous exciting and crucial initiatives that have transformed our workplace and culture. These include:

  • Assessing and benchmarking LGBTQ2+ representation in BDC’s workforce.
  • Diversity training and learning activities for employees, such as listening circles, LGBTQ2+ employee story sharing, webinars and education about the unique experiences of LGBTQ2+ entrepreneurs.
  • A flexible health benefits plan, insurance coverage and family planning support for LGBTQ2+ employees, including coverage for employees with HIV/AIDS and gender affirmation processes.
  • An update of language and policies to ensure they’re inclusive.
  • A revised signature template that includes an area for pronouns.
  • BDC partnerships on recruitment, training and activities with LGBTQ2+ organizations, such as Pride at Work, QueerTech, Pride In Business and Lez Spread the Word, to name a few.

Rainbow Registered: a symbol of inclusivity

I’m delighted to say all this work led BDC to be recognized last year as the Organization of the Year by Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC). The efforts have also contributed to BDC’s being named as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers for 13 years.

And earlier this year, BDC was very proud to announce we had become the largest organization in Canada—and the first financial institution—to get Rainbow Registered. The CGLCC created this accreditation to certify that an organization has shown commitment and consistency in providing a welcoming and inclusive LGBTQ2+ customer and employee experience.

Getting Rainbow Registered involves a rigorous evaluation of an organization’s community involvement, business practices, diversity and inclusion maturity, and the integration of policies into the day-to-day lived experiences of employees. There is also an annual recertification.

Aligning our focus and sending a message

At BDC, we are committed to a world-class employee experience. That’s why we offer things like a flexible hybrid work environment, robust wellness programs, flexible benefits and an open and safe work environment.

We believe our efforts are paying off in allowing us to attract and retain the country’s top talent. We have been named one of Canada’s top employers, and one of its top diversity employers, for 16 years and 13 years, respectively.

We were excited to get Rainbow Registered to show our employees, customers and partners we are committed to putting time, money and energy behind our diversity values.

It’s a powerful way to align our focus and send a message about the kind of organization we are and the one we strive to become. We also wanted to showcase the value and importance of diverse teams and businesses, and to motivate other organizations to follow suit.

Showing business commitment to diversity

In today’s landscape, diversity, equity and inclusion are more important than ever. They’re not just the right thing to do. They also make good business sense.

Diverse teams outperform and provide organizations with a competitive edge. When people feel accepted and safe, they feel empowered, and this fosters a culture of innovation and productivity. We have also found that having a diverse team allows us to increase our knowledge of our clients—and helps us achieve our purpose: to empower a nation of dreamers and doers to build a better tomorrow for all.

Employees, clients and the community today expect businesses to show they’re serious about diversity, equity and inclusion.

We encourage all Canadian businesses to consider getting Rainbow Registered as part of their diversity journey. Beyond the benefits above, certification offers:

  • Market differentiation and a demonstration of your diversity commitment.
  • Another way to build client relationships, grow operations, create jobs and become a success story.
  • Greater economic inclusion and recognition of diverse businesses.
  • Access to a nationwide network of companies that share your values of creating safe spaces and advocating for LGBTQ2+ rights and small businesses.
  • A way to inspire others in your sector toward greater diversity and inclusivity.
  • A tool for creating a truly inclusive culture that addresses each letter in “LGBTQ2+” and includes an intersectional lens, reflecting the fact that LGBTQ2+ people are members of all groups, including women, racialized people, people with disabilities, veterans and more.

Major impacts within BDC and externally

Getting Rainbow Registered has had a major positive impact within BDC. Employees feel new pride and engagement knowing their organization has taken bold and meaningful action. Membership in the LGBTQ2+ ERG has grown exponentially as employees feel more confident in being who they are, asking for support and getting involved in activities.

Our leaders feel more comfortable, equipped and supported than ever to address LGBTQ2+ issues and support employees and entrepreneurs.

The certification has also led to very positive attention outside BDC. Job candidates mention it during interviews, saying they’re impressed that BDC is moving the dial. The process has given BDC even more momentum to create safe, inclusive and welcoming workplaces and pursue new initiatives.

I encourage businesses to explore what they can do to be more welcoming and accepting to all of their employees, customers and partners, in all their diversity. Canada can’t afford to leave underserved entrepreneurs and employees on the sidelines; and we must embrace an equitable, inclusive and diverse nation where all can prosper.

No one must be left behind.

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