Equality in Business

Local businesses impact all our lives everyday – whether we work for them or buy goods and services from them. Our local businesses are powered by people, and those people come from all walks of life and backgrounds. I am a firm believer that the business community can and should be a driving force for change in the spheres of equity, diversity, and inclusion. This includes gender equality both in terms  of the composition of our workforces, and who actually own and operate our businesses.

In the soon to be published results of the recent Elk Valley Business Retention and Expansion survey conducted by the Elk Valley Economic Initiative, there is some interesting data gathered around the issue of equality. Of the 315 businesses surveyed in the Elk Valley, 41.6% identified as being majority owned by females. While this is encouraging, there is still work to be done to achieve true gender equality in business ownership here in our backyard. The results are unfortunately much more dire for businesses with a majority ownership identifying as indigenous (4.1%), visible minorities (1.3%), and 2SLGBTQ+ (just under 1%).

Last year in the annual feminism issue of the Fix, I talked about the great work the Women’s Enterprise Centre (recently rebranded to WeBC - we-bc.ca) is doing to advance equality in business ownership by providing support for women business owners to start, develop, lead, and sell small businesses in BC. I still strongly encourage female entrepreneurs at all levels to reach out to this amazing organization that is now in its 26th year helping female-led businesses.

But what else can businesses to do advance equality in their organizations and workforce? Implementing a strong human resources framework and inclusivity policy is a great start. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is working with the Fernie Pride Society on providing some guidance to local businesses on this issue later this year – so stay tuned! But even with the best framework in place, there can still be a disconnect between policy with good intention, and actual practice within your organization. 

One thing I hear often in the business world regarding hiring is “we just hire the most qualified candidate” as a defense of a lack of diversity or equality in the workplace. This idea deserves to be scrutinized and challenged to some degree. What does your hiring process actually look like? Where do you advertise your job opportunities? Could you do more to reach a wider cross-section of potential employees? Who is conducting your hiring and what unconscious biases do they have when looking for the ideal candidate? 

Our businesses and the people who power them should be striving to represent the changes we want to see in the world – becoming more diverse and inclusive. The more perspectives you have in your business, the more opportunity opens up with new and more successful ways of looking at problems, products and markets. 

Coal Town owners Deanna and Nic | David + Katie Phtotography