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The Regulatory Role in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

June 30, 2022

Posted in: WATSON Views

WATSON’s Leadership & Performance Practice Lead, Rachel O’Connor, recently sat on two panels at the Council on Licensure, Enforcement, and Regulation’s (CLEAR) 2022 Virtual Symposium to discuss The Regulatory Role in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Rachel and her fellow panelists – representatives from professional regulators at different stages of integrating DEI into their organizations and work – discussed regulators unique and crucial role in furthering DEI, along with challenges and opportunities inherent to the sector.

As regulators, you have many DEI touchpoints – your board and committees, the organization itself, registrants, and the public. This unique position provides regulators with an opportunity to address systemic issues, such as unequal access and outcomes for members of the public. Interested in making an impact? We think you’re up for the challenge.

Here are just a few key takeaways for those of you in the regulatory world, and some practical steps for your board to take, no matter where you are on the DEI journey:

  • Professional regulators are at different stages of DEI – some are ramping up foundational capacity and understanding internally, while others are truly leading. Healthcare regulators have built capacity around cultural safety and humility as a powerful foundation for DEI in relation to Indigenous peoples. Regulators across professions can learn from each other here. As panelist Louise Aerts from the BC College of Nurses and Midwives succinctly put it: “You can lead while you learn, and you can also learn while you lead.”
  • The importance of DEI in the health regulatory world is brought to life when you look at the recent In Plain Sight report, linking negative health outcomes to systemic racism against Indigenous people in British Columbia. Regulators can play a role here by linking DEI initiatives to competency requirements, and ultimately improving health outcomes for the public.
  • The “E” in DEI can often feel nebulous, but there are many opportunities to increase equity on regulatory boards. For example, when was the last time you looked at your per diem and expense policy? Making small adjustments here could make a huge difference in enabling people with lower income or who require child or elder care to participate in board and committee meetings.
  • “Be transformational, not transactional” advised panelist Carrie Waggott, College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta. Invest in thoughtful initiatives that flow from the board to committees, the organization, registrants, and the public in key areas (e.g., registration, quality assurance, inquiry/discipline, standards)
  • Engage in ongoing board and management education around DEI. This is a rapidly evolving area of governance, and your leaders should be up to speed on the issues facing your industry – and how to address them.
  • Recruit a diverse board and management team – be creative about where and how you can have influence.
  • Tie your leaders’ performance goals to DEI. Send the message that DEI is not optional and attach meaningful metrics so you can measure your progress and impact.

Thank you to CLEAR for inviting us to be a part of the 2022 Virtual Symposium. We look forward to seeing where the regulatory world goes next in terms of bringing diversity, equity, and inclusion to life for their boards, organizations, registrants, and, ultimately, the public.


Are you interested in more education for your regulatory board? WATSON’s Governance Academy offers tailored courses in a range of board and organizational stewardship topics, including DEI, designed to address the challenges facing your board. Our governance expert facilitators have experience advising regulatory boards across industries, and will get to know your unique context in order to provide the practical skills and knowledge your board needs. Click here to learn more about our Intentional Board™ workshops.



Asian Heritage Month

May 31, 2022

Posted in: WATSON Views

Continuing a Legacy of Greatness
May Was Asian Heritage Month

Asian Heritage Month has been an opportunity for us all to learn about the achievements and contributions of Canadians of Asian heritage, reflect on the biases that Asian Canadians experience, and understand the perspectives of Asian Canadians on boards, in the workplace, and beyond.

Canadians of Asian heritage have helped shape and continue to make valuable contributions to our society, culture, and organizations, just as they have faced and continue to experience significant adversity and racism.

This month, we celebrate these contributions and achievements, and the individuals behind them. Like Margaret Lyons, CM, the first female vice president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a Member of the Order of Canada, and a child of Japanese immigrants, and Senator Vivian Poy, an immigrant from Hong Kong, entrepreneur, author, historian, fashion designer, and the first Canadian of Asian heritage appointed to the Senate of Canada. These are only two of countless examples of leaders making an impact in Canadian culture and society.

And yet, according to Statistics Canada, visible minorities remain underrepresented in Canadian leadership positions. About one in ten Canadian women executives and one in fourteen men executives identify as belonging to a visible minority group, while they represent about one in five people in the workforce. Major visible minority groups represented among executives included South Asian and Chinese, with fewer Black and Filipino executives [source]. And while there have been gains in the diversity of directors of S&P 500 companies, directors of Asian descent remain underrepresented with only 7% of new board seats in 2021 (down from 8% in 2020), and only 5% of all S&P 500 directors. [source]

At WATSON, we strive to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in each of our practice lines – through the governance advice and performance support we provide our clients, mitigating bias in director and executive searches, and governance education for boards and individuals. Here are some ways you can elevate diversity and inclusion in your organization.

  • Diversity at the board table is essential to any organization’s success, and recruitment firms with access to a wide range of candidates beyond the personal network of current directors and management can help. Ask us about the methodology our Search team uses to reduce unintentional bias in the recruitment process.
  • Foster an inclusive environment that encourages and embraces diverse perspectives. Considerations for things like language barriers and cultural differences when drafting meeting materials can go a long way and are often overlooked. Read more tips here.
  • Reduce barriers to joining the board or taking on leadership opportunities like committee or board chair. For example, do some of your directors care for children or elderly family members? This could make it difficult to serve on a board with multi-day in-person meetings that involve travel. Create an environment where diverse perspectives can thrive.
  • Is DEI part of the DNA of your organization? Boards of all shapes, stripes and stages of DEI need to understand where they are today and align on a vision of where they want to be tomorrow, but many struggle. Take our free self-assessment and see if your board could use a DEI Health Check.

As we close out Asian Heritage Month, join us in celebrating the achievements and contributions of Canadians of Asian heritage, learning more about the experiences and perspectives of this diverse group, and considering what we can all do to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce.

This month, the WATSON team shared some resources to educate each other and spark conversation amongst ourselves, and we would like to share them with you as well.



We Asked The WATSON Team – Why Do You Serve On Your Not-For-Profit Board?

April 25, 2022

Posted in: WATSON Views

WATSON Celebrates Non-profit Volunteer Board Day (BC)  – Hear from the WATSON Team Why They Serve On Their Not-For-Profit Board.

WATSON opens many board workshops with a simple question: why do you serve? We do this to ground the group in their purpose before beginning the day’s work. This question is core to the philosophy that guides all our work at WATSON, and to celebrate Non-profit Volunteer Board Day in British Columbia, we’re turning it back on ourselves.


Why do we serve on the non-profit boards we are on?


Rachel O’Connor, Leadership & Performance Practice Lead | CODE

I’m joining the board of CODE, which focuses on global literacy by supporting local teachers and locally produced, culturally relevant learning materials. Literacy is such a fundamental building block for health, wellness, and security, and this is a well-run organization with an approach grounded in equity and inclusion. I am eager to be part of the difference they make – supporting learning for more than 10 million children over 60 years – and it is great to know I have not just my own experience to contribute, but access to the collective wisdom of the WATSON Team.


Jodi Butts, Senior Governance Consultant | The Walrus

The Walrus provokes new thinking and sparks conversation on matters vital to Canadians.

I serve because when so many forces seek to pull us apart, The Walrus brings us together by keeping us learning, talking, and listening.


Liz Watson, Founder & CEO | Shad Canada

I serve as Chair of Shad Canada. Shad Canada ignites potential in the brightest Canadian youth by providing them with a one-month curated STEAM program that students and parents say is “transformational”.

 I serve because I believe that every young person in Canada who has the ability, should be able to participate in a program that will ignite their potential to create lasting impact for themselves and their local and global community. Our board of directors is dedicated, engaged, bold and intentional.


Suzie Cho, Practice Lead – Academy & Learning | is Canada’s only charity that trains and empowers youth to revolutionize youth mental health.

 I was introduced to in 2014 when my daughter attended her first Jack Summit. The conference gave her the language and courage to share with me for the first time, her own mental health struggles. Since then, I’ve expanded my understanding of how critical it is to destigmatize mental health and the important work does. I am inspired by their purpose and am honoured to serve on the board.


Manijeh Colabella, Governance Consultant | White Rock Museum & Archives

The White Rock Museum & Archives is a place for celebrating the White Rock community and its history, …. with the goal of interpreting local history and challenging visitors to think about the future as well as the past.

 I serve to give back to the community that I live in and have essentially grown up in (having come to visit extended family many times each year before re-locating here). I have always loved visiting the Museum on our regular walks down by the promenade and enjoy the history it tells and how it can shape our future. We have been a supporter of its programs for several years now and I wanted to get involved in a more meaningful way.

 I also support Women in Capital Markets (WCM) on the Vancouver Steering Committee. WCM is a national NFP organization founded in 1995. They execute their mission through: (1) building equity literacy, (2) amplifying diverse talent, and (3) uniting Canada’s finance industry. Their focus is to bring together a large network of professionals in Canadian finance to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion in the finance industry.

 I am passionate about helping WCM realize its mission of driving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the boardroom and in leadership positions, and I am inspired to encourage all female professionals to propel to leadership positions in finance and related industries.


Heather Kelsall, Associate | Fresh Roots

Fresh Roots runs educational farms on school grounds and engages youth in growing, harvesting, and selling food.

 I serve because I believe some of the best learning happens outside the classroom, and I believe Fresh Roots plays an important role in growing good people.


Ming Pilz, Associate | Association of Neighbourhood Houses BC

ANHBC oversees eight neighbourhood houses and an outdoor centre, operating more than 300 programs and services to help strengthen communities in the Greater Vancouver area. Neighbourhood Houses bring together people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, of different abilities and ages.

 It has been rewarding to help offer an infrastructure for people to meet, get to know each other, and build communities together.


Cameron Wilson, Associate | Vancouver International Children’s Festival

The Vancouver International Children’s Festival is the longest-running professional performing arts festival for young audiences, presenting diverse music, theatre, dance, puppetry, acrobatics and storytelling for the entire family.

I serve because I believe in giving back. Specifically, as a way to respect and pay forward the efforts made by past volunteers and directors who made so many opportunities possible when I was younger. Especially for an event like the Children’s Festival where young audiences are encouraged to learn, laugh, and play.

We want to take pause and celebrate all the non-profit directors who dedicate their time and talent to organizations that serve our communities. Thank you for your service.



WATSON’s Jodi Butts presented at the McCarthy Tétrault Advance™: 12th Annual National Retail and Consumers Markets Summit

April 1, 2022

Posted in: WATSON Views

WATSON’s Jodi Butts presented at the McCarthy Tétrault Advance™: 12th Annual National Retail and Consumers Markets Summit, together with Awi Sinha, McCarthy Tétrault Co-Lead of Public Sector practice. During the session, they discussed environment, social and governance (“ESG”) as a governance and stakeholder imperative. This engaging discussion yielded many takeaways:

We are seeing a pivot in companies’ approach to ESG from a litigation-risk approach to an opportunity-seizing approach. In today’s economy, ESG is becoming an aspect of the product that consumers consider and value. The ‘marketizing’ of consumers opinions through social media and the flexibility of the digital marketplace play an important role in accelerating ESG awareness for businesses.

The ideal starting point is to align the company’s purpose with its ESG goals. Board members should be encouraged to bring ESG into their decision-making throughout every aspect of the board’s agenda. Especially in Canada, there are high expectations on directors, and directors’ fiduciary obligations require them to look beyond just shareholders and consider other stakeholders by evaluating material sustainability risks. These stakeholders such as investors, lenders and third-party organizations are increasingly focused on board sustainability competencies.

There is no one best practice in terms of how to structure your ESG approach. Some companies extend their audit committee’s mandate to include ESG or include the ESG mandate in their governance committee charter. Others choose to strike an E&S Committee or distribute ESG responsibilities across currently constituted board committees.

Whatever approach is taken, boards must seriously consider the committee’s competencies and skills to adequately perform their oversight duties. For example, the audit committee could be appropriate to oversee environmental emissions disclosures but not other aspects of ESG.

Consumer facing corporations see a symmetry between the goal of leaving the world a better place than how they found it, and the goal of surviving in the market. Some companies are waiting for regulations to take steps while others are proactively establishing initiatives. Even though not every company will lead the charge, capitalism is dependent on the execution of ESG goals. Consumers are looking for reasons to change brands, but they are also looking for reasons to remain loyal to any particular company. Focusing on ESG allows companies to enhance the loyalty and alliance between the company and the consumer.

Is your organization thinking about ESG but unsure where to start? Email us. WATSON is here to help.



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