Boards are our business

News and Views

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.