Career CentreEquity, Diversity, Inclusion

#RUCareerChat: Origins and LGBTQ People in the Workplace

It was on a Thursday afternoon, around 2PM, while I was chatting with my office roommate, Paulina Nozka, about her success with #ChangChats—a monthly chat series hosted by Paulina and Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education—that a bulb went off (not in the office, but in my head). “It’s time for the Ryerson Career Centre to host a Twitter chat,” I said, one foot propped on a chair, arms in superhero pose, trumpets sounding in the background. A collaborative current streamed  between us as we continued to discuss the idea. What would be the purpose of these Ryerson Career Centre (RCC) Twitter chats? The #ChangChats and the Ted Rogers School of Management’s (TRSM) #BizHubChat already delivered meaningful career building insights to students on a monthly basis through the Twitterverse. How would ours be different?

The answer dawned over us like a second sun rising in the sky.

Our colleague, Jean-Pierre Fernandes, has led two remarkable initiatives through the RCC entitled Voices of Experience and Investing in Inclusion. Both are a panel series built upon Ryerson University’s commitment to Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion and facilitate essential discussions around barriers to obtaining and succeeding within employment. Bingo! #RUCareerChat would take these discussions and expand the conversation to a larger audience of students and industry.

From there, Jean-Pierre, Paulina, and I along with McKenzie Gregory, our fearless Digital Community and Research Lead, launched our first #RUCareerChat off the heels of Investing in Inclusion: LGBTQ People in the Workplace.

Why host a Twitter Chat Built on the Principles of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion?

In the year that I’ve worked as a Career Consultant at the RCC, I’ve encountered a number of students who have shared their frustrations, fears, and anxieties around obtaining employment in Toronto. These frustrations have ranged from being asked illegal questions at an interview (e.g. Are you a Canadian citizen? Why did you leave Syria? Are you planning to have a family in the next few years?) to not having enough “Canadian experience” or wanting to change programs because their identity is scantily represented within the industry. The reality of living in the most diverse city in the world in the year 2016 is that all of these identities aren’t accessing equitable means to employment or upward mobility within organizations. This is why these discussions need to happen, so that students don’t feel isolated and can gain insights into overcoming barriers. Additionally, at the RCC we teach students to leverage social media to increase their opportunities by networking and engaging with industry. By hosting a Twitter chat we want to provide students with an online opportunity to network with industry and add to their personal brand.

Prior to Launching

Prior to our first chat, the team assembled and developed a Scope and Sequence for eight Twitter chats where we pinned down key goals, learning objectives, and themes. We used this as a baseboard to create specific learning objectives for each chat, generate questions, and identify ideal candidates to invite to participate in each discussion.

Bailey Parnell and Tesni Ellis from SA Creative, backed by their sound social media expertise, provided us with the hashtag #RUCareerChat, stating it shouldn’t be too long or already in use. Paulina’s previous experience with #ChangChat equipped us with logistical insights such as ensuring we had graphics to promote the chat on social media as well as a graphic to welcome our guests and one for each question posted during the chat. Donica Willis in SA Creative created these:

Launch

Our first #RUCareerChat, LGBTQ People in the Workplace, focused on industry as the primary audience.  Organizations and individuals with experience or expertise in creating inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ people were invited to share their best practices in order for other interested businesses to learn from these insights. For students, it was an opportunity for them to identify organizations that build inclusive cultures as well as to consider what inclusive work spaces could look like as they navigate their careers.


Q1: What words come to mind when you think of "inclusion"?

Our first question asked participants to share the words that came to mind when they thought of inclusion. This question was meant to solidify a base understanding of the term “inclusion” as it was the common thread that held the fabric of the conversation together. Here were some of the responses:


What does inclusion look like for the LGBTQ community in the workplace?

We asked Question 2—What does inclusion look like for the LGBTQ community?—to focus the discussion about workplace inclusion on the LGBTQ community and illicit any distinct examples. Aside from Douglas Judson’s specific reference to @PrideAtWorkCan and @OutOnBaySt, the responses focused on bringing one’s authentic self to work:


Q3: What are the challenges LGBTQ people still encounter when navigating the workforce?

In order for organizations to identify how to be more inclusive, they need to understand the existing barriers to or within employment for the LGBTQ community. This is why we posed question 3: What are the challenges LGBTQ people still encounter when navigating the workforce? Our participants listed a host of examples:


Q4: What are the benefits of creating strategies of support for this community in your workspace?

In order to provide organizations who haven’t yet implemented inclusive strategies to consider the positive implications of developing an inclusive framework, we asked question 4. What are the benefits of creating strategies of support for this community in your workspace?


Q5: What are some of the challenges of implementing these support strategies?

The reality of implementing inclusive strategies is that it requires ongoing action at multiple levels as well as an assessment strategy to measure outcomes. It requires intentionality and commitment. This is why we asked question 5: What are some of the challenges of implementing these support strategies?


Q6: How can business be more intentional about recruiting and retaining LGBTQ people?

While kissing a penny and dropping it into a well might work for some people in making their wishes come true, in the work of inclusion, actions must be deliberate. We elicited examples of how, by posing Question 6: How can business be more intentional about recruiting and retaining LGBTQ people?


Q7: What are transferable short term and long term strategies that all businesses can employ?

Next, we wanted to consider the immediate action items that workplaces can begin to employ versus the long term outcomes. Question 7: What are transferable short term and long term strategies that all businesses can employ?


Q8: How have your strategies impacted retention?

In order to get some examples of outcomes, we posed Question 8: How have your strategies impacted retention?


Q9: Do you have any final thoughts about how to create an inclusive space for the LGBTQ community in your organization?

Finally, we wanted to give participants an opportunity to address anything we didn’t cover that could add to the discussion. Question 9: Do you have any final thoughts about how to create an inclusive space for the LGBTQ community in your organization?

That’s a wrap! Our first #RUCareerChat certainly was a great deal of fun because it elicited positive discussion, collaboration, and connection, but we certainly have room for improvement. For example, in our future chats we will include the text question above each text graphic so that the questions are more accessible. Do you have any suggestion as to how we can make our chat accessible to all? We are continuously learning, and we would love to hear your experience hosting similar discussions on forums such as Twitter.

I encourage you to take a look at the full conversation at #RUCareerChat, and it’s not too late to like, Retweet, respond to or add to the conversation. Additionally, we want to continue to leverage social media to support our students at Ryerson University with insights into overcoming barriers to and within employment. I urge you to contribute to the discussion. What questions or responses did we miss? How can we make a stronger impact on industry and for students?

Stay tuned for our next #RUCareerChat on September 15th, 2016, co-hosted by RU Student Life, where we will invite participants to discuss challenges to and strategies for obtaining employment and succeeding in creative fields.

  • Jason John

    Congrats Fenella on this article as it brings to light the challenges that many students at Ryerson and communities at large face. I cannot agree enough with the pulsating statement that you identified within this article, “The reality of living in the most diverse city in the world in the year 2016 is that all of these identities aren’t accessing equitable means to employment or upward mobility within organizations.” Bringing to light conversations around this subject whether through Twitter chats and other means is the only way we will become a truly international and diverse city.

  • Rebecca Dirnfeld

    Fenella, very much enjoyed reading your piece on EDI in the workplace for LGBTQ people in the workplace. The examples you walk us through of your successful twitter chat were eye opening and I look forward to more engaging conversations like these from Ryerson Career Centre.

  • tommycogar609

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  • DORTHEA CLAUSSEN

    Good article, Thanks!