June 19, 2023

Forging Inclusive Work Cultures: Interview with Valérie McDuff and Kim David

This article is part of a “Forging Inclusive Work Cultures” series by Latitude Management for International Women’s Day. This series addresses different ways in which employers can #EmbraceEquity in their workplaces.

Latitude Management helps organizations create healthy workplaces and resolve conflicts through a number of strategies including workplace assessments, mediations/conciliations, investigations, consultations, trainings, and coaching.

Our students Maya Luks and Hannah Reaburn interviewed Valérie McDuff and Kim David on how some of these tools have evolved over time and their reflections on where workplaces are heading as our awareness and understanding of gendered issues grow.

Maya: What are one or two major changes that you’ve noticed in legal culture since the #MeToo movement began 5 years ago?

Kim: The #MeToo Movement has brought about social awareness and a committed discourse for better treatment of people who are victims of sexual violence. Notably, it has opened up a conversation about concepts like « rape culture » or disempowering the victim in their victimization. More specifically, at the judicial level, we have seen the addition of training for judges, the formation of the Comité d’experts sur l’accompagnement des personnes victimes d’agressions sexuelles et de violence conjugale (Committee of experts on the accompaniment of victims of sexual assault and spousal violence) in Quebec, the creation of specialized tribunals for sexual and spousal violence, and the emergence of new resources to assist and support victims of sexual violence.

In the workplace, the #Metoo Movement has certainly precipitated the creation of a legal obligation for employers to have a harassment prevention policy and the inclusion of sexual harassment in the definition of psychological harassment. In short, the #Metoo Movement has accelerated collective awareness, generated a call to action, and the implementation of concrete actions.

Hannah: Trauma-informed practices seem to have really been evolving and have been getting more attention over the last few years. Can you tell us the benefit of trauma-informed practices in investigations generally and how they impact women in particular?

Kim : Trauma-informed practices are particularly important in the context of workplace investigations. In particular, they make it possible to create a bond of trust with the complainant and to give him or her the necessary space to speak freely and without pressure about his or her situation. They also help to destigmatize the complainant and to understand the impact of the trauma on his or her testimony, by giving him or her back some power (empowerment). For example, these practices teach us not to infer negative conclusions when a complainant does not tell a chronological story or forgets details. There is a real need to avoid re-traumatizing complainants and to use language that is sensitive to their trauma.

With respect to women in particular, there is no longer any doubt that they are more likely to be victims of sexual harassment or violence, and these practices are essential to rebuilding trust with them.

Maya: As we mentioned in the introduction to this interview, Latitude offers a variety of services to organizations. What are the benefits of the diversity of services that you offer? Can you talk a bit about why it’s important for people to have options in workplace conflict resolution?

Valérie: It is important to provide multiple options for managing conflict. There is no single solution to a workplace problem. Different conflict resolution options address different needs. Even for complainants, having multiple conflict resolution options can empower them. For example, in the case of cross-complaints from multiple complainants and respondents, an investigation is an interesting avenue to get to the bottom of the issue. However, in the case of a personality conflict between two employees, meditation can be a very interesting option to resolve the impasse. Thus, the model offered by Latitude is focused on the needs of the organization and offers customized solutions to create or re-establish a healthy environment in a sustainable way.

Hannah: What would be your biggest take-away for employers wanting to #EmbraceEquity on International Women’s Day and beyond?

Valérie: They have everything to gain. Particularly in today’s labour shortage, providing an inclusive work environment only enhances the attractiveness of the company.

Some of the specific actions that employers can take include:

  • Conducting regular diversity and equity training to raise awareness and promote understanding of the importance of equity and inclusivity in the workplace.
  • Developing and implementing policies that promote gender equity, such as equal pay for equal work, flexible work arrangements, and transparent promotion and hiring processes.
  • Actively seeking out and recruiting a diverse range of candidates for job openings, and ensuring that the interview and hiring process is fair and objective.
  • Providing mentorship and professional development opportunities to women and other underrepresented groupsto help them advance their careers.
  • Creating a safe and respectful workplace environment where all employees feel valued and supported, and where discrimination and harassment are not tolerated.

By taking these actions and committing to ongoing efforts to promote equity and inclusivity in the workplace, employers can help to create a more diverse and successful workforce, where all employees have an equal opportunity to succeed and thrive.
Companies with more gender diversity are indeed more likely to outperform their peers. In fact, a study by McKinsey& Company found that companies with diverse leadership teams were 15% more likely to generate financial returns above their national industry median. This suggests that promoting diversity and gender equality can help businesses to be more innovative, adaptable, and successful in today’s fast-changing and competitive global economy.

Therefore, it’s essential for employers to recognize that embracing equity and diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it can also be a strategic advantage for their business.

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  1. McKinsey & Company, “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters”, 19 mai 2020,https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters