Looking for Your McMurray Magazine? We've created something even bigger and here to check it out!

Looking for our original content? Welcome back to our original site!

Your McMurray Career Advice

(0 votes)

Diversity in the Workplace

We hear the term ‘diversity’ a lot, especially in a multicultural community such as Wood Buffalo. Most people think that this term refers to ethnicity, race and gender but diversity is actually much broader than that.

So what does this term mean when it comes to employment or the workplace? Diversity in the workplace refers to all the differences between people in an organization including race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, background, cultures, socio-economic status and more. A diverse workplace is reflective of the community itself, so it is important for organizations to embrace diversity and to realize all the benefits that it brings. Diversity is considered to be inclusive of everyone and an organization with a diverse workforce will gain valuable cultural knowledge that will help them better understand the needs of the community they serve, which will in turn lead to improved service.

Diversity makes good business sense and helps build productive teams because individuals from diverse backgrounds bring unique experiences, talents and different ideas/viewpoints to the table. This variety of skills and experiences allows for increased innovation by enabling teams to view problems and challenges through many different lenses. An employer can take advantage of these diverse perspectives by encouraging learning and sharing of knowledge and ideas.

Diversity is about empowering people and creating an environment and practices that promote dignity, understanding and respect for all. In order to fully embrace diversity and promote inclusion in the workplace, employers should also aim to increase awareness and understanding by educating their workforce on matters of diversity and cultural differences. This awareness can have a very positive effect on employee relations by empowering them and making it possible for those of different cultures to work together effectively and for individuals to thrive.

Educate your teams and clear up misconceptions by bringing in speakers to talk about cultural differences and diversity. Diversity workshops are a great way to learn and also strengthen the team through greater understanding of each other. There are various tools and resources available within the community to help you get started, there are many religious organizations and cultural community groups that can be approached and accessed as well as programs offered by The Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo (MCA) and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s efforts through the Diversity Summit/Diversity Plan. The RMWB’s Regional Advisory Council for Inclusion, Diversity and Equality (RACIDE), Markaz Ul Islam and The Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo have also come together to form a new initiative called Collaboration for Religious Inclusion (CIR). This initiative aims to promote inclusion and diversity by clearing up misconceptions and raising awareness through various methods including employer workshops.

Start the conversation and ask questions- Curiosity is the key to learning and we all have questions when we notice differences in the workplace, we wonder…why a co-worker may have restrictions on what they can or cannot eat, why they may dress a particular way, why some don’t participate in certain holidays or other celebrations? Understanding and valuing the differences in every person is the key to embracing diversity. It is better to be curious than to be indifferent, so ask the questions and get the answers you need to help you understand. Fort McMurray is a unique community, made up of people from all over Canada and all over the world. With a community so rich in multiculturalism and diversity there is so much more opportunity to learn from the experiences and knowledge of others. Take pride in your own background and the ‘differences’ you bring to your workplace, welcome and learn from the differences that others bring, these differences are what set us apart and drive our success and contributions to both our community and our workplace.


Samra Ilyas works for Alberta Works/Human Services in Fort McMurray, providing employment and financial supports and services. With expertise in career development and years of experience, she shares some advice and ideas through the YMM Career Advice column.

Samra is also a community leader and dedicated volunteer; participating in various boards/committees such as the RMWB Landlord and Tenants Advisory Board, Collaboration for Religious Inclusion, Northern Lights Sisters Association and a local school council. She is a strong advocate of Fort McMurray and actively encourages and promotes volunteerism as a way to give back to the community.

Got a question or have an idea for a topic? DM and follow Samra on Twitter @ilyasSamra.