Diversity and inclusion in the workplace: How to find an employer that values you

Newcomer human resources expert, Dienye Meshileya, shares what to look for in order to find employment where you are treated you with respect, dignity and your experience and perspective are valued.

A Newcomer's Journey,Career Success and Planning

August 9, 2023

Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes


In summary:


  • Find an employer that treats you with respect, dignity and values your education, experience, knowledge and perspective.
  • Research what initiatives and commitments they have made with respect to diversity, inclusion and equity.
  • Find candid employer reviews online or talk to current or former employees to better understand the workplace culture of the organization.

Dienye Meshileya says her immigration journey to Canada was the culmination of a “wild dream”.

An immigrant from Nigeria who arrived in 2016, the human resources (HR) executive now based in Burlington, Ontario remembers hearing about Canada’s harsh winters but was committed to seeing her dream become reality.

“I was eager to experience it all,” says Meshileya.

Meshileya understood that in order to make her big Canadian dreams come true, she would have to put in the time and the work to succeed away from the comforts of friends, family and home. What she quickly learned was that Canadian workplaces can, at once, be welcoming and challenging places for immigrant and refugee employees.

“The excitement of calling a new country ‘home’ can quickly meet up with the anxiety of finding one’s place in this ‘new home’,” says Meshileya. “It can be exhausting but still full of exciting possibilities.”

In her conversations with newcomers, she found stories of individuals who experienced workplaces that sometimes didn’t necessarily value diversity or inclusion. Managers who didn’t appreciate cultural differences. Workplace cultures that took no steps to embrace different perspectives. This wasn’t the case in all workplaces but many fellow immigrants shared their stories with Meshileya. While recent surveys show approximately two-thirds of Canadian companies are prioritizing diversity and inclusion initiatives or policies. As well, more than 70 per cent of workers say it’s important to them that their organization keep equity, diversity and inclusion top of mind. It’s clear there remains work to be done to create more inclusive workplaces where all employees feel welcomed and valued.

Three Windmill Microlending newcomer clients, Clodia, Anoop and Alexandra, share their stories of inclusion in the Canadian workplace and what the future of inclusion at work should look like. Read about their experiences in our recent blog post.

Meshileya believes work environment plays a key role in how quickly an immigrant or refugee feels integrated and finds their place in their new country. She shares the following warning signs to look out for as well as indicators that an organizational values diversity and inclusion.

Dienye Meshileya Headshot

Dienye Meshileya is an HR executive and immigrant from Nigeria to Canada.
She says newcomers need to do their due diligence to find an employer that values them for who they are.


Warning sign: The interview

Take the time to learn more about the company you are interviewing with. What are their values? Pay attention to how your interview is conducted. Are you treated respectfully throughout the recruitment process? If you visit the office, in person, what is the feeling you get meeting the people there? Do you see aspects of yourself in the other employees of the organization? Remember, while the potential employer is interviewing you for the job, you are also interviewing them for your time and service. You should feel excited about the job and the prospect of the work environment you’ll be joining.

Sign of inclusive workplace: Intentional inclusivity

Diversity and inclusion need to be supported by action. It isn’t just about ticking off a box on a to do list, it’s about who is participating in organizational decision-making. The commitment to creating an inclusive work culture has to be intentional. Leaders have to actively listen and understand what biases may exist within their organizations and dedicate time and resources to building the organizations competencies in anti-racism, anti-discrimination and inclusive practices. Are you seeing this commitment and intentionality in the organization you work for or want to work for? If you’re not seeing it in your workplace, decide if you want to be the internal champion for change or find an employer that does value these concepts.

Warning sign: Disrespectful behaviours

This can come in many different forms. Maybe it’s the condescending tone of a manager or colleague, disregarding or devaluing your foreign education or experiences. It could be reflected in a lack of opportunities to share your perspective or voice. These are diminishing behaviours that trigger self-doubt and loss of confidence. Many Canadian organizations are keen on fostering a psychologically safe environment for their employees. There are many benefits to the employer in building a supportive and inclusive workplace environment and that starts by addressing disrespect in the workplace. If you’re in a workplace setting where these issues go unaddressed, consider reaching out to your manager or human resources team for support. If no action or follow-up ensues, you may want to reflect on whether the employer is still a fit for you.

Sign of inclusive workplace: Sense of community

Some of my closest friends are people I met at work. Trust and camaraderie formed in the workplace can be valuable personally and professionally. After all, much of our lives is spent at work. Companies that create an enabling environment for teams to build rapport with each other are the ones that succeed. Does your workplace offer informal team-building activities or mentorship programs? Does it foster bonds that make it easy to build allies? Inclusive employers offer diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace that empower employees, strengthen their practice of empathy and build a sense of belonging and community.

Warning sign: Reviews matter!

Reputable companies are interested in how engaged their employees feel and if they are proud to work for them. Is there a genuine effort to address concerns raised by employees in the organization you work for? Online review sites like Glassdoor allow you to read company reviews from current and former employees. You can also peruse the list of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers. See what you can find about companies you are applying to and know what you are getting yourself into. You owe yourself that.

Sign of inclusive workplace: Are you able to lead the change?

Everyone has a role to play in creating more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. Be the change you seek in your organization. Be empathetic, be collaborative, be your unique self, share your perspective and let your creativity show. Remember, you bring value to your organization through more than just your skills and knowledge. Be mindful of organizations that value all that you bring to the workplace. If your organization doesn’t enable you to bring your whole self to work or play a role in making it a more welcoming place, ask yourself if it is truly where you belong.

 Are you looking to make a change in your Canadian career? Windmill Microlending’s Career Change Navigator can help you decide whether a career switch is the right decision for you with helpful articles, a step-by-step checklist and videos to walk you through your transition to your next career opportunity. Download the Career Change Navigator today.


About our blog contributor

Dienye Meshileya is a certified HR leader with nearly two decades of experience in organizational development and human resources leadership, across multiple industries. She currently works as part of the HR team at Metso Outotec Canada. Since immigrating to Canada from Nigeria, Meshileya has been honoured with multiple awards of commendation for continuous support and empowerment of children, youth, women and families. She is also an active volunteer with Windmill Microlending partner, Council for Nigerian Professionals (CNP).

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