Breaking Barriers at Bell Canada

Carla Boose sees things differently. When an eye disease threatened to upend her life and career, she decided that it would never limit her. Now, as a diversity and inclusion manager, she's eliminating hurdles for the underserved.

“I have a degenerative eye condition, retinitis pigmentosa, which gets progressively worse over time. I’m partially sighted—you see 180 degrees; I see only 8 degrees. I was first diagnosed at 12, and I managed to hide it fairly well until my mid-twenties, when my vision worsened to the point where I had trouble with mobility and independence.

I had to accept where I was, which meant being proactive and managing my condition. My new lived reality was being out in the world as a visually impaired person with a white cane.

In 2008, my vision deteriorated again. I thought I needed something besides a cane and that a guide dog would be a natural fit. By getting him, the world opened up for me.

What I’ve learned is that there are two kinds of barriers: those that the world puts in front of us and those that we put in front of ourselves. That’s where I was before I accepted ownership of my disability. I was putting self-perceived barriers in front of me, and they seemed insurmountable. In reality, I just needed to have the right support and tools in place—like a guide dog and a supportive employer—to give me that independence.

There are many great resources in my community, and I was fortunate to be connected with a great one in Toronto—the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work’s Workplace Essential Skills Partnership program. Through this preemployment training program, specifically for job seekers with disabilities, I found the power of knowing how to market myself in the recruitment process. It put me in a place of confidence and strength.

It was through this connection that opened the door to a position at Scotiabank where I began my career. I worked on the bank’s diversity and inclusion team, helping to execute on global diversity and inclusion strategy. After five years, I moved to my current role in Bells diversity and inclusion team.

My role as manager of diversity and inclusion at Bell involves implementing Bell’s diversity and inclusion strategy. Diversity and inclusion includes a number of areas: women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples. It’s overseen by an active diversity-leadership council, which is a group of committed executives at Bell leading the strategy.

Disability is a topic that people don’t often know how to approach and many attitudinal barriers do exist. We can look at disability in the workplace, as we do for diversity in general, from two perspectives: from a compliance perspective and it being the ‘right thing to do’ or from a business-case perspective because it simply makes good business sense.   

“Through inclusion in the workplace, we are harnessing our workforce’s creativity, which leads to innovative thinking and better business results.”

Our senior leaders at Bell are championing diversity and inclusion across the organization. We know diversity promotes creativity and innovation. Through inclusion in the workplace, we are harnessing our workforce’s creativity, which leads to innovative thinking and better business results. That’s another part of the business case for diversity.

At Bell, we have been recognized as one of Canada’s top employers and we want to be able to leverage our existing talent and make sure we have inclusive talent-management processes that are free of bias.

I have a unique perspective in that I’m coming to the workplace as a person with a disability, but I’m also working in a field that really focuses on how to make our workplaces more inclusive. Together, we work on programs and initiatives that not only make Bell’s workforce more diverse, but also create a more inclusive workplace where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. In my own career, I’ve had the fortune of working in teams and having managers who are incredibly supportive and have championed my development and growth.

A common challenge amongst employers is that one direct-sourcing channel doesn’t yet exist to tap into the diverse talent pool of people with disabilities. We need to build into our diversity recruitment strategies the sources that do currently exist, like the many community support agencies and on-campus disability centres to find talent.

My personal drive—being who I am and doing the work I do—is to give back to the community and create opportunities for those with disabilities whether it’s raising awareness or promoting services that can boost representation. In other words, not just make workplaces more inclusive but also make the recruitment process more accessible and barrier-free.”

The Bell manager shares three best practices for diversity and inclusion

Ensure Leadership Commitment
Promoting a more inclusive workplace begins at the top, and our leaders are committed to ensuring our workforce mirrors our marketplace diversity and is supported by an inclusive culture where everyone has the ability to reach their full potential. As employers, we need to be committed to having fair, inclusive, and accessible workplaces where everyone feels valued, respected, and supported. Bell’s leadership team believes that diversity and inclusion leads to more innovation and creativity, enabling the company to compete in a global marketplace and provide best-in-class service to our customers. The diversity leadership council champions diversity and inclusion across our company. Council members across Bell’s senior leadership team create plans for embedding diversity and inclusion into their business units and reporting progress. Their ultimate aim is to improve representation, retention and performance across our company.

Implement an Enterprise-Wide Strategy
Having an enterprise-wide strategy to drive diversity and inclusion across an organization is the cornerstone to building a culture of inclusion. Led by our senior leaders and embedded across the organization, our commitment to diversity and inclusion is visible internally and externally, so we can be recognized as an employer of choice and Canada’s leading communications company.

Extend Employee Networks
Employee networks allow employees to celebrate their diversity, promote awareness and inclusion, and be engaged at a grassroots level. These groups also provide opportunities for employees to be part of a community and build their professional networks and learn new skills while promoting a more inclusive workplace culture. Our two networks—the LGBT Network and Women at Bell—are key drivers of Bell’s diversity and inclusion strategy. They help to engage employees, celebrate the diversity that exists within Bell’s workforce, and build our reputation as one of Canada’s top employers. Employee networks can also contribute directly to marketplace growth through product development, marketing consultation and interaction with clients and customers from diverse backgrounds.