I am tremendously proud and excited about our Diversity Strategy.
There are lots of statistics about the diversity of our community. In my role as mayor, I get invited to lots of community events on the weekends, where I have the chance to see our diversity first-hand. We have an incredible number of cultural organizations and faith groups. Just last week we raised the Pride flag here at City Hall. I attend many events and meetings with seniors and young people. And the list goes on.
From my perspective, diversity is not just about race or gender. It’s not just about celebrating different cultural holidays or trying different foods. Diversity encompasses the whole of human experience. It can include age, culture, education, skills, and life experience.
Our Diversity Strategy reflects that view. It’s meant to support all employees in understanding and appreciating the different perspectives in the workplace and the community. I want thank the Diversity Steering Committee, and all employees and community partners who had a hand in developing the Strategy.
As we prepared to launch this Strategy, the Guelph Mercury posed an interesting question: what about the diversity of Council? What can we do to help our Council be more reflective of the diversity of the community we represent? It’s a good question, and one that is not unique to Guelph.
I believe that one of the important ways City Hall can promote increased diversity on Council is to engage citizens – through such things as citizen advisory committees and Neighbourhood Association boards.
I sometimes get asked about being the first woman elected Mayor – what prompted me to run? There were lots of factors. For example, I had good role models, and I sat on lots of committees that helped me get my feet wet.
The City has lots or advisory committees, which provide experience that is relevant to serving on Council (and are a well-established route to stepping up to run for Council). Several of those committees specifically engage diverse populations – for example the Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Local Immigration Partnership. Our Neighbourhood Groups engage community members from a diverse range of backgrounds – and their work (e.g. participatory budgeting) also helps provide experience that can pave the way to a Council run. At the beginning of the last term, we reviewed and made changes to our recruitment processes for citizen advisory committees to make sure they do not put up barriers to participation.
The diversity of Council is not going to improve overnight. It took more than 170 years for us to have a female Mayor! But we will continue to promote it – by showing leadership through our corporate Diversity Strategy, and by promoting engagement from all members of our community.