What I learned from the 2016 CGMA Annual Conference on ‘Diversity and Inclusion as a Source of Competitive Advantage’

Written by Dami Okunade B.Comm (McGill), CPA, CA, CFA

CGMA Annual Conference 2016: ‘Diversity and Inclusion as a Source of Competitive Advantage’ 



Miyo Yamashita, Chief Talent Officer and Chief Transformation Officer at Deloitte Canada

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, Executive Director at Oracle USA, Chair of the board of the American Institute of CPAs


Pamela Jeffrey (moderator), Founder of Women’s Executive Network

Peter Sloly, Executive director at Deloitte and former Deputy Chief of Police for Toronto

Pavi Binning, President of George Weston Ltd

Michael Bach, CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion

Norma Tombari, Senior Director Global Diveristy at RBC

I had the privilege of attending the CGMA Annual Conference on Diversity and Inclusion, held at Hotel Sheraton Centre, Toronto in October. It was an enlightening conference and it gave me the confidence that it is indeed a good time to be a woman of colour in the accounting profession, as companies and the society at large continue to see the importance of having diverse groups of people in management in their workforce, to their clients and to the bottom line.

The primary concept emphasized was inclusion being more important than diversity.

Inclusion ensures that sought after diversity groups at all levels of the company can contribute in all levels of the management and direction of the organisation. Diversity on the other hand, only emphasizes the need to add diverse groups of people to the organisation without giving specific thoughts to the level of contributions these diverse groups can add to the direction and management of the organisation.

The keynote speaker, Miyo Yamashita, Chief Talent Officer at Deloitte Canada, discussed that it is not enough to have diversity. She urged organizations to not stop once their diversity quota is met, as doing that makes the concept of diversity feel medicinal.


In order to tap into the benefits of diversity, Inclusion has to be the cornerstone. Miyo emphasized on getting the diverse people in a group to participate and engage and perform with purpose. Inclusion is more emotional and people need to feel comfortable enough to make a contribution.

Miyo highlighted that research has shown some of the benefits of diversity to be a 15% increase in revenue for organizations that achieve gender diversity and 35% increase in revenues for organizations that achieve ethnic diversity.

Although some organizations are profiting from diversity and inclusion, research also indicates there is still $174 billion of untapped potential in Canada and 150 billion pounds of untapped potential in Great Britain.

During the conference, a few panelists were invited to answer questions from the audience – one question posed was that “Perhaps diverse people do not have the skills?” The panel responded that organizations must go out of their comfort zones to find skilled diverse individuals – the search for diversity cannot be done the same way a firm recruits its other staff and management teams.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, Chair of the board of the American Institute of CPAs, used her own story to make the point. According to her, growing up in the inner city of Baltimore in the United States and studying accounting at a community college, it would have been difficult to find the skills she possesses today with the current conventional processes in place for hiring.


Ms. Ellison-Taylor also has a degree in information systems, an M.B.A and an M.S. degree.

Pavi Binning, President of George Weston Ltd reiterated the point siting that they have one of the most diverse board of directors in Canada. How did they achieve that? Simply by not accepting that diverse people do not have the necessary skill-set. When potential candidates were presented, they were sent back and their recruiters were asked to work harder in providing what they were looking for. Mr. Binning went on to advise minority groups to not worry about trying to join ‘the old boys network’.

His advice was to focus on your own talents to break through, demonstrate that you can make a difference and to be yourself. It is therefore important to note that as organizations continue to see diversity and inclusion as a key ingredient in their success, we will continue to see increasing effort to engaging and working with more diverse teams.

References and Presentation Sources





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