7. How to become an expert in Diversity and Inclusion when starting at 35 years old? The example of Cathy Gallagher-Louisy, Director of the CIDI


Cathy Gallagher-Louisy©2014 C. Gallagher L.

One hour.

In this short period of time, I could learn a lot about Diversity and Inclusion in Canada. But I wasn’t expecting less from this interview with the Director of the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion (CIDI)…


Renown for her report report “What Gets Measured Gets Done: Measuring the Return on Investment of Diversity and Inclusion, this Diversity and Inclusion professional cumulates over twenty years of experience in human resources and project management roles within corporate, government, and non-profit organizations.

Cathy and I met in a cosy tea room located downtown, right at the corner of Yonge and College, five minutes away from the CIDI’s premises.

Easy going and spontaneous, Cathy tells me about her unusual personal story…

“Cathy, what pushed you to choose this field of Diversity and Inclusion?”

“I like to joke that I didn’t really know what to do before I turned thirty-five years old!” [I smile. This proofs me that one doesn’t necessarily have to be a specialist in his/her field right after graduation to achieve big goals in life].

In fact, the kinds of jobs I have done for the past 9 years did not exist when I was in university, so I couldn’t have even planned for this. I had a number of  different jobs that helped me learn what I didn’t like. The one thing that tied them all together was community building. I always got involved in coordinating community involvement or charitable or volunteer initiatives at each company. My private life surely influenced me as well. I have been in an interracial marriage for over 20: years my husband is black. Also, my mother used to teach anti-racism classes”.


“What was your first real experience in the field of Inclusion and Diversity?

“I was particularly lucky. In 2005, I got hired at Hewitt Associates (a company specialized in human resources, consulting services, benefits administrations & business process outsourcing). I immediately got involved in their community programs and they offered me the opportunity to lead the Canadian Community Relations Team as well as develop and manage the Canadian community relations strategy.


I also got heavily involved with their newly formed Diversity Council, and so was coordinating diversity and community initiatives across the country. We tapped into some support from the head office (in the U.S.), and expanded these programs in Canada. Eventually, it became clear that this was enough work for a full time job, so I worked with some leaders at Hewitt to write a business case to create a position dedicated to leading diversity and corporate social responsibility for Canada.


I started to develop a business case and did some benchmark research (search for the “best practices” in a particular business) for the company, and worked closely with the diversity and CSR departments at the U.S. headquarters. My work consisted in demonstrating how corporate responsibility, community involvementsustainability, and diversity constitute a competitive advantage and a benefit to the company. I also did certifications and trainings in Corporate Social Responsibility, Diversity, and Crosscultural Competence.


“How would you describe the situation of Diversity and Inclusion in Canada?

“As a society and in terms of employers, we have a long way to go.  As a society, we like to think we embrace multiculturalism but we avoid difficult topics like racism or discrimination.  Some organizations are just now starting to realize they need to pay attention to diversity and inclusion. Some understand the business case for it and have developed a strategy.  Yet, in many companies the strategy is rolled out inconsistently. And a lot of companies don’t connect that diversity is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility, [which is more recognized]. Some believe they are being efficient in Inclusion and Diversity when they actually aren’t”.



“companies will need to hire more of the currently underemployed people”




“Would you say that companies will need to invest more in this sense in the future?”

“We are actually approaching a talent shortage. In the next five to ten years, a lot of people will retire in mass. This shortage is expected to be between five hundred thousand and 2 million jobs – depending on population growth.

The dependency ratio – the difference between the number of children and people older than sixty-five years old in one end, and the working people in the other end – will come incredibly skewed such that we wont have enough working people to support all the dependents, unless we make some drastic changes to our labour force (see Rick Miner’s reports on the Canadian labour force for excellent analysis of the issue.)

This means that companies will need to hire more of the currently underemployed people: immigrants, aboriginals, people with disabilities, visible minorities, youth and women.

The Government is aware that companies have not been doing a very good job in making their leadership teams and boards more diverse. Therefore the Ontario Security Commission is now requiring ways to increase the board’s diversity.”


“Do you have some good references for those who want to learn more about Diversity and Inclusion?”

“Here is a list of good readings and tools:

  • Basic Concepts of Intercultural Communication, by Milton J. Bennett.

  • Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business, by F. Trompenaar

  • The website of Geert Hofstede: www.geert-hofstede.com

  • Recruiting, retaining and promoting culturally different employees, by Lionel Laroche and Don Rutherford

  • The difference: How the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools and societies, by Scott E. Page
  • The labour force analysis by Rick Miner, published in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Available free on the Miner and Miner website here.
  • A good tool to measure your intercultural competency is the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). Click here for more details


“In your opinion, what are the most important skills one must have to become Chief Diversity Officer?”

“You have to know how to deal with ambiguity, be good at change management and know how to build relationships. You also have to know how to be politically savvy and how to influence and navigate people who are resistant. When implementing a change, you sometimes have to accept that it takes time. Certain organizations will need to progress little step by little step. It can be frustrating when you know that the company should already be there, but this is how it works. Finally, you have to have business acumen. You can thus make the business case to business and organizational leaders, so that they will understand why this is important to them and their organizations.”


Thank you very much for your time and your advice Cathy, I wish you the best for the future.


> If you are interested in learning more about the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion (CIDI), click here. <



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *