As early as seventh grade, BCIT alumna Manpreet Dhillon knew that she wanted to end sexism, racism, and war. However, at the time, supportive language to describe her vision of what we now refer to as EDI—equity, diversity and inclusion—was not in common use.
Building her now-successful business, Veza Global (which supports organizations in embedding EDI into their operations) did not come easily. When Manpreet started Veza Global 15 years ago, the language and research supporting an environment with EDI was not mainstream, organizations did not see value in a culture shift, and ethnically diverse women did not see women who looked like them in leadership roles. As a person of colour living with an invisible disability (brain injury) and Lyme disease, Manpreet knew firsthand what a lack of representation felt like. She did not have people around her who shared her lived experiences and a deeper understanding of what she was going through.
But with significant changes and movements sweeping the world in recent years, there was a shift and the need for equity, diversity, and inclusion grew and became mainstream.
“People need to see that there is a door open for them that they can step through,” says Manpreet, noting that the current job market is where companies are especially challenged with keeping staff. “We need to have organizations that represent what possible pathways could be and that’s why this work is so important.”
Today, she is in demand worldwide. Companies seek out her expertise to apply EDI to their practices and create an environment where team members’ individual strengths are recognized and championed.
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Leveraging education and lived experiences for entrepreneurial success
Manpreet’s path to creating and managing a successful business that works to create a more inclusive culture in organizations was not straightforward. A grad from the BCIT Management Systems program (now called BCIT Business Management), which is not directly related to the field of EDI, Manpreet says her BCIT education set the foundation for her future entrepreneurialism by teaching her how to run a consulting business.
“What you do gets you to where you are,” she says. The case studies from her classes taught her how to look at businesses from a systems approach. She says it is something she uses when strategizing for her clients.
Additionally, Manpreet’s work in the arts showed her how to bring cultures together: “The more we talked about our cultures and what our backgrounds were, the more we were understood by our team members, and that led to better team dynamics.”
Manpreet recognized that the more understanding there was between team members, the stronger the sense of belonging was. Today, she applies this practice to her workplace.
Sharing why inclusive culture is important to successful leadership at the BCIT Alumni Association AGM
In her inspiring chat Transformational Leaders Driving Excellence, Manpreet tackled the difficult topic of creating systemic change to address institutionalized inequalities, and the need for representation from the communities being served: “Through this work I want to remember that individuals are individuals. We have strengths and we bring those strengths to the table.”
She explained how being a transformational leader results in better staff productivity and innovation. She also addressed the importance of diversity of thought, and bringing more voices to the table with different views and insight.
Her advice to organizations is to focus on the strengths of individuals and to create equitable practices of inclusion where there is a sense of belonging. Manpreet highlighted that research shows companies who fail to incorporate EDI in today’s job market—lose staff.
Manpreet and her team at Veza Global help organizations to create an action plan to embed equity, diversion and inclusion into the work environment, and teach companies to better serve the end user. Visit their site for resources to address systemic change.
The 2022 Online AGM had 473 registrants, the highest number in the last four years, and included BCIT Alumni Association President Emil Bosnjak and the Board of Directors.