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Have you ever entered a new environment and felt that you stood out, or didn’t fit in?

Women, Indigenous people, LGBTQ2+ people, newcomers, visible minorities and persons with disabilities may join a team at your organization where they are the “only one”.

This can lead to feelings of isolation, pressure to “fit in”, and sometimes daily experiences of microaggressions—the subtle, and often unconscious snubs or slights that can demean and devalue an individual.


Professional woman working by herself.

A study of women in Canadian workplaces36 found that, compared to women working in a more gender-balanced environment, “women onlys” feel less included. They are far more likely to have their abilities challenged, to be subjected to unprofessional and demeaning remarks, and to feel they cannot talk about their personal lives at work.  At the VP level, women report being five times more likely than men to have to prove their competence, three times more likely to be addressed in a less-than-professional manner, and three times more likely to hear demeaning remarks.

Creating an empowering work environment, where employees at all levels have the skills to demonstrate and reinforce inclusive behaviours on an everyday basis is critical to countering exclusion.

Are all stakeholders in your organization skilled in the inclusive behaviours required to maintain a positive work environment?

Supporting resources

Tackling behaviours that exclude is critical to fostering inclusion

Set the Tone: Take an active part in and champion organizational diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, use available flexible work options, and be open about your own differences.

Call Out/Disrupt Bias: Challenge biased communications or behaviours when they arise, to make them visible to others and demonstrate that there are consequences for disrespect.

Dialogue Across Differences: Acknowledge differences and how they influence our experiences; regularly talk about DEI–including the sometimes-difficult conversations–while acknowledging others’ lived experience.

Actively Listen and Stimulate New Ideas: Invite diverse perspectives to the table and make it safe for team members to speak up and challenge each other.

The impacts of feeling different at work

A Catalyst study of over 700 Canadian visible minority women and men identified a link between feeling different from peers at work because of gender, race, and/or ethnicity, being on guard to experiences of bias, and detrimental effects on health, well-being, and ability to thrive at work.

It found that Black, East Asian, and South Asian professionals who are highly “on guard” for bias have a dangerously high intent to quit, ranging from 50% to 69%. But researchers also found a way that Canadian employers can start to counter this alarming number: creating empowering work environments for their employees.37

Angry and frustrated black woman in business meeting