CMA releases thought-provoking guide for leaders to address DEI in the workplace

Oct 19, 2023

Conversation starters address racism, ageism, employing newcomers, and more

TORONTO, October 19, 2023 – Today, the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) released DEI in the Workplace: A Discussion Guide for Leadership Teams, to help organizations articulate a commitment and define their scope of activities to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment.  

“Creating real organizational change starts at the top,” said Alison Simpson, president and CEO, CMA. “Our DEI Discussion Guide will help leaders create a meaningful, individualized blueprint toward more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. This will not only strengthen internal culture but deliver better business results. Diverse organizations benefit from increased innovation, productivity and business growth, along with an improved ability to attract high-quality employees, and stronger relationships with customers and external partners.”

Conversation starters to articulate a shared commitment

The discussion guide identifies conversation starters to prompt leadership teams to explore and articulate their shared commitment to a more inclusive and equitable work environment. The conversation starters address a variety of topics, such as ageism, employing newcomers, and employees’ sentiment and expectations. For example, it asks:

  • Are you exploring new channels to reach a broader talent base, including newcomers?
  • Have you considered the impact that a DEI focus might have on your attraction and retention strategy?
  • Do you see an opportunity to promote the experience of older workers in balance with the innovation and skills of younger marketers?

Many of the conversation starters can be adapted to facilitate dialogue among staff. A crucial step in this process is to create a safe place for employees to have open and meaningful conversations.

A catalyst for change

The catalyst for developing the DEI Discussion Guide is the result of annual research, launched by the CMA following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, to honour our pledge to combat racism, discrimination, unconscious bias, and systemic barriers in the marketing profession.

“We launched the research to uncover actionable insights about the challenges that employees from BIPOC and other equity deserving communities face in the workplace, and to identify tangible steps to improve outcomes for individuals, and for the organizations where they work,” said Simpson. “The research has evolved over time to reflect our learning, and has expanded to other areas of discrimination, such as ageism.”

Key findings from the most recent study include:

  • In workplaces whose leadership is not diverse, employee disengagement rates are significantly higher than in previous years (60% in 2023 compared to 52% in 2022). When these employees feel disengaged, most (65%) will start looking for a new job.
  • While fewer respondents report witnessing discriminatory behaviour than they did last year (78% in 2023 compared to 85% in 2022), more than two-thirds (68%) of marketers in non-diversified workplaces say they’ve experienced micro-aggressions.  
  • The top three steps for implementing an effective DEI strategy are:
  • Senior leadership support in backing the initiative (77%),
  • Hiring talent from diverse communities (72%), and
  • Formal diversity and inclusivity/unconscious bias training and management programs for all employees including senior management (64%).

Preparations for the fourth year of this research are underway and expected to be in the field during the first quarter of 2024.

The CMA also provides a DEI Resource Hub, which provides insights and practical tips to guide marketers in developing effective campaigns and building an inclusive culture within your teams.

About the Canadian Marketing Association

The CMA is the voice of marketing in Canada and our purpose is to champion marketing’s powerful impact. We are the catalyst to help Canada’s marketers thrive today, while building the marketing mindset and environment of tomorrow.

We provide opportunities for our members from coast to coast to develop professionally, to contribute to marketing thought leadership, to build strong networks, and to strengthen the regulatory climate for business success. Our Chartered Marketer (CM) designation signifies that recipients are highly qualified and up to date with best practices, as reflected in the Canadian Marketing Code of Ethics and Standards. We represent virtually all of Canada's major business sectors, and all marketing disciplines, channels and technologies. Our Consumer Centre helps Canadians better understand their rights and obligations. For more information, visit

Nathaniel Glassman
Kaiser & Partners




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