Closing its own gender pay gap was just the start for Unbounce. The Vancouver-based tech company is also challenging other businesses to pay women as much as men—and helping them make that a reality.
It all began three years ago, when Unbounce—a landing page platform that marketers use to convert leads online—analyzed compensation across the business. “We unfortunately did find a couple of instances of a pay gap where some women were not being paid the same as men,” says Leslie Collin, vice-president of people and culture.
Unbounce was far from alone. On average in this country, women still earn 92 cents for every dollar a man makes, Statistics Canada reports. For female members of racialized groups, those with disabilities and others who face discrimination, the disparity is much bigger. The pandemic has made things even worse, given that women are more likely to work in service industries and to be primary caregivers.
After fixing its wage inequity, Unbounce realized that many companies, especially small and medium-sized ones, might lack the resources to follow suit. Collin came up with a plan to change that. “We wanted to make it easier for them to say yes,” she explains, “by providing an opportunity to get together with like-minded companies and commit to doing the work around investigating their pay gap, as well as an almost textbook-like, step-by-step guide.”
The result was Pay Up for Progress, a three-month awareness and action campaign that Unbounce launched last fall. For a business to participate, its CEO or head of HR had to pledge to make pay parity a priority; the company also had to commit to doing a compensation analysis and using it to create a timeline and goals. To that end, Unbounce developed a toolkit, hosted two workshops with advocates and experts, and launched a Slack community for pledges. Unlike similar programs, Pay Up for Progress “wasn’t just companies putting their name on this big list,” says diversity, equity and inclusion manager Laura Zubick, who spearheaded the campaign.
Unbounce also enlisted several partners, including Ottawa’s Shopify and the local Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, to spread the word and share expertise. As of February, 57 companies in Canada and the U.S., representing 6,700 employees, had taken the pledge. “At the heel end of a year where diversity, equity and inclusion conversations came to the forefront, companies really opened up to the role they need to play,” Zubick says.
For Unbounce, 55 percent of whose 229 staff are women and marginalized genders, there’s still plenty more to do. Gender is just one factor in pay disparity, Zubick notes. “The next piece of the conversation is making sure companies are able to look at this from a lens of race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, caregiver status.”
As its name emphasizes, the campaign about about progress, not perfection, Collin says. “We have every intention of continuing our progress as an organization, sharing our learnings, our successes and our failures, and encouraging others to join us on that journey as we go.”
Through Health for Good, a fleet of 11 vans that serve as mobile clinics, Telus helps health authorities across the country deliver care to the urban homeless and to others in need
For Telus, what it calls social capitalism isn’t a contradiction or a platitude. The telecommunications titan has shown that even for big corporations, profit and purpose can go together. “We want to make sure that every part of our business, everything that we do, always relates back to driving social change or doing good for the community, leveraging our assets to build products and services that benefit society,” says chief social innovation and communications officer Jill Schnarr.
Telus recently launched the Pollinator Fund for Good, a social impact vehicle that will allocate $100 million over 10 years to early-stage companies focused on four areas: transforming health care, promoting social and economic inclusion, supporting responsible agriculture and caring for the planet. Given the impact of COVID, Vancouver-headquartered Telus has a responsibility to help new businesses thrive, Schnarr says. “We’re going to invest in startup companies that are trying to answer some of the biggest challenges facing our society.”
With its Connecting for Good programs, Telus supports vulnerable Canadians by giving them access to technology. For example, Mobility for Good provides free smartphones and data plans to youth leaving foster care, as well as to low-income seniors. Through Health for Good, a fleet of 11 vans that serve as mobile clinics, the company helps health authorities across the country deliver care to the urban homeless and to others in need.
Such efforts have won Telus global recognition. Last year, it was the only telecom named to the Wall Street Journal ’s Top 100 Sustainably Managed Companies list, ranking 29th overall and 15th in social capital. It also made the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the fifth year in a row and the index’s North American edition for the 20th straight year.
“I love that we can be an example to help other companies learn,” says Schnarr, who adds that it took time for Telus to make philanthropy integral to its business. Organizations won’t survive unless they look beyond profit and take care of all stakeholders, she warns. “I think it’s the only way businesses will be sustainable in the long run.”
Founder and CEO Manpreet Dhillon (centre top) with the Veza Global team
Manpreet Dhillon has been doing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work since 2005, “before it was a field,” says the founder and CEO of Veza Global. Dhillon, who was previously a human resources consultant, launched her Vancouver-based company in 2017 after coaching women from culturally diverse backgrounds who faced challenges moving into leadership and entrepreneurial roles. “I realized that the work we’re doing is a lot bigger than just me, so I needed to grow a team,” she says.
Veza helps organizations integrate EDI into their supply chains, products, programs, marketing and customer interactions. So far, the 10-member team has worked with 28 B.C. and 11 global clients, often in long-term engagements. Veza’s past customers include local network HR Tech Group, Vancouver agtech firm Terramera and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
For HR Tech Group, Veza created a resource hub to help its 175 members with their EDI efforts. After auditing 16 B.C. tech companies, the company built one of the only assessment tools for measuring EDIfrom an organizational rather than an employee perspective.
Veza also developed a program for the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C. that helps skilled immigrants who lack Canadian work experience advance their careers. The initiative, which launched in early 2020, “is geared to get them to a place of having the confidence to look at their transferable skills, so that they’re prepared for the interviews, they’re prepared for getting a job in the field that they were in,” Dhillon says.
This year will be about EDI accountability, she predicts–and that’s where Veza’s assessment tool comes in. “We’re getting version 2.0 out there because more and more people are looking at different ways of measurement and how to hold companies accountable.”
Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics, UBC Sauder School of Business
When it comes to applying ethical perspectives to business, the Dhillon Centre has aimed to be a leading international voice since it launched in 2015. That effort’s three pillars: excellence in values-based research; boosting student connection to ethics and responsible business; and engaging and collaborating with the community, policy makers and business partners.
The Dhillon Centre’s work over the past two years includes hosting the Business for Social Good conference, which featured research presentations by dozens of academics. It also sponsored and coached UBC Sauder’s CFA Canadian Ethics Challenge teams, and sponsored and managed a team for the U.S.-based Milgard Invitational Case Competition on Social Responsibility. As the world moved online in 2020, its academic director, executive director and Distinguished Scholar served as speakers, experts, moderators, panellists and chairs at many virtual events, on topics ranging from brand accountability to board diversity.
After COVID pushed electrical engineering consulting firm Hedgehog to go remote, the company encouraged staff to share their expertise online. That was the spark for Burnaby-based Hedgehog’s work with the Neil Squire Society, a nonprofit that develops assistive technology for people with disabilities. Volunteering with the society’s Makers Making Change program, employees built a low-cost, open-source door sensor alarm that notifies a caregiver’s smartphone when their patient opens the front door.
To empower fellow engineers to create their own energy and technology solutions, Hedgehog also launched a quarterly webinar series that has covered rooftop solar power, safety risk assessments and assistive tech design.