Port Moody's Gabi & Jules employs a large number of people on the autism spectrum
Lisa Beecroft wants to make one thing clear: her business is just that, a business. The Port Moody bakery and café launched in 2016 after Beecroft and her husband, Patrick, had put in time bringing their pies to local farmers markets and established a brand.
So when they opened their shop, it didn’t just give customers a chance to reliably indulge in Gabi & Jules’s signature strawberry-ginger-peach pie. It was also an opportunity for the eatery to bring on board the kind of people they wanted. Beecroft’s oldest daughter, Gabriela (her other daughter is named Juliana—get it?), is on the autism spectrum, and she and her husband wanted to create an inclusive environment.
“It’s not a charity at all—there are so many business reasons for why being inclusive makes good sense, and it re-quires intention,” says Beecroft, who employs 35 people, 10 of whom are on the spectrum. Conceding that the labour shortage in the hospitality industry is a “real thing,” she thinks her company is probably better suited than most to be an inclusive employer. “We understand some of the challenges that come with the autism diagnosis, so we probably have a higher level of patience, and we’re definitely committed to this.”
Beecroft, who partners with agencies like Coquitlam’s Kinsight and provincial employment program WorkBC to fill roles, has found that those on the spectrum can slot into a variety of positions. “Dishwashers, bakery assistants, people who work out front—it’s based on the individual’s skill set, as well as where they’re at,” she says. “We have one guy who, even before we opened the bakery, has been building our pie boxes since we started Gabi & Jules. He’s fairly non-verbal, comes in twice a week and spends an hour building our boxes, and it’s so crucial. He’s amazing at it—builds 100 an hour, which is phenomenal.”
The Vancouver-based media tech company employs about 220 people in B.C.’s biggest city and more than 400 elsewhere at offices in Los Angeles, New York and Mumbai. By all accounts, equality and inclusivity are chief among its guiding principles, which originate with BBTV’s founder and CEO, Shahrzad Rafati, who immigrated to Vancouver from Iran as a teenager.
“I think inclusivity and diversity are at the core of the values of the business, and it comes straight from Shahrzad,” says Dan Gamble, head of PR and corporate communications. “She really wanted to build a global business that truly believed in people being equal.”
In a 2019 internal survey on diversity and inclusion, 90 percent of employees strongly agreed that those principles are important and that the company practises them. More than 45 percent of BBTV managers are female, and men and women earn equal pay.
As Unbounce grew from a small Vancouver startup to what’s now 185 people, the company saw some areas where it needed to improve. The landing page creator, established in 2009, has always made diversity one of its core values. But there’s a difference between paying lip service and following through.
In 2017, as Unbounce was really starting to scale, it set out to mitigate unconscious bias in its hiring practices. It also launched campaigns to address gender diversity (the company now has a 50/50 split, or close to it) and pay equity.
Along with organizations like the BC Tech Association and Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, Unbounce also belongs to the Diversity and Inclusion Tech Project, which aims to boost the attraction, retention and advancement of underserved communities in B.C.’s technology sector.
“Our core value is that staff should be cared for,” says social impact manager Laura Zubick. “There’s really a grassroots, genuine, down-to-earth feel here.”
When the Gibsons-based brewery was looking for a new CEO and attracted only male applicants, it decided to find more women to apply for the job in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. Jenn Vervier, formerly of Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Co., took the helm last June.
The brewery, also recognized in our Environment category, is partly owned by the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living (SCACL), which provides services and employment for adults with developmental disabilities. Several SCACL clients work on Persephone’s farm and in its tasting room.
The coffee company has an all-female roasting team, along with a history of backing Pride events across B.C. The Richmond business also supports its diverse staff with a lunch every month featuring cuisine from a team member’s country of origin.