Vancouver-based Synergy Consulting receives $25,000 from province for work in anti-racism data collection

The company also received a $10,000 Community Partnership Grant from Vancity for green initiatives.

Credit: Nappystock

Boardroom diversity is key to creating safe and inclusive organizations, says Synergy founder and CEO Trish Mandewo

“Numbers don’t lie; numbers tell,” says Trish Mandewo, founder and CEO of Synergy Executive and Boards Consulting Group.

The Vancouver-based company champions placements for BIPOC folks, particularly in executive positions. In a press release, Mandewo notes that in B.C., more than 35 percent of people are BIPOC, but boards and senior teams don’t reflect that diversity at all—in fact, Synergy has found that only 5.5 percent of senior positions are held by BIPOC people. “There is a need for government agencies and companies to collect that data so they can tell how this story is unfolding,” she explains. 

The numbers are tricky, though: historically, marginalized people persecuted for their race, gender identity or sexual preference have been less likely to disclose that part of themselves, especially at work. “Over the years, their data has been used against them,” says Mandewo, using the example of a queer person not disclosing their sexuality in the workplace for fear of being ostracized or terminated. 

It’s 2022, and things have changed, but not enough—so Madewo and her team are encouraging folks to be candid to data collectors. “For us, it’s very important to go into the community and encourage everyone to answer the questions,” she says. “I tell people that if we don’t have this information, we are never going to be able to change the narrative. Things will stay as they are because there is no transparency.” 

A recent $25,000 grant from the B.C. government is helping with that transparency: Synergy will be hosting engagement sessions that tackle how the government should develop and implement anti-racism data legislation. The company will interview 300 people about representation on boards and in leadership positions, the quality of service and any gaps that exist, and incidences of systemic inequalities they have seen or experienced, as well as data collection and how the data should be used. 

Synergy offers equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization (EDID) evaluation and training: “We say, This is where you are at, and help them set targets for how they can make their company truly inclusive and safe,” Mandewo says. The firm also has one of the largest databases of BIPOC executives, so companies can use it as a resource for inclusive hiring. 

Mandewo stresses the importance of boardroom diversity: “The board is the one that sets the strategic direction for the whole organization.” Her anti-racism and environmental goals are closely linked (Synergy has also received a Vancity Community Partnership Program grant for climate change action). The new Governance With a Green Lens project will help corporate and nonprofit organizations assess how ESG (environmental, social and governance) philosophies fit into their overall strategy and add value. 

“You cannot only try to tackle the social part without also taking care of the environment,” Mandewo says. “A lot of people will try to isolate those issues, but you can’t.” Citing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, she advises all organizations, big and small, to consider them. “A lot of companies feel removed from the ESG goals, but leaders need to look at them,” Mandewo says. “There’s got to be bigger questions happening in the boardroom and an increased sense of the global crisis.”