Creating Safe and Inclusive Spaces – with Michael Bach (CCDI)
On this episode of REALtalk, Michael Bach, Founder and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) , joins REALPAC COO & VP Member Engagement, Carolyn Lane, to discuss the marginalization of LGBTQ2S+ people, and the urgent need for businesses and society to create safe and inclusive spaces for them.
The episode covers:
- Michael’s journey of coming out
- The meaning of LGBTQ2S+
- Differences between sexuality and gender
- Importance of creating inclusive spaces for LGBTQ2S+ people
About Michael Bach:
Michael Bach is nationally and internationally recognized as a thought leader and subject matter expert in the fields of diversity, inclusion and employment equity, bringing a vast knowledge of leading practices in a live setting to his work. He has deep experience in strategy development, stakeholder engagement, training and development, research, solution development and execution, employee engagement, data analytics, measurement and diversity scorecards, targeted recruiting strategies, marketing and communications, Employee Resource Groups, Diversity Councils, and diversity related legislation (Employment Equity Act, AODA, etc.) among other skills and experiences related to field of diversity and inclusion.
Michael Brooks (REALPAC): Hello, everyone, thanks for listening and welcome to REALtalk, the show that brings you unique insights from leaders in Canadian and international commercial real estate. I’m Michael Brooks, CEO of REALPAC.
Carolyn Lane (REALPAC): Hello, my name is Carolyn Lane, and I’m chief operating officer and VP member engagement, and I’ll be hosting today’s podcast. My guest is Michael Bach, founder of the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the CEO of CCDI Consulting. Michael is an award winning and best-selling author and global executive with deep experience in inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility, strategy development, targeted recruiting strategies, among other things. Under Michael’s leadership, CCDI has received numerous awards, including winning Canadian HR Reporter’s Reader’s Choice Award six times in the category of Diversity, Employment Equity Consultant in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Michael has a post-grad certificate in Diversity Management from Cornell University and also holds the Cornell Certified Diversity Professional Advanced Practitioner designation. Welcome, Michael.
Michael Bach (CCDI): Thanks so much for having me, Carolyn. It’s great to be here.
Carolyn Lane (REALPAC): Glad you could make it! Michael, in your first book, Birds of All Feathers, you talk about the notion that creating diverse, inclusive workplaces isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. And now you’re back with the second book, Alphabet Soup – The Essential Guide to LGBTQ2S+ Inclusion at Work, which became available for pre-order on October 11th in celebration of National Coming Out Day. Michael, can you share with me and our audience your journey of coming out?
Michael Bach (CCDI): Sure. So I came out relatively young. Truthfully, I was not a typical masculine child. I tended to have all girlfriends. I tended to want to play house. And when I was nine, I actually told a camp counselor that I liked boys. And subsequently, I ended up in therapy because, of course, this was 1980, and there was a belief still that being LGBTQ2S+ was a psychological disorder. I came out officially to myself when I was about 16, to my parents when I was 18. But I didn’t come out of work until I was 30. So there I was, living a bit of a double life where I had my professional life, where I didn’t share my personal life, or if I did, I switched language -switched pronouns. And then my personal life, where I was very active in the LGBTQ2 communities and involved as a volunteer with a lot of different organizations. And it wasn’t until I was 30. I was working for a guy named George Smitherman, who was the first openly LGBTQ2S+ member of provincial parliament in Ontario. And I figured, well, if he can do what he does being open, not just to his coworkers, but to the entire province and the entire world, then I could do it as well. And since then, I have certainly blossomed into a very active member of the LGBTQ2S+ communities advocating for LGBTQ2S+ inclusion.
Carolyn Lane (REALPAC): Well, thank you so much for sharing that. In your new book, Alphabet Soup, you use the initialism LGBTQ2S+. Can we start our conversation today by explaining to the audience what those letters mean?
Michael Bach (CCDI): Yeah, sure. I will start by saying there are lots of different versions of this, and I have chosen this one in particular. So the L stands for lesbian, which tend to be people who identify as women who are attracted romantically, sexually and emotionally to other women. G tends to be representative of gay men or people who identify as men who are again, emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other people who identify as men. Sometimes, however, we do hear women, particularly older women, identifying as gay and not as lesbian. The B stands for bisexual, which are people who can be of any gender who are attracted to people of any gender. This term sometimes gets confused with or corresponds with pansexual. Historically, bisexual spoke very much about the binary of men and women being attracted to men and women. The T sometimes stands for transgender, but in this case it stands for trans or trans identified, which is an umbrella term for anyone who is gender diverse. So transgender, non-binary, gender nonconforming, gender, queer, etc. The Q can be either a sexual orientation or a gender identity. It stands for queer, historically a pejorative term. We don’t we didn’t know it was. It was very much a negative, and it’s now being reclaimed by the community. Some people love it, some people hate it. And then the two is meant to represent two separate people, which are indigenous people who are also members of the LGBTQ plus communities. The plus sign, lastly, is meant to represent that there are far more identities than included in these communities beyond LGBTQ, too. We can. We’re talking about asexual, a romantic, polyamorous, demi, asexual. There’s a ton of terms, and I talk about them in the book because I think it’s really important for people to have an understanding of the language, but that’s what the Plus represent.
Carolyn Lane (REALPAC): Ok, terrific. So what’s the difference between sexuality and gender?
Michael Bach (CCDI): An excellent question. People get really confused by this because in the Initialism LGBTQ two plus we have two things we have letters that represent exclusively sexuality or sexually diverse people the L, the G and the B. There’s one letter the T, which represents exclusively gender. And then there’s three characters the Q, the two and the Plus. That can be either sexuality or gender or both. It’s confusing for a lot of people who are straight and cisgender to understand that when we’re talking about LGBTQ plus peoples, we’re talking about two different concepts. Sexuality, which is who you are emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to. And gender, which is about the sex you were assigned at birth. How you identify by your gender. How you present by your gender. There are two really different concepts that kind of got stuck together. And it’s an important differentiation. Because a person can be trans and lesbian. A person can be gender nonconforming and queer. A trans person is that’s not about their sexuality and a lesbian, that’s not about their gender. So it’s an important differentiation that people need to understand.
Carolyn Lane (REALPAC): Hey, thanks for explaining that. So Michael, why does it matter that commercial real estate organizations and indeed all organizations create inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ people? What’s the business case?
Michael Bach (CCDI): Yeah, there’s a couple things to consider. And it really depends on kind of the motivations or values of the organization that you might draw on from the business case perspective. So first off, is about safety. It’s about creating safe spaces where people can be themselves. If I’m walking through the Toronto Eaton Center holding my husband’s hand, is that a safe space? Or am I going to face homophobic comments and potentially attacks as a consequence? So safety is one for some organizations. Next is engagement, particularly of your employees. The reality is, if I have to come to work and I have to mask who I am, if I have to hide my sexuality or my gender, if I have to be the educator around terminology. Then I am going to spend a chunk of my day doing something that isn’t my job, which costs the organization money, and my engagement level is going to be diminished as a consequence, which ultimately means that I’m not as productive and I’m not as profitable. Third is about customers is about creating space where people feel they can be themselves and that they’re valued and respected. And so when you think about commercial real estate’s about creating spaces where people can come to.
Michael Bach (CCDI): That’s about attracting customers, if you think about the value of what we call the pink dollar, the LGBTQ2S+ spending power in North America, it’s somewhere around, I think it’s 1.6 Trillion if I’m remembe