“There is only one way to look at things until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes” (Pablo Picasso) – demonstrates the potential for transformative innovation when we tackle problems from different perspectives and experiences. To these ends, we have an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) policy guideline for the MBMC that serves as a guide for all research activities, investigators, and staff/student hiring practices.
This guide was created in collaboration with all current MBMC members, partner institutions, and investigators, which included members from 3 out of 4 under-represented groups (e.g. age, gender, Indigenous identity, disability, or racial background). This ensures the creation of a research environment where all team members (1) feel welcome, respected, valued and supported, (2) are able to express themselves freely, including sharing concerns, and (3) are able to bring their identities, experiences, competencies, skills and abilities to their research and to the research team.
To foster greater equity, diversity and inclusion, we have designed a set of EDI guiding principles that aim to (1) embrace diversity principles, (2) challenge discrimination and harassment, (3) create an environment where team members feel comfortable and supported in expressing their ideas and/or concerns, and (4) hold leadership accountable to identify and remove systemic barriers and strive toward a diverse and inclusive research environment in a sustained and responsive manner. These are detailed below to ensure that everyone is not only given a seat at the table (diversity), but the power to determine what is being served (inclusion).
Hiring diverse candidates is a priority; we post only the qualifications and skills necessary for the job/training using unbiased, inclusive and non-gendered language, we advertise internationally, and ensure inclusiveness and diversity on our hiring committee.
Approach and processes:
All MBMC team members (directors, staff and trainees) are asked to view the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s “Strengthening Research Excellence through Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (October 2017)” presentation and complete the Government of Canada/Tri-Council Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) course and the Canada Research Chairs “Unconscious Bias” course.
We use non-gendered, inclusive and unbiased language in all job and trainee postings. We aim to find the best candidates for the position, irrespective of age, gender, race/ethnicity/culture, or disability. Screening potential job/trainee applicants is done by more than one person, using a grid, then compared and discussed. This process has resulted in a current MBMC staff structure of 11 that includes: 8 women, 1 LGBTQ, 4 visible minorities, and 1 person with a disability; and a trainee structure of 16 that includes: 11 women, 3 LGBTQ, and 8 visible minorities.
As part of our staff and trainee selection process, all candidates are interviewed by MBMC directors, current staff (in a group), and current trainees (in a group). This ensures an open and transparent process where all members of the current team (which includes women, men, LGBTQ, and visible minorities) can ask questions and provide feedback on the objective strengths and weaknesses of a candidate.
All candidates undergo the same assessment and interview process. Candidates must submit a CV and cover letter – information which is provided on job/training postings and available on our website – and short-listed candidates must undergo 3 interviews by MBMC directors, staff and trainees using a set of standardized interview questions. Career leaves and conflicts of interest are taken into account during the assessment and interview process.
All team members have equitable access to the necessary time/funds to attend courses or conferences and MBMC directors conduct yearly reviews to account for implementation; mentoring activities are a priority and are tangibly recognized.
Approach and processes:
All staff and current trainees are given a yearly allowance that may be used to cover the costs of attending a research-relevant course or scientific conference. For trainees, this amount may be combined with other travel awards through university or research center programs. We keep a record of all training and development activities undertaken by team members to determine if there are any missed opportunities.
The MBMC directors are accountable for ensuring diversity and inclusion in all training and development activities by conducting an annual review and feedback session with team members.
We have instituted a mentoring structure, that includes weekly lab meetings (MBMC directors, all staff and students), weekly individual mentoring meetings between directors and trainees, and biweekly project meetings (with relevant staff and trainees). We hold weekly inter-disciplinary research seminar meetings with all Research Center senior investigators, staff and trainees.
Our mentoring structure includes trainee mentoring from staff as well as mentoring and support from more senior trainees (e.g., post-docs would mentor graduate students, and senior graduate students would mentor more junior graduate and master’s students). The time spent by all staff and students mentoring is recorded and reviewed to ensure equity and balance with other responsibilities.
When staff or trainees participate in mentoring of other trainees, this is highly valued and recognized. Tangible examples include being co-authors on abstracts and manuscripts, and having opportunities to present at international conferences.
Our practices emphasize inclusive consultation and collaboration in decision-making (e.g., policy drafts, hiring, organization structure), adopting strict acceptance, tolerance and respect policies, and facilitating achieving work-life balance.
Approach and processes:
Our management and organizational structure emphasizes balancing productivity with well-being (achieving work-life balance). To these ends, we offer staff and trainees the option of ‘flex-time’ – which provides team members with opportunities to work from home or participate in research meetings via Zoom or other online applications. This ensures team members with family responsibilities (for example) can participate fully in all research activities and maintain productivity.
In collaboration with the CIUSSS-NIM, we have put in place a strict acceptance, tolerance and respect policy at the MBMC, and prioritize respect and safety for all team members, which is regularly reinforced during lab meetings. We have also instituted a procedure for bringing issues to our attention, and detailed how complaints will be investigated and resolved. Procedures respect complainant’s privacy and confidentiality.
We have a designated EDI champion on our team – M. Guillaume Lacoste, our MBMC manager who has been leading our team since the inception of the MBMC (>16 years). He is responsible for providing advice and assistance to all team members, identify resources and opportunities to participate in additional EDI training, and promote the value of EDI as it relates to fostering research excellence.