Canada: Diversonomics | Season 2 Episode 1 - Coming Attractions: A Sneak Peek At Season 2 Of Diversonomics

Last Updated: September 19 2017
Article by Roberto Aburto and Sarah Willis

We are very excited about the season ahead — so much so that we couldn't wait to showcase some of the awesome things diversity champions around the world are doing. From corporate social responsibility to concussions, tune in as our hosts Roberto Aburto and Sarah Willis give you an overview of the guests and topics in store for season 2 of Diversonomics.

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Episode tip

It's very important that everyone feels welcome and has an opportunity to succeed in an inclusive work and professional environment." — Sarah Willis, Co-host of Diversonomics and an associate at Gowling WLG


Episode hosts

Roberto Aburto

Roberto Aburto is an associate in Gowling WLG's Ottawa office, practising in municipal law and civil litigation, with a focus on real estate disputes, land use planning law and commercial litigation.

He is also an active member in the swimming and lifesaving community, serving on the board of directors for the Lifesaving Society (Ontario Branch) as the corporate secretary/legal adviser, and on the Lifesaving Society (National Branch) National Team Selection Committee for Lifesaving Sport.

He is also co-chair of Gowling WLG's Diversity and Inclusion Council and is committed to promoting these principles.

To learn more about Roberto,  visit his bio or connect with him on  Twitter or  LinkedIn.

Sarah Willis

Sarah Willis is an associate in Gowling WLG's Ottawa office, practising in the areas of commercial and civil litigation, and medical defence law. Sarah also has ecommercial and civil litigation experience in a variety of areas, including contractual and construction law disputes, tort actions, and small claims court claims. While in law school, Sarah was an oralist in the 2013 Willms and Shier Environmental Law Moot competition, sat as an executive on the Women and Law Association, and was the vice-president of the class of 2013 council in her final year.

To learn more about Sarah, visit her bio or connect with her on  LinkedIn.

Episode guest

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Podcast transcript

Sarah: Welcome to Season 2 of Diversonomics from Gowling WLG. We are very excited to be here. I am your co-host, Sarah Willis, practicing in litigation in Ottawa. 

Roberto: I'm your co-host, Roberto Aburto, also in our Ottawa office and very excited to be back. Today we are going to provide an overview of this upcoming season.

Sarah: It was great to get a season behind us. We had over 200,000 downloads and listens. We are very excited and we thank you all for your support and interest in this podcast. Since we've started the podcast it's definitely been an interesting journey. We had a soft launch on the date that Donald Trump was elected which was very timely.

Roberto: I don't know that we certainly saw that one coming. Not that someone new was elected on a platform centered around diversity inclusion but it's tumultuous times and we are very proud to be sending out our messages through his podcast.

Sarah: Absolutely. Despite some recent setbacks for our neighbours to the South it's obviously exciting to see the steps that are being taken in Canada to promote diversity and inclusion. For example, after Trump was elected and a Molson Canadian ad from last year went viral, the question at the beginning of the commercial was, "What makes someone Canadian?" and then the ad was really around showcasing the diversity of Canada. Essentially, a beer fridge would only open once "I am Canadian" was recorded in several languages. It's a little kitschy and corny but it definitely showcases that diversity and inclusion has become a real mainstream issue. People across Canada are working to celebrate diversity, in all its various forms, and ensure safe and inclusive space for everyone. I personally loved the ad and I thought it was a fantastic way to celebrate the diversity in Canada. Really, the legal profession should be no exception and I think, as we will see in the upcoming season, there're definitely some steps that are being taken.

Roberto: The interesting thing is we started the season and Canadian Parliamentary just recently enacted Bill C 16 which amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. Big exciting step. Very visible. Getting a lot of press internationally and seeing sort of the champion of diversity persona coming out of Canada which is ever more important.

Sarah: Yes, and the enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression. It also clearly sets out that evidence that an offense was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a Court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence. And, also recently through Parliament, is an amendment to the Criminal Code as well, which confirms, which should go without saying, that an individual cannot consent to sex if he or she is unconscious.

Roberto: Common sense. Clearly something that's long overdue but again just seeing those eggs kind of get in a row and to have things a bit more clearly stated is always a good thing.

Sarah: Yes. Absolutely. Form a firm perspective law firms need to continue to ensure that we're united in supporting our staff and professionals in the legal and business communities. It's ever important that everyone feels welcome and has an opportunity to succeed in an exclusive work and professional environment. I think that Canada is definitely at the forefront of these types of movements, which is fantastic.

Roberto: As we mentioned in Season 1 our National Diversity Inclusion Council came to be shortly after we completed a diversity inclusion census giving us some data about the firm. We're now looking to do the census again in the near future including the inclusion question so that we can see how we're doing. We know that there's a long way to go but taking these honest looks in the mirror are critical and hopefully we are moving in the right direction.

Sarah: I agree. I definitely think getting that information is really one of the most important first steps. In reflecting on where we've been, we just did our third year of celebrating the International Day of Pink at Gowling, which was fantastic. For those who don't know it's a day focused on eliminating bullying, discrimination, homophobia, trans-phobia and trans-misogyny around the world. Gowling is looking forward to participating in the many Pride events this summer and we continue to have a fantastic turnout within our firm and the wider legal community. There really does seem to be continued engagement, more and more, each year which is fantastic. I think people are excited about raising awareness and celebrating diversity and inclusion, and it's definitely shown that in the last few years, based on the event's we've had at the firm.

Roberto: On the Day of Pink it was great this year. We had office challenges against other firms and even saw clients who saw the press release about International Day of Pink and Gowling WLG's participation. A shout out to CMHC for jumping in there and participating in the Day of Pink. Really fantastic to see them jump on board and support that great initiative.

Sarah: That's great.

Roberto: We're looking forward to this season. We have some fantastic and inspiring guests and so here, as we promised, a little bit of a preview.

Sarah: These guests are really incredibly accomplished and doing wonderful things as champions of diversity and inclusion. They make us look incredibly unaccomplished but we have the lucky pleasure of being able to speak with them and interview them and hear about their stories this season.

Roberto: For example, we spoke with Barry Matthews, who's in the United Kingdom. Works very vehemently on the Social Mobility Program.

Sarah: Barry was a fantastic guest. I was super interested in the program he is championing. As you'll see in an upcoming episode, he looks at the economic disparities in the diversity inclusion context. It was very enlightening. We've already got a postscript on this matter as Gowling WLG Canada is looking to become involved in a similar social mobility program in the Ottawa area. It's definitely something to keep an eye on and it will definitely be the topic of further discussion in the future.

Roberto: We also have an episode featuring our very own, Ottawa's own, Lorraine Mastersmith, who's involved with "Women Get on Board", an organization that promotes an increase of female representation on corporate boards. This is certainly an area where we in the corporate community need to do better. I think it's about 11% of corporate board members are female. Lots of helpful hints both for organizations and women looking to get involved. And another postscript already as Gowling WLG has become a national partner of Women Get on Board across Canada. There was an event hosted in Ottawa which was wonderful. My goal is certainly going to be to try and help increase attendance at those meetings. We're looking to grow this organization nationally as well. Those in the Ottawa area know that I will be hunting you down to get out to these events.

Sarah: And he absolutely will. We also have 2 episodes on the issue of concussions coming up this season as well. They were incredibly inspiring and enlightening. It's super important to cover disability when we're looking at diversity and inclusion and I learned a lot about the experiences of an individual going through a concussion from Jane Clark. It's a really inspiring story and we're very, very lucky to have her as part of the Gowling WLG family.

Roberto: The second part on concussions actually features my wife, Carrie-Anne Bourassa, showing the positive side with Carrie-Anne having returned to work litigating. I know Jane, who is also from our Ottawa office here, wanted to ensure that we were showing a successful return and I know personally I've learned a ton about concussions and we're excited to share those experiences with you.

Sarah: We also had Claire Felding who is a UK trans-lawyer and a very strong role model for trans-professionals. Her message of compassion and common sense provided a strong and simple message that was really inspiring. As we have just gushed about, we are very excited about this season ahead of us and we're very proud of it. We can't wait to showcase for you the awesome things that diversity champions around the world are involved in.

Roberto: As always, throughout the season, if you ever have an idea for a guest or topic please drop us a line. We'd be thrilled to hear from you and you can find us on line looking up our bios.  Make sure to subscribe on iTunes so you don't ever miss an episode and leave us a review. You can check out our show notes at and you can follow on Twitter @robaburto. This has been our first episode of season 2 and we're hoping we're going to have a great season. Until next time.

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