Michael Bach founded the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion in 2012 because he saw that there were minority groups who felt completely unrepresented, and they didn’t know where to turn – so Michael created a place for them. Fast forward 9 years later, and the CCDI has 360 employer partners and over 2,000 clients.  Find out why he says that diversity is our strength, but inclusion is our superpower.

Michael Bach’s Book: Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right
Talking to Canadians Podcast


Jackie Ferguson: Please welcome Michael Bach to our show today. Michael is internationally recognized as a thought leader, motivational speaker and subject matter expert in the fields of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

Having received numerous awards throughout his career for his work, Michael is the CEO of the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion, which helps employers create inclusive workplaces in Canada and around the world. He is the author of the book “Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right,” available now, wherever you buy books. Michael, thank you so much for being here.

Michael Bach: What a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Jackie Ferguson: Yes. So on your website, Michael, you say “if diversity is our strength, inclusion is our super power.” What do you mean by that?

Michael Bach: When we talk about diversity being our strength, I mean, I live in the city of Toronto and it’s actually in the city’s motto that diversity is our strength. And that’s great, but the reality is the diversity’s of fact, diversity just exists.

The key to success is the inclusion factor. And so, I came up with that saying, to say, you know, diversity is fine. I mean, that’s, that’s a strength and I believe that fundamentally, but it’s more important – or, you know, as important, if not more important – to have inclusion so that we not only have the diversity, but the diversity can thrive and we can create spaces, be they workplaces or communities, where people can come to work or, or come at, you know, live in a community and be successful. And so, I think of inclusion as a superpower.

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. And Michael, let’s level set for our listeners on the difference between diversity and inclusion, because what happens a lot of times is they’re lumped together and they don’t realize that those are two separate concepts.

So can we define inclusion for our listeners?

Michael Bach: Yeah, absolutely. So first diversity is the things that make you unique.

Jackie Ferguson: Hmm.

Michael Bach: So it may be your gender, your gender identity, your race or ethnicity, your sexuality, your, your insert anything here.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.

Michael Bach: And diversity exists no matter what we do, whether we like it or not, it continues to exist.

Inclusion is about creating spaces where that difference can not only exist, but can be respected and valued. And it’s about taking all of those pieces of the puzzle and, and making a space where people are welcomed and they feel like they belong.

Jackie Ferguson: Hmm, so well said. Let’s talk about the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

Why did you start this organization, and what are you accomplishing with organizations that you’re working with?

Michael Bach: So I started the organization in 2012. I had been in a global role with my organization in diversity, came back into Canada in 2010 and had the opportunity to kind of look across the landscape about what was missing in the diversity and inclusion conversation, particularly in Canada.

And decided that we needed an organization that would wrap its arms around the entire conversation, keeping in mind that Canada is the second largest – physically largest – country in the world. Not by people, we have a tiny population in comparison to most countries, but we are this really big country.

And then you get under the diversity conversation, you get a whole bunch of different groups. Women, people of color, people with disabilities, et cetera. And we didn’t have one organization to turn to. And so, I started sort of etching things on the back of napkins. And before I knew it, I was having conversations with people to say, “Do you think this is, you know, am I alone here? Do you think this is gonna work?” And, you know, cut to a year and a half or so later. And we were signing up our first partners and had our first staff member and, and grew from there. We now have over 360 employer partners.

Jackie Ferguson: Wow.

Michael Bach: Which are de facto members of the organization. They pay an annual sponsorship and get access to a certain amount of stuff.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.

Michael Bach: And, then we have about 2000 clients that we’ve worked with on various consulting opportunities – because we have a consulting offering – and we’re having an impact. We’ve become – one of the goals that we established years ago, we have achieved, and that is to be the center of excellence on diversity and inclusion in Canada.

And it’s pretty hard to find, you know, to have a conversation around diversity and inclusion where we don’t come up as part of that conversation. And that’s what we, we tried to do was to have a point of conversation, a point where, you know, employers could go to, to have this conversation, to learn, to find resources.

It’s not to say we do everything, far from it. There’s lots of things we don’t do, but, you know, we, we like to think of ourselves as sort of the first stop, and then we direct organizations and individuals to the next stop, with the goal being that there isn’t a third stop. It’s, you know, we’re going to point you in the right direction.

And I think we’re having a real impact.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s so amazing, and you’re right. Diversity and inclusion is a journey. You know, you’ve got to get on that road somewhere, and organizations like yours really allow companies to be able to get started right on that road. I’d love to dive in, Michael, a little about some of the stuff that you offer, and, and find out what kinds of things organizations can gain by working with the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

Michael Bach: Great. So, we have two sides to the house. One is our charitable side, we are an educational charity, and there we offer a lot of learning programs. So webinars, what we call “community of practice events,” which are, normally, in person events in cities across the country, now they’re all virtual, of course.

And then, we have an annual event we call DNI the Unconference, which I like to think is the sort of the antithesis of a conference. It’s really about taking one topic and going deep. Really, you know, intense learning. So, that’s the charitable side. And then, on the consulting side, we have a laundry list of services that we offer really meeting employers where they are.

So some employers come to us and they’re at the very beginning and we work with them to write a business case, we do assessments or audits. We develop strategies, then we help execute on those strategies, whether it’s with learning programs that we offer e-learning, measurement, talent attraction, talent management, marketing campaigns.

We do sort of the full gamut of services, specifically under the diversity and inclusion umbrella. We don’t venture outside of D and I in any way, and it makes us, in some ways, a very niche organization, but at the same time, we’re also seeing – I’d like to believe this – as one of the leaders in the space in order to help employers with where they’re trying to go.

Jackie Ferguson: Great.

And Michael, as an aside, flipping through your team page, you’re walking the talk with your diversity in your own organization. So, let’s break down some of the basics. Why do organizations need to prioritize diversity and inclusion?

Michael Bach: Well, I think they need to prioritize diversity. I’ll start there because they need to make sure that they are attracting the broadest sense of available talent.

Jackie Ferguson: Yes.

Michael Bach: You can’t leave any stone unturned. We are in a labor shortage. I know that’s really odd to say in the middle of the pandemic when people are getting laid off, but we are still in a labor shortage in specific fields. If we’re talking about the service industry, or retail, no, there is no labor shortage there.

But if you’re talking about the knowledge economy, if you’re talking about trades, absolute labor shortage. And so, employers are not in a position to leave off any particular group. They need to be attracting from the broadest possible talent pool.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.

Michael Bach: Why they need to prioritize inclusion is to make sure that that diversity thrives in their organization.

It’s not just about surviving, it’s about thriving. And so, they need to prioritize inclusion to make sure that their workplaces are environments where being different, be it as a person of color, as a person with a disability, as somebody who’s LGBTQ plus, whatever the difference is, that they’re going to not just survive, but thrive.

And we see so many examples of where that diversity does not survive, let alone thrive. And so, employers have to make sure that their work environments are ones where people will feel like they belong and will invest above and beyond sort of the nine to five into their organizations.

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely, Michael. And you know, when you have diverse and inclusive organizations, your organizations are more innovative, there’s more productivity, better problem solving, creativity. There’s so many benefits. So, thank you for sharing that.

Michael Bach: Absolutely. And, and the research bears that out, Jackie, it’s, you know, every research report that we’ve seen for the past 40 years about diversity and inclusion says the same thing: that there are benefits to having a diverse and inclusive workplace.

The question is whether or not leaders are reading those reports and believing what the research tells us.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s right. Let’s talk about your book, “Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusiom Right.”

Where can we get it? Let’s talk about all of that. I’m so interested.

Michael Bach: You can get it anywhere that books are sold, as long as they’re selling my book,

You can go to my website, www.miachelbach.com, and click on the books. And there’s a bunch of links there.  It’s now available on Audible, that took forever. But anyway, we won’t get into that story. But it was really important to me to make sure that there was an Audible version of it for anybody who needs it, but certainly for people with visual impairments, I wanted to make sure that there was something that people could listen to, so I’m really happy it’s available there now.

Jackie Ferguson: That is so fantastic. And then help us with a couple of points that we get through reading your book. I was able to read some of the excerpts, and love them.

But tell us about some of the points that you make in the book that are important.

Michael Bach: Yeah. So this is very much a how to guide on diversity and inclusion. I wrote this book because I, you know, I’ve worked in the field for 15 years, and I’ve read many a book on diversity and inclusion. I think there’s two types of books that I’ve read on diversity inclusion, one written by academics, where the book is very text-heavy as academics tend to be.

And, while they may have some brilliant ideas, sometimes they’re not necessarily realistic in certain work environments. The other type of book is written by consultants who just want to sell you something. So they give you enough information, but not the whole story.

Jackie Ferguson:  Right.

Michael Bach: I just don’t play that game.

That’s just not my style. So, I wrote the book to say, if you’re an employer, if you’re an entrepreneur, if you are a middle manager, if you’re a senior leader, wherever you are, if you’re really struggling to figure out diversity and inclusion, here’s a book that will tell you exactly how to do it. And I lay it out in very simplistic terms and very accessible language.

I use humor throughout it, which I think is really important for a topic that can be really heavy at times.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s right.

Michael Bach: And I sort of, I give away the secrets and I don’t care, and I’m quite happy to give away the secrets because this shouldn’t be a secret. This shouldn’t be something that someone is trying to, you know, keep to themselves and monetize.

And you know, that’s part of the problem. I’m not saying people shouldn’t make a living. I mean, thankfully I do, but I also think, you know, what you can read my book and you can try everything in it and you might screw it all up. Well then, give me a call.

Jackie Ferguson: Right.

Michael Bach: But at the same time, I also don’t want to make it so inaccessible for employers that they, they feel like they have to come to me for, you know, the magic solution that I have.

Jackie Ferguson: Well, it’s awesome.

Just to say again, I really enjoyed reading what I was able to read and I’m looking forward to picking it up as well. So it’s, it’s so great. And I love the humor that’s in it, because you’re right. It can be a heavy topic and an uncomfortable topic. And the humor just really lightens it up and allows you to, to laugh a little bit, which is, which is such an important part of the process.

So yeah.

Michael Bach: I feel like we should laugh more, and particularly laugh at ourselves. Like, I don’t take myself seriously, very seriously. And I think laughter I, I, I prescribed to the, the research that shows us that we learn better through laughter than when we’re very serious.

So, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Jackie Ferguson: Yes, absolutely. So Michael, you often talk about the “wiifm,” or “what’s in it for me” around diversity and inclusion. And we’re certain that there’s something in it for each of us. What about the cis-hetero white guys who think that diversity and inclusion initiatives leave them out?

Michael Bach: Absolutely, there’s something in it for them.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.

Michael Bach: I think it depends on what their motivation is. In terms of what ends up being in it for them, whether it’s about  if they’re an employer and it’s about access to different talent, whether it’s about creating inclusive workplaces, where productivity is higher engagement is higher and therefore profitability is higher, whether it’s about access to new markets, new customers or clients. Whether they’re motivated by the social justice argument, and it’s about a better society. It’s also about more tax dollars, so take, for example, if a skilled immigrant, a newcomer, comes to this country to, to our countries. And let’s say, for sake of argument that, he’s a brain surgeon in his home country and in our countries, he’s driving a cab.

Average salary for a cab driver in Canada, $27,000. Of that, he’ll pay about $3,000 in taxes. Average salary for a brain surgeon in our countries, about $350,000.  And you’d pay about $42,000 in taxes. Well, that’s $42,000 to pay for roads, and healthcare, education. And, and, and, and it also gives us the ability to keep taxes down for other people.

It also means that people like this, you know, our, our brain surgeon has more discretionary dollars to spend, so the economy is stimulated. So, there is something in it for the straight, able-bodied, cis-gendered white guy. It is not against him. It’s not a zero sum game. It is about everybody benefiting from having inclusive environments where people can succeed.

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. Michael, you also talk in your book about living with an invisible disability. Can you share with us a little about that and how it affects you?

Michael Bach: Yeah. So, I live with depression. I was diagnosed with chronic depression and seasonal affective disorder in the early 1800s. I’m kidding.

I’m not that old, but I was about 20, 21 that happened. And I’m now not 20 or 21.

Jackie Ferguson: Same.

Michael Bach: Yes. Pull, pull a little tighter. And, you know, at first it was really very traumatic and very, very much a concern about the impact that, that was going to have on my life. And I, I’ve been on medication for years, but I’ve really come to a very, almost a zen place about it.

That I look at it as a diversability. I say, well, you know, it’s just, I’m a little different from other people and there’s nothing wrong with that. But certainly, throughout my career, I lived with a lot of shame and stigma, and I didn’t actually tell people that I live with depression until I was about 40,  and I was fine to be openly gay. I talked about that quite openly from the time I was about 30 – keeping in mind, this was a long time ago. But, it was another decade before I came out as living with depression, and I found that there were so few voices, so few people willing to stand up and say, you know what?

I live with depression and that doesn’t make me a freak and it doesn’t make me broken. And it, it, there needed to be a voice, and so I added mine to the few that were willing to do that. I also think it’s really important to live my values as a D and I practitioner that I can’t hide who I am and be who I am.

Right? Like I have to be honest, I have to live by a certain standard and I think that’s really important. And so, speaking about my, my depression is something that I, I now take a great deal of pride in because it’s, it’s my – it’s authentically me.

Jackie Ferguson: Yes. And I’m so happy to know that more people are lending their voices to understanding that this is a real concern and not one that should be, you know, brushed under the rug, but one that, you know, is an important part of diversity, so thank you for sharing that. And that’s, you know, it’s, it’s so brave, you know, now that the movement in that direction has some momentum, but it didn’t years ago.

And so, you know, it’s, it’s so important. So thank you for, for being a leader there. There’s a recent spotlight on the movement towards disability inclusion, and you’ve been involved with this for a number of years, and we just talked about that a little bit. Tell us what we need to know about disability and inclusion, disability inclusion, rather, at a high level, of course, and then why this is important to recognize and, you know, be inclusive of in the workplace.

Michael Bach: You know, I think it’s similar too, to sort of any difference it’s that it’s, not leaving a particular group  of people out. The rights of underemployment and unemployment amongst people with disabilities are staggering. It’s easily double the, the rate of unemployment or underemployment for, for people who are able-bodied.

The reality is it’s an untapped pool of talent. And in part, I am talking about people who use wheelchairs, who have mobility concerns, who have visual and hearing impairments. I’m also talking about people with cognitive diversabilities. I know that there’s an organization called Specialisterne, it’s out of, I think the Netherlands or Sweden, somewhere where they spell words funny. And they focus on the employment of people on the autism spectrum,and they’ve worked specifically with SAP, and SAP has made a commitment to hiring 10% of its global workforce on the autism spectrum. That’s not a social justice cause. They’re not doing it because they think it’s the right thing to do.

They do it because people on the autism spectrum have a, some of them, not all, have a incredible apptitude towards programming in computer languages. They have a very high level of efficiency and attention to detail. This was good for SAP’s business. And that’s ultimately what we’re talking about is what’s good for business.

It’s about making sure that we’re not overlooking a potential pool of talent, that we are creating spaces where everyone can succeed, and we’re going to get the best out of our people. And I, I look at an example. I know when, when we opened one of our offices at West finding a building that was accessible – so barrier free was a nightmare, was – because the world is not designed for people with mobility issues.

Jackie Ferguson: Right.

Michael Bach: Whether it’s stairs, elevators, automatic door openers, things that, quite frankly, people who are physically able-bodied take for granted completely. It is so simple when you’re designing a building to make sure that it is barrier free. Like putting in doors that open automatically by making sure that there is a ramp that, that it’s not, you know, there aren’t stairs to get into the building. That doesn’t just help the person who has a mobility concern.

Ramps, as an example, can be used by people who have baby strollers or wheely bags or luggage or delivery people, lots of people benefits. Or people who have, you know, maybe issues with their knees like I’m starting to find where a stair is just a little more difficult than taking a, a ramp. It helps everybody.

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely.

Michael Bach: But we have to start our mindset with that, around creating those barrier free workplaces, and get everybody into that mindset. It’s not about, you know, the, we got to help those poor people with disabilities, the social justice argument. I don’t want to be helped. I want to have access.

And that’s what I believe most people with disabilities really want.

Jackie Ferguson: Michael. I’m just going to take a second because I love that. I don’t want to be helped, I want to have access. That is absolutely spot on. Currently, we’re writing a course on disability and inclusion, which, you know, I just love that quote and I, I may quote you in it, so.

Michael Bach: Please feel free.

Jackie Ferguson: It was exactly right. That is spot on. Thank you for sharing that.

Michael Bach: I think it’s, it’s key to the whole mindset around diversity and inclusion is shifting from this mindset of we’ve got to help those poor people to, no, we’ve got to level the playing field so everyone can be successful. I’ll give you an example. Employers for years have said, “Oh, we can’t have remote work. We can’t have remote work, people won’t be productive.” And there were two groups in particular that had been asking for remote work, a great deal, women, particularly new mothers and people with disabilities. Well, let’s have a pandemic to prove that we can actually make it work, and we’ve made it work. And now, we’ve got employers who are saying that they’re going to have digital by default as the standard, and they’re going to cut back on office space, and they’re going to have people work from home. Like, okay. We’ve been saying for decades that we could make this work, and now that it’s working for the majority, instead of just the minority, we’re all about it.

Jackie Ferguson: Right.

Michael Bach: Why can’t we make something work for the minority and then have everybody benefit?

Jackie Ferguson: And I’ll give you an example of that. I have my smartphone, and I have conversations with a lovely gentleman by the name of Siri. He hates me, and he’s always trying to kill me. Where did voice recognition technology come from? It came as a solution for people with visual impairments. Now, it’s on everybody’s phone, except my father’s because he has a smart – or  he has a flip phone.

That’s a solution that was created for the minority and has become something that the majority are able to enjoy. If we, you know, focus more on that ,I think we would see a lot of amazing benefits to society as a whole

Michael, you’re, you’re so right about that. Thank you for sharing that. That was really, really a powerful statement.

I’d love to delve in a bit on your backstory. Can you tell us a little about your family growing up? Coming out, and then how you got into this important work.

Michael Bach: So, I grew up a poor black child. No.  I grew up in a very privileged, middle class household. Parents, both were at home, still married today, 53 years. I was raised in a very inclusive environment. Parents were both, very left-leaning. Socialist leaning, like, hippies. My father may or may not have been a pot dealer in the sixties. It is unconfirmed. Unless of course you check the police records. And I was taught to be inclusive. And if you look at my elementary school, photos, which of course are in black and white and drawn on slate, it’s a diverse group. You know, I went to school with a few Black kids, a few East Asian kids. It was a pretty diverse group. And no, you have to understand. I grew up in downtown Toronto in what it was at the time, it’s now Midtown Toronto, North Toronto, a very affluent, predominantly white neighborhood, and I was taught that every kid had value. As I started to come out ,and I came out to myself at 16, and I came out to my parents at 18. That’s when I started to really challenge those things. And, and my, my parents at the time were not thrilled. They always knew I was gay. That was not, I mean, talk about the worst kept secret. I like, you know, at nine I knew the entire score to “A Chorus Line.”

Like I was not, there was no football or sports activitie. And so, when I came out, I came out in the 1980s, and 1989 to be exact. Now, you know how old I am. And it was not a fun time for my people. Like, it was the very beginning of the HIV AIDS epidemic, and queer people were the pariah of society. But my mother was really determined.

My mother in particular, was really determined to make sure that I was not living a lie or hiding who I was. And so, relatively quickly, I was out to my entire family, and they were, they sort of forced themselves to go through the discomfort, and in a remarkably short amount of time, like I’m talking a year or two years, they became real advocates for the LGBTQ plus communities.

At one point I was like, “You should get a P flag,” and then I realized, yeah, you could probably run “P flag.” You’re just so – such big advocates and they continue to be. I didn’t come out at work until I was 30, and that was largely because it was the times, like it was the nineties and just not a great time to be an openly gay person.

And I came out because I worked for a politician who was openly LGBT. And I said, “Well, if he can do it, then I can do it.” And, I came out and I’m really glad I did. And it, if you cut to 2005, when I started working for KPMG, I had a background in doing what is now referred to as diversity inclusion work, but at the time was community activism, it was volunteer work.

No one was going to pay you for this, and so I’ve been involved with organizations like the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-violence Project and the AIDS Committee of Toronto and different organizations. 2005, I’m working for KPMG. I helped start – I was one of the people that helped start – the employee resource group for the LGBTQ plus population.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.

Michael Bach: All of a sudden the CEO knows my name, so does the head of HR. And I said to the head of HR, “If we’re serious about diversity and inclusion, we need full-time resources, and I want the job.” And I didn’t know what that meant, but I, I was pretty sure that I wanted people to pay me to do something that I was passionate about.

And, so she sent me away to write a business case. I’m fairly sure it was just to get rid of me, but whatever. So, I wrote a business case for the creation of a role, and they gave me the job. So I took that on in 2006, and I became the firm’s first head of diversity and inclusion, grew the department. Really did some great work, went on to be the deputy chief diversity officer for KPMG globally for a couple of years.

And you know, I look back now and, and I spent my, prior to that, I’d spent my career working in IT. And I look back at that now and I’m like, “Oh, I will never work in IT again. I’d never give this up. I love what I do,” because I feel like I’m, I’m making the world a better place in every sense of the word.

And that really, I feel like my work matters.

Jackie Ferguson: That is something. Michael, I love your vlog called Monday Morning Musings, which are about five minute segments on different DEI topics. Can you share a little about, that with our viewers and what they can expect to learn?

Michael Bach: Yeah, so it’s, it’s just me ranting I am, and there’s there, isn’t a schedule to them as much as my, my team would like to be a schedule to them. Oftentimes, you know, I see an article, I see a report, I read something, I watch something on the news and I want to talk about it and it’s whatever I want to talk about. It’s not scripted. It’s off the cuff. Happens most Mondays, except when I forget it’s Monday and I ended up doing it on a Tuesday.

And, uh, sometimes they’re really fun and sometimes they’re very serious. Like this, the one I did for the end of 2020, the last Monday morning using for 2020  was on mental health and a report that came out from the Canadian Mental Health Association that said that suicide ideation – so people considering suicide – the numbers have quadrupled.

And I was really concerned. And I started thinking about my own mental health, and about the year, the dumpster fire that 2020 was. And, I just thought, you know, I’m going to talk about this and that’s really how they come about. I try to keep them short and light,  but sometimes I end up going on a bit of a tear about things.

I, I can be a bit passionate about these topics at times, so.

Jackie Ferguson: I can see that, Michael.

So you, too, are a podcaster with “Talking to Canadians” on Apple podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, SoundCloud. Tell us about that podcast and some of the guests you’ve had on.

Michael Bach: Yeah. So I, we decided we wanted to a podcast and, I, we couldn’t sort of figure out what the subject matter was going to be. So kind of looked across the sphere of, of podcasts on diversity and inclusion and found that there wasn’t really a space that we could be unique in.

And we could, you know, do lots of different things, but we wanted something unique and I’m a believer that everyone has a story and that storytelling is incredibly powerful, and it’s great to hear about people’s lived experiences. So I – we developed this podcast called “Talking to Canadians” where I sit down and I have a conversation with a Canadian.

And sometimes that Canadian is a CEO, or a well-known politician. And other times it’s somebody that you wouldn’t recognize if you walked down the street, they’re just a person. Most of them, all of them, have a bit of a diversity lens to them. So I’ve talked to newcomers, I’ve talked to people with disabilities and they just share their stories and we just talk about their journey.

So, I think about a couple of people that I really enjoyed speaking to, got a guy by the name of Spencer West, who is a motivational speaker, incredible story. He, as a child, had his legs amputated, so he’s a wheelchair user. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with his hands.

Jackie Ferguson: Oh my goodness.

Michael Bach: I get tired going up the stairs.

He went and, and just an incredible story of resilience. And then, I also talked to a woman by the name of Salina Caesar Shavanne, who used to be a member of parliament, you know, Ontario, a Black woman. Incredible story about her experiences dealing with racism in Canada’s legislative system, you know, being stopped by security and asked for ID when, you know, white members of parliament are streaming past her, and they’re not looking at her at all.

You know, those were stories that I just really loved hearing about and, you know, I think Canada is a, it’s a great country and it’s filled with stories. And I just wanted the opportunity to tell some of those stories.

Jackie Ferguson: Love that. Let’s talk about privilege. So this is a dirty word for so many, but you and I look at it a little differently.

What do you explain to people who get defensive around the word privilege?

Michael Bach: I explain that they had no choice in the matter. Privilege, as a concept, is it’s something that is assigned to you based on a characteristic. So, I am a white man. That comes with privilege, I have never been stopped by the police because they didn’t think I could afford the car I was driving. I have never been followed around a store because they thought I was going to steal something. That’s privilege.

And you don’t have a choice in the matter. And most people have privilege in some way, shape or form. There’s lots of different types of privilege, we don’t just talk about white privilege or male privilege, we can talk about straight privilege. We can talk about financial privilege. You know, if you were able to go to university and not worry about how you were paying for your education, that’s privilege. And it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t have anything to do with your belief system, and you can’t do anything about it.

The question is what are you going to do with it? And that’s the challenge that I always lay out for people is “Okay, now that you know that you have this thing, and you can’t do anything about it, you can’t get rid of it. Right? What are you going to do with it? And how are you going to use it to the advantage of others?”

Because if you don’t use your privilege to the advantage of others, then you are willfully using it. You know, you’re being selfish, you’re willfully doing that. And I always, you know, it’s, it’s about opening doors. It’s about creating space. It’s about making sure that the police stop following around people of Black, African heritage. That women are heard in a meeting. You know, like if you’re in a meeting and a woman says something, and this has happened to pretty much every woman I’ve ever met, a woman says something and then, you know, people ignore her, but a man says the exact same thing, and you think he just invented fire.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s right.

Michael Bach: Right? So, the role of privilege is for me to say, “Wait a second, didn’t Jackie just say that? Jackie, talk more about what your idea was,” and forcing people to listen, forcing people to examine their own privilege and their own biases and realize that, “Oh yeah, we, you know, Michael May have said it, but Jackie said her first.” And that’s that’s just about leveling the playing field, that’s coming back to leveling the playing field. And the onus is on us, those of us with privilege, to make sure that we are creating space. Not that we’re saving, this is not a white savior thing. We have, let’s face it. White people have tried to save things.

It doesn’t go so well. There’s a few, there’s a list of things we can talk about that we have screwed up here. But what I can do is make sure that women, people of color, people with disabilities, et cetera, can be heard, can participate. I always say I will open the door, but you have to walk through it,  and that’s what I – that’s how I explain it to people who question their own privilege and don’t see that as something that they have, or they need to do anything about it.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. Well said, well said. Michael, tell us something about yourself that not a lot of people know.

Michael Bach: Oh. I don’t like to eat in public.

That is not a joke. I am a very messy eater. If my mother worked here, she would show you my – a photo of me for my first birthday party, where they, they – I had chocolate cake, more got on my face than into my mouth. I am covered in chocolate cake, so I generally don’t like to eat in public. I was a child actor  , and have done lots of different films and television series. My, my claim to fame around that is I did a movie with Kathy Bates called “Ambulance Girl.” It is horrible. I would discourage you watching it, but you can find it on IMDB. I am passionate artist and love the arts: museums, cinema and music , and I have tattoos, lots of them. I have a, I have a sleeve tattoo on my left arm and I’ve got a bunch of other tattoos. And, so I’m sort of a man of many contradictions.

Jackie Ferguson: I love that. Love that. Michael, what do you want to leave our listeners with today?

Michael Bach: Oh, I think if I can leave them with one thing.

It would be to say: do something. Every single one of us has a role to play in creating an inclusive workplace and creating an inclusive community, and the onus is on us to do something. It’s not okay to say, “Well, someone else will do that. You know, I don’t have to do that. Someone else will do that.” We all need to play a role, and doing something simple, mentor a newcomer, take a course, watch a TV show, learn, do something. Don’t be a – don’t be a, you know, an armchair ally. You can’t just say, “Oh, I’m an ally,” and then do nothing. That’s, that’s, you know, sort of like saying “I’m going to get into shape,” and doing nothing.

It’s highly ineffective. Do something. And if we all, if every single person did something, we would be living in a much better world.

Jackie Ferguson: Michael, I love that. What a amazing way to end. Thank you so much.

Michael Bach: Thank you. My pleasure.

Jackie Ferguson: We appreciate all your time today. For our listeners, if you want to learn more about Michael, the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion, or order his book, “Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right,” go to www.michaelbach.com. That’s Miachel B A C H  dot com. Michael, thank you so much.

Michael Bach: Thanks very much, Jackie.

Full Episode Transcript

Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is presented by The Diversity Movement and hosted by Jackie Ferguson. For more information including the latest webinars and other DEI content, head over to TheDiversityMovement.com. Podcast production by Earfluence.

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