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Ascend Canada Develops Skills And Networks For Tomorrow’s Leaders

Diversity and inclusion is a business imperative across many industries, and Ascend Canada is set on making it much more than a “check the box” exercise.

“To get the full benefit of diversity, you need to empower your people,” said Kelvin Tran, President and Chairman of Ascend Canada, a nonprofit organization with a mission to advance pan-Asian talent to their fullest potential.

“Otherwise, all you’ve done is check the box on diversity by having different people sitting at your table but you have not embraced true inclusion.”

Ascend Canada regularly offers programming throughout the year to develop leadership skills, and provide mentoring opportunities to over 3,000 members. Earlier this month, more than 400 people attended the Fall Conference, one of Ascend Canada’s annual marquee events.

This year’s conference featured a full day of learning and professional development with a strong focus on innovation. Technology, competition and new models of thinking and working are some of the changes that workplaces face these days. Conference speakers covered topics such as entrepreneurship, the importance of customer-focused thinking, and recruiting talented employees.

Roy Gori, Manulife’s new president and chief executive officer, was a featured speaker at the conference. He shared his career journey, leadership advice and also offered his views on the importance of diversity of thought in the workplace.  When people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge learn from each other, it can create a successful workplace as it results in better business decisions, he said.

“Diversity and inclusion are critically important to our culture at Manulife and John Hancock, and our long-term success as an enterprise. And to truly understand and best serve our customers, we need to be as diverse as they are. We owe it to them, to ourselves and to our shareholders alike.” said Gori.

Ascend Canada is working hard, particularly with its corporate partners, to ensure diversity and inclusion isn’t an afterthought. As a 100% volunteer-driven organization, its members – who are mainly from the Greater Toronto and Vancouver areas – are passionate about advancing inclusion across corporate Canada.

Many of Ascend Canada’s members work in the financial industry (Manulife, TD, RBC& BMO) and professional services firms (EY, Deloitte, KPMG & PwC) though the organization has been expanding by creating student chapters and inviting more industries, such as Microsoft and IBM into the fold. It has also formed a strategic alliance with Catalyst, a global leader in accelerating progress for women, to launch a longitudinal study on gender, race and ethnicity in the Canadian workplace.

As Tran says, Ascend Canada aims to empower its members with knowledge and resources, such as networking opportunities, to be successful and to embrace Asian culture in a Western world.

“In the Asian culture, we often want to demonstrate that we are self-sufficient. That is a very admirable quality but in life, no one can succeed on their own,” said Tran.  “It is okay to reach out to your network for help and to use them as sounding board for critical ideas. And along the way, you will learn to think differently and expand your horizon which will drive innovation.”

Ascend Canada hosts professional development workshops at various locations around the GTA every month, as well as networking events. It has its own Toastmasters Club to develop public speaking skills as well the Executive Insight Series, an in-house program that focuses on developing high-potential leaders. Check the Ascend Canada (http://www.ascendleadership.ca/) website for upcoming dates and locations of upcoming events.

 

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