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Tokenism and Accountability in the Workplace Discussed at Latest O4AY Youth Design Jam

August 14, 2020

How can organizations validate the youth voice in the workplace?

How can we promote and implement inclusivity without the harmful impacts of tokenism?

These were some the important questions coming out of the latest O4AY Design Jam series, where youth came together to discuss and ideate solutions to challenges around inclusivity in the employment landscape.

The three-hour session began with a brainstorming session of top challenges surrounding Diversity, Inclusiveness and Belonging (DIBS) in the workplace. Participants voted on their top two challenges on the topic. From there, they developed questions to explore solutions for their chosen topics:

Question 1 – Accountability 

What can employers do to make sure that youth voices are heard and listened to?

Answers from the group: 

  • Create a supportive chain of communication for continuous growth and learning
  • Normalize activism and encourage the collective voice of youth
  • Include a Youth Engagement section in annual reports
  • Build equity into organization protocols.
  • Create a platform for voices at every level of authority and hold accountability at all   levels

Question 2 – Tokenism 

How might we meaningfully include youth voices within organizations to avoid harmful impacts of tokenism?

Answers from the group: 

  • Reduce the impacts of tokenism by ceding power (i.e. speaking time, veto privilege) to tokenized individuals
  • Account for emotional labour and provide resources and support for marginalized
  • individuals within these spaces
  • Do your research to understand how people from underrepresented communities see the issue of lack of diversity being mitigated
  • Understand the barriers of traditional forms of legitimacy and encourage applications from everyone, regardless of traditional qualifications
  • Have a diverse board of directors and leadership team, where people from marginalized groups fill roles other than Diversity Officer

Based on discussions, the youth participants believe that in five years youth will:

  • Have a louder voice & ownership to hold people in power accountable.
  • Have more opportunities to access early leadership opportunities.
  • Be more politically focused.

“Overall, participants feel cautiously optimistic as they see these sessions as a unique opportunity to address the past, be more conscious, humane, and truly diverse,” said Seray Pulluk, program coordinator and co-facilitator.

“I’m inspired to know that there are youth in our communities modelling best practices and positive ways forward”, said Habon Ali, O4AY intern and co-facilitator.

Are you between 15 and 29 years of age and are employed or looking for work?

O4AY is working to address and eliminate systemic barriers that prevent youth from accessing meaningful employment opportunities We work with a coalition of employers, governments, community service providers and strategic partners to make the youth employment system work better for everyone.

We cannot do this work without you.

If you would like to share your ideas at our future design jams, contact us here and a representative from O4AY will reach out to you.

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