Salon Talk Recap: Diversity… or Empathy?

On February 28, 2018, we hosted our Salon Talk, Diversity… or Empathy? Joined by over 200 people who came to hear the perspectives of Talk Boutique speakers, Tania DeSa, Jodi Kovtiz and David Bastedo who each addressed our evening’s thematic question:

“Are diversity and inclusion conversations actually a symptom of a much larger problem… a society lacking in, yet desperately seeking empathy?”

This question set the tone as we settled in for the talks. We kicked off the performances with a beautiful and heartfelt land acknowledgement from the indigenous leader, Bear Standing Tall, a Nehiyaw from Onion Lake Cree Nation.

Tania DeSa, CEO of Desa Global Leadership Inc., took the stage with a passionate story of self-discovery. She spoke of the importance of not conforming to your environment, whether at work or in your personal life and to take pride in your differences and standing out. She stated that, “When you own your own diversity, you give others permission to do the same.” She powerfully closed her talk, asking us all to see our own uniqueness and be willing to stand up and be heard.

Our next speaker, Jodi Kovitz, Founder and CEO of #movethedial spoke of the lack of female leadership in the tech industry. Her heartfelt and emotionally charged talk recounted her own experience taking a leadership role with a tech-based nonprofit and seeing the lack of diversity everywhere she spoke. This spurred her to start a conversation which has become the global movement, #movethedial. Jodi captured the spirit of the evening with the quote: “Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance… however, Belonging is dancing like nobody’s watching.” In January 2018, #movethedial officially launched as a company with Jodi as the Founder and CEO, dedicated to empowering and encouraging women of diverse backgrounds and cultures to step into the male-dominated tech industry and make their voices heard.

The final speaker, Creative Technologist, Photographer and Speaker, David Bastedo related his experience as the official photographer for The Tragically Hip. His poetic and often emotional talk took us from the concept of diversity to focus solely on empathy. Through a mixture of stunning visuals and video, David showed us a country coming together through empathy and love to celebrate the poetry and vision of Gord Downie, during the final tour of The Tragically Hip. The incredible impact their music had on Canadian culture was evident in his personal and raw stories and narrative. He related how he first met Gord Downie over 15 years ago and the lessons he learned. He said, “Gord’s lyrics, they’re famous for their ability to get to the heart of the matter.” David encouraged us to be inspired by Gord’s desire to help others; knowing his days were numbered, Gord created and funded the Downie Wenjack Fund to call Canadians to learning and action in solidarity with Indigenous peoples of this land. David ended his talk with a video of Gord speaking to us all: “There is no higher power than to help others.” – Gord Downie 1964-2017

Thank you to everyone for coming out to enjoy the evening. A special thanks to Bear Standing Tall, Tania, Jodi and David for sharing your stories and wisdom and sparking conversation.

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