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Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity: PMs Focused on Making a Change


Diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) are not new ideas, yet these words have gained greater meaning for so many people in the last few years. DEI principles have become a focus for many organizations and industries because more and more employees want change to happen and difficult conversations to occur. Historically, there are far too many instances of inequality, racism, and exclusion to count. Still every day is an opportunity to learn, be better, appreciate more, and aim to understand a little of what marginalized groups and communities have experienced and why they continue to strive to achieve equity. In May 2020, while the world was trying to survive the uncertainty of a global pandemic, it also witnessed the brutal murder of George Floyd, and it impacted several cities and communities around the world to shout once again that BLACK LIVES MATTER (BLM).

PMI Toronto (PMIT) Chapter President, Jeffrey Thompson, was heavily impacted by this tragedy, empowering him to act. He said he knew that “we must do better for ourselves, our chapter, and our community.” So, he created a dedicated committee that would focus on diversity, inclusion, and equality that would impact and educate current members and gain new members wanted a change. In conversations with Marc Blanchette, past President of PMIT, introduced Jeffrey to Roberta Jane Heggie, previous Chapter President and an active Chapter volunteer.

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PMI Toronto Chapter President
and DEI Committee Sponsor,
Jeffrey Thompson

DEI Chairperson,
Roberta Jane Heggie

Jane knew the Chapter needed a committee that could fill a significant gap and possibly expand to other chapters well. She wanted to “lead PMI through the change that needs to happen.” This fundamental change would mean having a committee dedicated to both governance responsibilities but be tactical as well, with active working roles for volunteers.

For several months Jeffrey and Jane collaborated on their vision for the committee and created the scope for the committee. It is important to note that PMI Global’s President & CEO, Sunil Prashara, supported the inception of initiatives that would lead to inclusion and equality throughout all PMI Chapters. The DEI committee started to take form, and with the support of the Board, engaged volunteers into Research Lead roles via the Volunteer Relationship Management System (VRMS). Each research lead would focus on one facet of an industry, topic, or community. Each element could outline biases and develop ways to remove biases and incite change—or at least create a safe space to speak about prejudices, racial injustices, and inequality employees were experiencing or witnessing in the workplace. After several planning meeting, the DEI Committee was formed and held its first team meeting in the Fall of 2020.

A Dedicated Committee Contributing to Making a Change

In speaking to several committee members, I learned why they wanted to be on the DEI team and how they are working toward making changes for our Chapter, partnering with other Chapters, creating changes within their organizations, and working with others in multiple industries. The members of this committee are passionate change makers.


The 2020-2021 committee members include:

  • Jeffrey Thompson, Sponsor
  • Roberta Jane Heggie, Chairperson
  • Christine Blair, Deputy Chair
  • Shereen Hassan, Research Lead
  • Tiffany Joseph, Research Lead
  • Jaeda Laurez, Research Lead
  • Oliver Omole, Research Lead
  • Jameela Pereira, Research Lead
  • Mary-Ann Spearing, Research Lead
  • Henry Tombe, Research Lead
  • Ryan Totesau, Research Lead
  • Alessandra Valério, Research Lead

As the Chapter’s President and DEI Committee Sponsor, Jeffrey Thompson is dedicated to creating a diverse community where we can all share ideas, have difficult conversations in a safe space and learn from each other. He explains that “racial diversity plays into corporate society.” He is a strong supporter of those who have made significant achievements, including those in the Black community. Our Chapter has partnerships with organizations such as the Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals (CAUFP), the Peruvian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce (PCCC), and Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN). PMIT is also a signatory to the BlackNorth Initiative.

The Research Leads all have areas that they are researching to find out where the biases exist in their industries and workplaces. They consider who feels marginalized, who has experienced misogyny or racial bias, how can we create a safe space for difficult conversations to be had, and how can we implement changes. By identifying the problems, speaking to others, and creating awareness we can start making changes.

Alessandra-Valerio-300x300.pngAlessandra Valério’s research project is misogyny in the workplace, and she and her team say that change “starts with a conversation.” Alessandra explains that “we do not all think the same way, so we must encourage others to get outside their ‘bubbles’ and speak out.” This approach is the best way to address diversity, misogyny, and equality.