5 min read

Michael Bach — Internationally Recognized Thought Leader in Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility

Michael Bach — Internationally Recognized Thought Leader in Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility

Think Queerly Podcast Thought Leadership Interview — TQ201

“Inclusion is about taking all the unique characteristics that people bring with them to work and making sure you have a workplace where everyone can succeed because of, and in spite of, those unique qualities.”Birds Of All Feathers — Michael Bach

Watch or listen to the interview:

Episode Notes

  • Michael has essentially been doing what we now call Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) for the last 30 years. Yet, it was 15 years ago when he had the opportunity to write a business case for the role of D&I when he was at KPMG Canada. He then went on to found the Canadian Centre of Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Michael’s definition of Diversity and Inclusion: Diversity is the thing that makes you different. That can be your sex, gender, race, ability, socio-economic background, etc. Diversity is about anything that makes you unique and is much broader that the traditional definition that focused on marginalization. Inclusion, by contrast, is about creating spaces where people can exist (work, school, hospitals, etc) and where you can bring your whole self to that space, without having to hide any part of yourself. And if we are truly being inclusive, then we must include straight, white, able-bodied men.
  • In his book, “Birds of All Feathers,” Michael makes a distinction between the two models of diversity and inclusion: the social justice model and the creativity and innovation model. The latter is more important and transformative because it looks at the world through the lens of focusing on solutions to problems. The means to get there is through diversity, and at work by having diverse teams.
Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right. By Michael Bach.
  • Promoting creativity and innovation is a powerful values-based justification for D&I and the betterment of a business’s bottom line, i.e., more profits and lower expenses through diverse teams, thinking, and solutions to problems. “I’m more interested in the ultimate end goal of change, not in how we get there.”
  • Why the head is more important than the heart to really make D&I work — “Compassion doesn’t pay the bills!” For an organization to remain relevant, it must represent the population (the “customer”) they serve, and they need to break from the way they’ve always done things.
  • Specific to LGBTQ diversity and inclusion, businesses need to be inclusive and representative all year round, not just for Pride month in June. For example, what about showing up for National Coming Out Day, Lesbian Awareness Day, Trans Day of Visibility, and so on?
  • Michael teaches me something new and corrects my error in calling, “LGBTQ” an acronym. It is, in fact, an “initialism.” An acronym forms a word out of a set of letters (e.g., “NASA”), whereas an initialism is a collection of letters that don’t create a word. We are a series of ‘communities’ strung together with this initialism.  When it comes to what variation of the initialism to use, Michael suggests to businesses that they be flexible and respectful, knowing that things are always changing.
  • When Michael goes into a new workplace, he is looking for openness and respect. A lot of his work is about respect, and he recognizes that many people might not agree (with his being gay, for example), but what he needs, and what people in the organization need, is to be treated with respect. That means that everyone has equitable opportunities, that no one has to hear homophobic or transphobic jokes, and so on. ”If I can get you to respect me and see me as a human being, with any luck your belief system may start to change.” Inclusion work is about making people become more comfortable with what they’re uncomfortable with.
  • “The biggest lesson of D&I is that we’re not dealing with right and wrong; it’s about shades of grey. We are talking about minuscule increments of difference. If you can let go of the idea of right and wrong, you will get a lot further ahead much faster. We each have a lived experience that is our own, and that is what makes us different from others.”
  • Equality means treating two people exactly the same. Equity means treating each person appropriately, according to what they need or deserve.” — Birds Of All Feathers
  • Michael’s show on YouTube and Instagram, Monday Morning Musings, is in season 5. He discusses current topics and news that relate to D&I, equity and accessibility.
  • His next book, “Alphabet Soup: The Quintessential Guide to LGBTQ2+ Inclusion” goes beyond workplaces and looks at hospitals, schools, and faith-based organizations. His goal in writing this book is to work toward a world where homophobia, transphobia and biphobia are things of the past, and where everyone can be themselves. The book is available for presale on Monday, October 11, 2021 (which is also National Coming Out Day).
Alphabet Soup: The Essential Guide to LGBTQ2+ Inclusion. By Michael Bach.

Michael Bach Biography

Michael Bach headshot

Michael Bach is the founder and Chair of the board of directors of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. He is nationally and internationally recognized as a thought leader and subject-matter expert in the fields of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility, bringing a vast knowledge of leading practices in a live setting to his work.

Prior to taking on this role, he was the National Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for KPMG Canada, a role he created and held for seven years. Additionally, Michael completed a 2½ year secondment as Deputy Chief Diversity Officer for KPMG International.

Over the course of his career, Michael has received repeated recognition for his work, including being named:

  • Women of Influence’s Canadian Diversity Champions
  • Catalyst Canada Honours Human Resources/Diversity Leader
  • Inspire Award as LGBTQ Person of the Year
  • Out on Bay Street Leaders to be Proud of LGBT Advocate Workplace Award
  • Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s IS Award
  • Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award

Under Michael’s leadership, CCDI has received numerous awards, including winning the Canadian HR Reporter Readers’ Choice Award in the category of Diversity/Employment Equity Consultant in all the years the award has been given out (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021).

Michael has a Post-Graduate Certificate in Diversity Management from Cornell University and holds the Cornell Certified Diversity Professional, Advanced Practitioner (CCDP/AP) designation.

His 2020 book Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right is a Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Amazon bestseller, and recipient of the silver 2020 Nautilus Book Award in the category of Rising to the Moment. His new book Alphabet Soup: The Essential Guide to LGBTQ2+ Inclusion will be released on March 29, 2022.

He lives in Toronto with his husband Mike, and their two fur babies, Sasha and Pepper.

Learn more about Michael on his website at https://www.michaelbach.com and follow him on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.