Breaking the wheel is exactly the point of having a JEDI committee
Over the last three years, TUX has seriously committed to rethinking how business practices can be of greater benefit to society. One of the key initiatives to get there is our JEDI Committee which stands for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. We asked our eight members to reflect on their efforts and experiences over the years. Meet Cristo, Charlotte, Marie-Laurence, Sarah, Stacy, Rafik and Reatchy :)
What is the JEDI commitee?
Many companies contribute to creating injustice: it can be internally, through their work culture; or externally, through their products and services. For so long, a big part of “the business world” has lived in a bubble and completely disconnected from the world they live in! Breaking this wheel is exactly the point of having a JEDI Committee. It’s the reason why I joined it.
Our dream here (and my personal dream, too) is to build a company that’s accountable to the community, with execs committed to creating some real change, and a whole team dedicated to deconstructing their biases and challenge old, harmful habits.
The JEDI Committee is our way to build a micro version of the world we want to see tomorrow.
In a nutshell, the JEDI Committee is our way to build today a micro version of the world we want to see tomorrow. A world that is diverse, unbiased and just, where each and everyone feels like they belong here.
The JEDI Committee is our way to build a micro version of the world we want to see tomorrow.
And why does it matter in your industry?
I think it’s easy to forget the political nature of design and communications. Creative companies like us are image makers and profit drivers. And if not done responsibly, we risk perpetuating harmful ideas and biases which can further marginalize communities. Our job is to represent people, but oftentimes our views of people are limited as our industry lacks diverse representation.
Clearly, our industry is not a fair reflection of the society it’s supposed to represent.
The problem is that straight, white, cis people are way overrepresented in our industry. Despite only accounting for 66% of Montreal’s population, white people make up 86% of staff at creative companies in Montreal*. And only 10% of the industry is LGBTQIA2+! Clearly, our industry is not a fair reflection of the society it’s supposed to represent.
*Source : A2C
Following the murder of George Floyd, like many people and companies, we all started to take our inherent participation in the culture of white supremacy and systemic racism much more seriously.
How was it born?
Following the murder of George Floyd, like many people and companies, we all started to take our participation complicity in white supremacy culture and systemic racism much more seriously
Following the murder of George Floyd, like many people and companies, we all started to take our participation in the culture of white supremacy and systemic racism much more seriously. The Committee was started as an organic conversation and voluntary action on a Teams thread but formed into a formal committee after six months. We got the “exec” blessing, so to speak.
A lot of people who work at TUX are also activists, so we had initiatives here and there, but after the summer of 2020, we started working towards structural accountability and change. This meant actually looking at hard data on how we are running our businesses, what identities are represented, how people feel working here, as well as how our work perpetuates or dismantles biases.
In a society where minorities don’t have a majority say, we want to create a new dynamic.
How is the team structured?
In a society where minorities don’t get a majority say, we want to create a new dynamic. Our Committee ensures 80% of membership is reserved for individuals from marginalized backgrounds. Don’t get me wrong, people don’t have to show their DNA tests or any kind of proof of their identities! It’s a matter of trust. The point is to cultivate a safe and understanding space for people to speak freely and openly about their lived experiences without judgment or justification.
When we came up with this structure, we were not sure it would be 100% taken positively by non-minority groups. It could be viewed as “exclusionary.” It’s hard when non-marginalized people really want to be an ally and have great intentions, but we have to hold space for those who don’t usually get much of it.
At the end of the day, one of my biggest realizations is that when two people really care about justice, they can have any conversation, as long as there’s trust between them. If you know that I come from a genuine place and you come from a genuine place, we can address any topic.
The truth is that everyone is a part of the effort. From our execs to all the talents at TUX, we all need to address these issues collectively for structural change to happen.
To be clear, we’re just talking about the core JEDI team here who leads the way, but the truth is that everyone is a part of the effort. From our execs to all the talents at TUX, we all need to address these issues collectively for structural change to happen. Otherwise, we’d just be talking (or ranting) to ourselves.
What are your biggest successes?
Everything we’ve done! Even when we didn’t land exactly where we wanted, we learned something huge along the way.
I think our “We Are TUX” Annual Identity Survey is outstanding. The survey helps us measure our diversity statistically and benchmark against how representative we are of society. It’s eye-opening. There are a lot of companies who choose not to collect identity statistics because they feel systemic racism/bias “doesn’t exist in contemporary companies,” which is actually really harmful. When companies don’t have representational data, they have less visibility on where they need to improve.
Another initiative that our Committee and talents are very proud of is what we call the “Intimes.” These annual open-table sessions launched in 2021 aim to create a safe, non-mixed space for marginalized groups to collectively express what makes TUX an inclusive culture for their needs and where there’s work to do. So, for example, we will have a neurodivergent session where talent with ADHD, dyslexia, etc., can discuss their specific experiences and needs.
The Intimes was a powerful initiative that not only helped us design new policies and practices collectively, but also increased the level of trust between talents. In these Intimes, people shared very personal things; being vulnerable was totally OK. There was a true sense of community and belonging. It was beautiful!
We love leveraging cultural content to talk about JEDI topics because they engage people with their hearts — not only with their minds.
We’ve also started to set up several training and “educational” activities. We’ve collaborated with amazing organizations like Club Sexu (their training on non-gendered writing is amazing); the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse for a sobering training on First Nations in Quebec. Montreal in Action also hosted a workshop about The Systemic Racism of Black People in Canada (Thanks Balarama!)
We try to mix these types of trainings with informal, playful events, too. People learn in different ways. During the 2021 Pride week, L’Euguélionne, the feminist bookshop based in Montreal’s Village, held a book club session. In 2022, for Women’s Rights Month, we had a short film screening in our studio showcasing a variety of women’s experiences around the world.
For Black History Month, we collaborated with Céline and Manu, the chefs from Brouillon, our buvette which I highly recommend, by the way! Both of them identify as Afro-descendants. They hosted a cooking class just for TUX talents. The recipes were inspired from Afro-Caribbean cuisines. Our point was to celebrate Black cultures and Black joy. It came along with an open-source list of book and film “recommendations” to raise awareness around racism and discrimination that Black communities face. We love leveraging cultural content to talk about JEDI topics because they engage people with their hearts — not just their minds.
and we’ve made significant structural changes in the last two years. I’m talking about policy changes like when we decided to systematically include a JEDI statement in our job offers and even carving out a financial budget for our Committee to cover the hours we dedicate and the initiatives we put together.
Honestly, it’s a “success” every single time someone tells us how happy/proud/grateful they are to work in a company that has a progressive culture. Personally, this is what keeps me going.
Implementing a JEDI Committee necessarily comes with uncomfortable situations and wounded egos.
What are the biggest challenges?
That’s a tough one. Let’s start with what is NOT a challenge. Well, first, the team itself. They’re extraordinary human beings. I feel safer with them than with some of my friends — I know, this is very weird to say! It’s because we’re on the same team and even if we don’t come from the same background, we’ll try our best to understand each other.
True. JEDI is the one place you will never hear anyone say, “If I could play the devil’s advocate…”
Experiencing such a level of seamlessness and trust when working on JEDI topics in a workplace is priceless — trust me, this could be a major challenge! To be fair, I also want to say that another easy part is collaborating with our execs. They support the Committee 100%. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have tough conversations, but we’re aligned on the essentials. I love when Dom or Pierre-André challenges us to go further or to be more radical. It surprises me every. single. time — I don’t know if I’ll get used to it someday.
A lot of things are hard. As soon as you’re trying to break the status quo, and, well, as soon as you have a JEDI Committee, you’ll have to address behaviours, words, practices that are no longer OK, even though they seemed totally “normal” for so long. Implementing a JEDI Committee necessarily comes with uncomfortable situations and wounded egos because nobody wants to be the person in the room who’s seen as “racist/sexist/classist/ablest/fat phobic/homophobic/Islamophobic (you name it!)”
On the other hand, JEDI team members don’t want to be the ones calling out a teammate or seen as “The PC police” either. I believe creating a healthy, learning environment comes from nurturing a work culture where it’s OK to make mistakes. In the last five years, social norms have changed so fast (“about damn time!” as Lizzo says). We understand that it takes time to adapt to these changes.
Yes! Patience is key. Especially in an industry that’s built on speed, where everyone has very busy schedules compacted into four-day workweeks!
What matters is making sure that we understand why something is harmful, and how we can change it.
We don’t believe in “cancel culture”. What matters is making sure that we understand why something is harmful and how we can change it. We’re all moving forward on an endless learning journey together.
Concretely, it means that when the Committee is addressing a company’s practice or a talent’s behaviour, we do our best not to lecture anybody. It’s not our place; we are no better than anybody else. We share our understanding of the situation; what we believe is wrong about it and why it is so, how we can improve it. It’s all about talking things out. Plus, who could pretend to be perfect? There are so many things I have said or done myself that I wouldn’t do today. We’re all better humans in the making. We’re a better company in the making. Such change takes time. And mistakes!
At a more pragmatic level, I would say that money and time are challenges too. Four our accountants, the JEDI Committee is considered “non-billable hours”! We have to be mindful of how our time can be spent efficiently, while our execs need to make sure that, no matter what, our dedicated JEDI time is preserved. This is a constant dance.
What do you wish to accomplish for 2022–2023?
We’ve built what I believe is a strong plan! We’ll run six JEDI-developed awareness trainings to sensitize talents around systemic barriers faced by various marginalized communities in our very own workplace. We’ll also offer concrete actions that TUX will take to create a more inclusive culture for them. These trainings were built from the conclusions from the Intimes sessions. We’re very excited to share these with the rest of the team.
We’re also working on an internal culture guide to set ground rules and behavioural norms of how to act consciously and avoid micro-aggressions in the workplace. We see this as a way to get everybody on the same page.
We’ll conduct a wage equity analysis to ensure that marginalized talents at TUX are being compensated fairly.
In collaboration with Mylène, who’s in charge of HR and talent experience at TUX, we’ll conduct a wage equity analysis to ensure that marginalized talents at TUX are being compensated fairly (specifically amongst women, BIPOC and LGBTQIA2+ talents). I’m very excited to see where this leads; I see this as a major step forward for equity!
Finally, we’ll run a new survey around “hormonal cycles in the workplace” to better understand barriers created by women’s* menstrual cycles in their work, and identify solutions.
And, of course, we’ll keep running our annual surveys and Intimes Sessions.
Regarding what we’ll do externally, we’ll start with developing a JEDI-centric client agreement to create safe collaborative relationships and introduce JEDI principles from the get-go. Having client partners on board is a must for us. In the past, we’ve had these conversations informally with them, but we want to be more transparent with expectations. So once this agreement is ready, it’ll be more like a contract that we sign from both sides.
We aim to make casting more diverse and inclusive with measurable objectives, policies, and actions to promote diversity and equity when casting talents like models, photographers, writers, and other creative collaborators for our projects.
Another very important objective for next year is casting. We aim to make casting more diverse and inclusive with measurable objectives, policies, and actions to promote diversity and equity when casting talents like models, photographers, writers, and other creative collaborators for our projects. As you can imagine, this is major considering the number of productions we run per year!
We’ll also develop new TUX content and creative explorations centred around systemic racism and social constructs through art, design, and action.
The objective is to get this all done by 2023, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some things get postponed! JEDI reforms tend to always take longer than expected!
If you had one last thing to say about JEDI?
Can JEDI be my full-time job?
My JEDI partners are amazing human beings who make TUX (and me) grow so much! I’m very proud of what TUX has been building. This is deep, structural change.
I want more companies demanding that JEDI thinking be baked into branding and communication mandates. We are actively working on this. Call us.
Through JEDI, TUX gives me the opportunity to become an actor of cultural change, and it makes me a more accomplished and flourished person.
Being a member of the JEDI team is a game changer for me. It gives me another perspective about work and a deeper and more meaningful approach to my contribution. Sharing ideas with my amazing teammates and elaborating policies together is something I never thought I would have the chance to do. Through JEDI, TUX gives me the opportunity to become an actor of cultural change, and it makes me a more accomplished and flourished person. I’m very grateful to have the privilege to play a role on this team.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” —James Baldwin
JEDI, for me, is a safe space to discuss about the people who inspire us on a daily basis. Personally, but also in our practices. For me, Alok Vaid-Menon is one of those people. As they say, “Moving beyond the gender binary is not harassing men or women. It’s about saying men and women are infinite options.”
Being a JEDI member has been very eye-opening about myself and the industry that we work in. All the members of our group have different paths and origins; as a POC with ADHD, I found it refreshing to verbalize and discuss about things I felt since I was a child. JEDI is a safe space for every intersectionality that lives in you. 🙂