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You've Gone To The Protest. Now Go Make Equality Happen

By looking at social inequality in context, we can see opportunities for clear and long-term change.

08/21/2017 15:09 EDT | Updated 08/21/2017 15:32 EDT

In Boston this past Saturday, 30,000 counter-protestors overwhelmed the Boston Free Speech Coalition, a small conservative group. Similar protests against racism took place in Dallas, California and even Vancouver, B.C. There has been a definitive and public response from a variety of public figures against racism and racist groups; from late-night hosts and military leaders, to leading Democrats and Republicans.

After major protests — the Women's March on Washington, Occupy Wall Street, the global protests against the Iraq War — we inevitably ask the same questions: what next? How do we build on this momentum? What difference will this make over the long term?

Ben Nelms / Reuters
Anti-racism protesters gather outside of city hall in Vancouver, B.C., August 19, 2017.

These questions are particularly relevant right now. Hate groups are on the rise in the USA and in Canada; climate change is becoming ever more urgent and significant; there is still a huge and growing gap between the haves and the have-nots... the list goes on and on. If you're a person who is interested in making the world a better, more compassionate, more fair and just place... where do you start?

There are many articles about what you can do in the wake of protests, such as the tragedy in Charlottesville. These articles are written to the generic "you," or perhaps written for someone who wants to be a white ally or has social and economic privilege. There are many great tips in these articles, but the challenge in writing an article for a general audience is that you miss out on the opportunity to address specific, often very powerful, readers.

By looking at social inequality in context, we can see opportunities for clear and long-term change.

It's worth drilling down when it comes to addressing larger issues of inequality. By looking at social inequality in context, we can see opportunities for clear and long-term change. Below are some examples of systemic change happening right now to address inequalities.

Organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) are researching and reporting on social determinants of health — changing the way they work to address the connection between health and poverty, environment, social class, race and more. Acknowledging and addressing larger social factors in health care is a huge step forward for justice and equality. This research will hopefully impact broader legislative decisions.

The University of Waterloo has reviewed faculty pay equity and has increased salaries for all female faculty by $2,905. Other universities across Canada are taking similar steps. The intention is that this review is part of a broader discussion around why pay inequality exists in the first place, both in the public and private sectors.

Abl is an example of a start-up committed to hiring diverse candidates from day one. Hiring is a very clear area where a strategy around diversity can yield hugely impactful results. After all, today's software developer is tomorrow's CEO.

The First Nations Child & Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations recently won a landmark ruling through the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal confirming that "the federal government discriminates against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere." This ruling affects the lives of 163,000 aboriginal children in Canada, and is a remarkable result given how many years it has taken and how comparatively few resources the Caring Society had. It is also an excellent example of a small organization taking the government to court to address inequality and winning. The government is now legally obligated to remedy these funding inequalities.

Ben Nelms/Reuters
Anti-racism protesters gather outside of city hall in Vancouver, B.C., August 19, 2017.

These examples will hopefully serve as templates for government, industry, non-profits and other sectors looking to making meaningful change. There is certainly value in personal reflection, protesting and speaking out when among family and friends. There is also value in donating to non-profit organizations that are dedicated to making the world a better place.

But many of us also have the opportunity to make significant long-term social, legislative, environmental and economic change where we work. Whatever sector you work in, you can be a professional leader and can create a better world through meaningful, institutional action.

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