Posted in : Blog
Posted on : September 5, 2019
“I think the big assumption is, doesn’t it just happen?”
Dr. Pruegger hit the nail on the head - there is an assumption today that D&I work takes care of itself, it just happens in Canada. But as Dr. Pruegger knows, diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace takes time, resources and effort like all business imperatives. We are diverse by nature, but being conscious in creating a safe, inclusive, welcoming space is the essential.
CCDI is proud to have Dr. Valerie Pruegger as CCDI’s 2019 Western D&I Practitioner of the Year (Western Canada). As the inaugural Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity & Protected Disclosure (ODEPD), Dr. Pruegger has helped the University of Calgary take significant steps towards creating a more diverse and inclusive community. Dr. Pruegger’s interest in this work was sparked at a young age as she followed Civil Rights Movements across North America. After spending time in the workforce, she entered the academic world eager for real life application, but found that the theories being taught were not always implemented or practical for the labour force she spent time in. This disconnect led Dr. Pruegger to pursue education in cross cultural and organizational psychology. She obtained her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Calgary before earning her PhD at Queens University.
When asked why D&I work was important, she responded:
“Everyone is unique and important in their own way. I don’t believe in hierarchy or an order to people’s value. Everyone has their own unique, valuable skills that should be allowed to be brought to the table.”
Dr. Pruegger’s initiatives such as campus-wide Diversity Days, Diversity Awards, and Institutional Strategic Plans are instrumental in the University’s development as an equitable employer. Dr. believes that all people deserve respect and acceptance in their communities. This passion for barrier and discrimination free spaces, is what drives her enthusiasm at work as she implements institution wide goals and develops inclusive communication strategies to build long term accountabilities for her office. ODEPD is an integral hub for D&I work on campus and is a safe landing pad for those seeking D&I information, and guidance.
According to Dr. Prugger, autonomy and accountability are essential components for the success of any D&I initiative. Autonomy is an essential starting point in order to be able to challenge systems, policies and practices – and even individuals without fear of reprisal in order to effect positive change. With this kind of autonomy comes the need for accountability. Dr. Pruegger dedicates time to building processes, measurements and feedback loops into her initiatives to ensure that the needs of stakeholders are being met.
When asked for any final thoughts for readers working on their own diversity and inclusion initiatives, Dr. Pruegger says, “you do not give yourself the title of ally, you earn it. You earn it by showing up, being respectful in the communities you engage with, asking the hard questions, and working together to create space and supports for what these communities need. It is these communities that grant you the title of ally because you were willing to learn, to roll up your sleeves, to be humble, and never to assume you understood their experience. Never undervalue the importance and honour of that title.”
Valerie Pruegger retired from this role in 2019 July but continues D&I education and systems change through her consulting business Intercultural Interactions Inc.