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Tanya (Toni) De Mello

Leadership & Human Rights Expert

Tanya (Toni) De Mello is a human rights expert with a unique background in economics and finance. With experience working in both the private and nonprofit sectors, she has co-founded two NGOs and contributed to humanitarian aid work that took her to the United Nations.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Unconscious Bias/Implicit Bias
How do we create a more inclusive community in our workplace? De Mello shares that diversity and equity have become buzzwords in business, NGO and government sectors but in reality, organizations, including universities have fallen short of reflecting and representing the broader population within which they work. Research shows that a ‘sense of belonging’ is key to a sense of job satisfaction. Moreover, it can determine the retention of employees. Feeling like you belong, knowing that you will be included, seeing your work community as “your” community – matters. How do we create spaces that help achieve this sense of community and belonging? What may we be doing that hinders it? This session/speech will examine some of the ways in which we consciously and unconsciously include/exclude others. The goal of this session is to have participants better understand some of the biases they may be holding that affects their decisions, their team choices and dynamic and who they select, ranging from recruitment to performance evaluations to who is mentored and for what positions. This will be an introspective and challenging session. You will not leave with a sheet of answers and ‘how-tos’.

Key Takeaways:
• Understanding how we make choices & how we select.
• Actionable strategies for tackling unconscious bias.

Creating an Inclusive Workplace
De Mello, using 20 years of work experience in the private, non-profit and government sectors will explore the ways in which employees bring their ‘whole selves to work’. She will examine inclusion policies to help folks determine what has been working and where there are still major gaps. Her doctoral research and proven experience have shown that a ‘sense of belonging’ is key to a sense of job satisfaction. Moreover, it can determine the retention of employees. Feeling like you belong, knowing that you will be included, seeing your work community as ‘your’ community – matters. Diversity is not a goal to achieve, it’s a fact – workplaces have diversity present regardless of their efforts but inclusion is making a mix of people and backgrounds work.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
Conflict resolution and mediation How do we tackle difficult conversations and conflict in the workplace or in our communities? Research shows that 70% of Canadians are conflict avoiders. De Mello uses over 20 years of work experience in the private, nonprofit and government sectors to explore the ways in which we can learn to deal with conflict and confront it. She examines the gaps of formal mechanisms like investigations and complaint processes and explores the ways in which alternative dispute resolution and mediation can provide opportunities for understanding, growing and healing. She talks about the power of active listening and the peril of positions over interests. She shows the ways in which we can tackle conflict, so it doesn’t build up, and find mutually-agreeable resolutions to move forward.

Community & Civic Engagement 
De Mello delivers a motivational and practical speech about the ways in which folks can make a small contribution in their communities today. Often, we lament that we cannot be the Mother Teresa’s of the world and leave everything behind to take care of the sick and feed the poor. So, instead, we do nothing. De Mello offers a challenge to the audience to start small, start local and start today. She gives numerous examples from humanitarian aid to local charities where a small one-time contribution can make an enormous impact. She tackles the notion that civic engagement begins with community engagement—knowing our neighbours is the first step.


Ryerson University | President's Blue & Gold Award of Staff Excellence

McGill Faculty of Law | Charles D. Gonthier Award

University of Toronto | Excellence Through Innovation Award
  • Toni’s data driven, thoughtfully researched presentation provided a solid backbone for an excellent training session which engaged our entire firm. She was dynamic and positive, speaking with both humour and vulnerability in a way that resonated powerfully with our firm. What I did not expect, and what made all the difference, was Toni’s ability to go beyond the academic material and to engage with the individual members of our firm, disarming skeptics, engaging allies and creating an atmosphere where everyone felt that they could be part of positive action and could reflect further on equity and inclusion.

    - Chair of Goodmans LLP

Summary Profile

With over 20 years of experience coaching and consulting on diversity, equity and inclusion, Tanya moves conversations beyond the basics to dig deeper. She explores the nuances of everyday experiences and challenges in the workplace and in our communities. By moving past definitions and handouts to help folks wrestle with the material in their daily lives, her trainings move beyond transaction to transformational. When participants leave, they have strategies that will work for them, and take into account their current situations and limitations.

Tanya’s lectures focus on personal narrative, weaving together her work at the United Nations on three continents, in local and international big business and government services, and arguments at the family dinner table. In doing so, she creates an intimacy that allows participants to move forward in their learning. This style has led to praise for Tanya’s ability to give a keynote or training that all people can digest and apply almost immediately.