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Talking About Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Employee Spotlight on Graeme Cooke

Graeme Cooke is a Senior Advisor on Toronto Global’s Investment Attraction team, focusing on markets in the eastern United States, specifically the Midwest, Northeast, and Florida. Graeme started at Toronto Global in 2017. “I’m coming up on five years of being a member inclusionof the USA East Team, though two of those years were quite affected by the pandemic,” said Graeme. Graeme has supported companies from a broad spectrum of industries in their expansion to the Toronto Region, including HCL, Wayfair, Kistler, CRB and Quantiphi.

As a Senior Advisor, Graeme meets a wide variety of people through his work. “Interacting with people is such a major part of what we do,” said Graeme. “We meet so many interesting people doing interesting things. Whether they’re researchers from academic institutions or investors from ground-breaking companies, we have the opportunity to learn about what they’re doing. That’s what I like most, the range of people we get to meet.”

The most common question clients have for Graeme is what makes the Toronto Region stand out when compared to other global locations like New York or London. Although there is no language barrier when working with American clients, Graeme finds that determining the priorities of an organization is a skill in and of itself. “We have to speak in the client’s language to determine the information and connections that will be most useful to them, as often they don’t even know what they need to know when opening a new operation here,” said Graeme. 

It is Graeme’s responsibility to make companies looking to expand here aware of every detail, not only regarding what business is like, but the quality of life here as well. “They may have heard of Toronto, but the rest is up to us to ensure they’re aware of every benefit and opportunity for growing a business here.”

Graeme found ways to support his wellbeing while working through the pandemic, one of which was moving Downtown. “We bucked the trend a bit by moving even closer to the city, but the real benefit was a new apartment where my partner and I wouldn’t have to work across from each other at the same table sitting on barstools,” said Graeme.  

Graeme found that living in a new neighbourhood during the pandemic was a great chance to take walks outside and connect with the city. “Getting out into the community, and exploring the neighbourhood, whether just going for walks or supporting local businesses, helped us stay active and connected with the world outside our apartment.”

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Culture

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) means a lot to Graeme. “Whether at work, or in your day-to-day life, you never want to live in a bubble. Get out there and broaden your horizons. We live in the most diverse city in the world. This is an advantage that we should never take for granted,” said Graeme. 

Progress on equity and inclusion will not be solved naturally, but instead requires purposeful action and an effort to educate oneself on a personal and professional level. “It’s something that should be so obvious and simple that it’s valuable and worthwhile. You have to spend time and energy to make sure you’re meeting your goals and living the values you believe in, both individually and as an organization,” said Graeme.

“We promote diversity as an advantage of expanding to the Toronto Region. It’s one of the things that makes Toronto so special on the world stage, so it’s extra important for us to pay attention to it internally,” said Graeme.

A lack of diversity invites a host of different issues, one of which is an overall limited perspective. “As an organization, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not paying attention to this,” said Graeme. Alongside Toronto Global’s EDI committee, Graeme is committed to keeping these values in mind in the workplace. 

In the work that he does, most of the people he interacts with are American. “Culturally, there’s no country in the world more similar to Canada. Still, it’s important for companies to know that there are important differences they should be aware of,” said Graeme.

Graeme finds the most important factor in bridging different communities is to listen and keep an open mind. “There’s never a default right position. People come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and everyone has the right to express opinions and be heard. It’s beneficial to listen to all of these voices, not just the loudest ones,” said Graeme.

Outside of Toronto Global

Throughout the pandemic, Graeme found that spending time with family was very important to him. “Usually, the one time of year I get to spend a long period with my family back on Vancouver Island is around Christmas. But working remotely through a lot of the pandemic allowed me to spend a lot more time with family and friends in Victoria. It wasn’t all bad!”

Graeme moved to Toronto in 2013 after five years living in Montreal. Although Graeme enjoys returning to his hometown on the West coast, there are many celebrations that have made Toronto feel welcoming as his adopted home. “It was amazing to have Pride back in-person this year, it’s an event I always look forward to. Seeing people from all walks of life not just tolerate but celebrate the joy of diversity and freedom to live your authentic life, is such a great reminder of what makes this city special. Pride is Toronto at its best,” said Graeme. 

Celebrations are great, but Graeme feels it is the everyday special moments that have solidified his place in not only Toronto, but the whole Toronto Region. “There is a townhouse complex in Pickering where my partner’s Peruvian aunts and Sicilian grandparents live. We go there and get fed the best caponata, scaccia, alfajores, and ceviche you could ever imagine. It’s pretty hard to top that,” said Graeme.

After an evening in Pickering, Graeme and his fiancé return to their two frogs in their apartment downtown. Although they love their frogs – Webster and Phileas Frogg – they are looking forward to getting a dog soon.

What’s next?

Graeme looks forward to keeping an optimistic attitude toward work and life. “You’re in control of how you respond to things, so even when things get a little crazy it’s better to be positive,” said Graeme.

His favourite quotes are a tie between:
“Always look on the bright side of life,” – Monty Python and
“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better,” – Dalai Lama

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