President and COO, Leddartech
When Frantz Saintellemy joined Leddartech, the Quebec-City based autonomous-vehicle technology company had 30 employees and was focused mainly on research. Five years later, it has offices in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and a diverse workforce of more than 200 employees.
Diversity in all its forms, Saintellemy said, has been a non-negotiable part of Leddartech’s growth, as well as one of its key drivers.
“We try in everything we do to bring diversity into the discussion. Diversity in thinking, diversity in the perception ... to create an environment where the best ideas are more relevant.”
Saintellemy, who heads day-to-day operations at Leddartech while also building and executing on corporate strategy, said the company does not set firm hiring targets for traditionally under-represented groups, but caters its recruitment policy to pull in prospective employees who are not just diverse themselves, but comfortable working in an inclusive environment.
“What we want is even if we have one person of colour, that person belongs, period.”
Saintellemy said setting quotas for diversity can have unintended consequences, such as diverse employees who “deserve to be there” questioning the value of their contributions — an experience he has gone through firsthand in the past.
“We definitely don’t want that. What we want is for people to recognize that diversity wins, diversity brings value.”
With Leddartech offices in regions as culturally disparate as Quebec City, Israel and Germany, building inclusiveness into the company’s DNA has been necessary as opposed to optional, Saintellemy added, but it has also helped the company “see the world differently.”
Leddartech recently formally placed diversity among its key values, while building a “diversity and equity mission” into its strategic plan, Saintellemy said.
“From the board [of directors], to investors, all the way down to the employee base, everyone’s aligned on the same strategy of how [diversity] and [equity] creates value for all.”
For Saintellemy, the reward of creating an inclusive environment across the automotive tech company is second to none.
“Of all the things that we have done at Leddartech, creating that sense of belonging, this is for me, the most important impact.”
Along with being a key driver of DEI within Leddartech, Saintellemy co-founded Groupe 3737 in 2012. The nonprofit now operates 12 locations across Canada and employs more than 40 people, providing support tools and mentorship to immigrants and those from underprivileged backgrounds working to build a business in Canada.
Too often, Saintellemy said, skilled immigrants come to Canada only to have their expertise go to waste because their credentials or employment history are not recognized. By providing services such as financing and networking, Groupe 3737 is creating a “win-win” for both upstart businesses and the Canadian economy, he said. It also helps entrepreneurs — both immigrants and those from underrepresented groups — reach their financial potential, he added.
“True diversity, the true inclusion, is financial inclusion. Being confident that you can eat, that you have a place to sleep and live.