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Five Questions With: Ogho Ikhalo, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Hydro One

She believes the impetus is on leaders to use their title to champion positive change, foster inclusivity, and address systemic inequalities

Ogho Ikhalo (she/her) is an award-winning diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist, a professional strategic communicator, a social justice activist, and a community advocate. Ogho currently serves as a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with Hydro One, where she is leading efforts to develop, enhance and execute the strategy, roadmap, and programming to propel diversity, equity, and inclusion and attract and retain top talent across the organization.

Ogho has 15+ years of experience providing C-Suite strategic communication advice, diversity, equity and belonging training, issues management and media relations support on complex and often contentious issues. Prior to her current position, Ogho was the youngest and third woman of colour to serve as Director of Women’s and Human Rights with the Ontario Federation of Labour. A former broadcast journalist, Ogho holds a master’s degree in strategic communications from Washington State University, a Sociology and Communications degree from York University and a Broadcast Journalism diploma from Seneca College.


What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a leader? How has this shaped your leadership style and how you navigate being a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with Hydro One?

The most significant lesson I have learned as a leader is the profound importance of empathy. Empathy has been the guiding light of my leadership journey, shaping my approach to fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment within our organization and beyond.

In my current role, empathy has taught me to actively listen to the voices of those who have historically been marginalized to understand their plight and perspectives. It allows me to better connect with my colleagues, recognizing their unique experiences and challenges. Through empathy, I have learned and aim to lead by example, demonstrating the respect and support essential for building an inclusive workplace.

Empathy also drives me to educate and advocate for diversity and inclusion, encouraging others to see the value in embracing differences and working toward equity. It has shaped my leadership style, emphasizing collaboration, open communication, and creating brave, welcoming spaces while helping me advance Hydro One’s commitment to a more equitable and diverse future for all employees, stakeholders, and the community it serves.

I have long recognized that it is not enough to hold a leadership title. I think the impetus is on you to use your title to champion positive change, foster inclusivity, and address systemic inequalities. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” This quote resonates deeply with me and serves as a reminder that genuine leadership is not defined by the ease of our position but by our ability to rise to the occasion when faced with adversity and controversy.


Can you discuss a specific project or initiative you’re particularly proud of and how it has made a difference in the lives of those you serve?

I have been incredibly fortunate, thus far, to work on impactful projects and initiatives in my career. The one that jumps to mind when this question is posed to me is my contribution to a collective labour action called #DefundthePolice. By the title, readers can decipher the political nature and intent of the initiative.

After George Floyd’s murder, while in police custody in May 2020, there was an increased call by community members to address the senseless violence and brutality against Black and Indigenous people at the hands of police that have long existed across Turtle Island. The killings of Black, Indigenous, and racialized people — including the nine police-involved killings witnessed by Canadians in early 2020 alone — brought many members of society to their breaking point. In New Brunswick, for instance, Chantel Moore, an Indigenous Canadian woman, was killed by police during a wellness check. South of Canada’s borders, Eric Garner and George Floyd, both Black men, took their last breaths prematurely at the hands of police violence, and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old was killed by police while sleeping in her bed.

Defund the police was a collective cry heard from around the world rooted in fighting for freedom, liberation, justice, and protection for Black and Indigenous lives. However, the growing movement meant different things to different people and needed to be better defined and contextualized within provincial communities. In my capacity as director of women’s and human rights within a provincial labour body at the time, I collaboratively organized a Black History and African Liberation Month webinar — amid a global health pandemic — to enable a candid conversation on “What the heck Defund the Police Means.” The community event, which organizers and partners thought would attract 100 or so participants, welcomed more than 1,000 registrants from across Turtle Island.

I was immensely proud of this initiative because it demonstrated the power of community, collaboration, and the collective. On a personal level, I had just returned to work after a six-month maternity leave. I was filled with doubts about my abilities as a woman, let alone the intersectionality (the multiple dimensions) of my identity, returning to the workforce. Simply put, I had an acute case of imposter syndrome during this period of my life. Being part of the Defund the Police initiative and delivering this webinar for my organization and its partners, proved to me that I am capable of being part of and driving the change I want to see in the world.


What role does diversity, inclusion, and equity play in the success and effectiveness of organizations? How can more women and gender-diverse individuals be encouraged to take leadership positions in their sector?

Diversity, inclusion, and equity are the cornerstones of a thriving, forward-thinking organization. They play a pivotal role in shaping the success and effectiveness of any enterprise. A diverse workforce brings together people from various backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. This rich tapestry of perspectives acts as a breeding ground for innovation and creativity. When individuals with different viewpoints collaborate, they generate fresh ideas and unique solutions that can set a company apart in the marketplace.

Additionally, inclusive, and equitable workplaces create an environment where every individual feels valued and respected. This, in turn, fosters higher levels of employee engagement. When people believe their contributions are acknowledged and appreciated, they are more motivated and committed to their work. Research has shown that organizations that prioritize diversity and equity are attractive to a wide array of potential employees. I must stress that diversity, inclusion, and equity should not simply be checkboxes to mark or quotas to fulfill; they are critical components of a winning strategy. A workplace that embraces these principles becomes a beacon of progress, attracting top talent, fostering innovation, and achieving remarkable results. It’s a testament to the power of harnessing the collective strength of every individual, regardless of their background, to drive an organization towards success and effectiveness.

Encouraging women and gender-diverse individuals to take leadership positions requires deliberate efforts to remove barriers, provide support, and create a workplace culture that values and promotes their contributions. Organizations must provide the right support, resources, and opportunities, including mentorship and sponsorship, flexible work policies, bias awareness and mitigation, and brave spaces to foster community, confidence, and resilience. By recognizing the incredible potential and talent women and gender-diverse individuals bring to the table, we can create a more diverse and inclusive leadership landscape that benefits everyone and drives progress in our sectors and society at large. Remember, their leadership is an asset, not just for them, but for the organizations they serve.


What are some key skills or qualities that are crucial for women and gender-diverse persons aspiring to leadership roles? Are there any specific experiences or opportunities that you recommend seeking out?

I subscribe to Michelle Obama’s school of thought that; “There is no limit to what we, as women {and gender-diverse persons}, can accomplish.” Undoubtedly, there will be setbacks and obstacles on the road to leadership. I have yet to meet any leader who has not encountered personal, professional, systemic/societal challenges and barriers on their journey. However, resiliency — albeit difficult at times — is a critical quality for any aspiring leader, specifically for women and gender-diverse persons and those with intersecting identities. Without resilience, it will be — and is — hard to bounce back from adversity and learn from failures.

I will reiterate that I lean on empathy, which I believe helps a leader understand and better relate to the needs and perspectives of others. Empathy is not always an easy or natural skill to have. I try to check myself and remember that empathy, giving a listening ear even when you don’t have the answers, is crucial for building trust and fostering collaboration.

I will also stress that leadership, at least the type of leader I choose to be, often involves taking risks, standing up for what’s right, and speaking out. On my ongoing leadership journey, I continue to learn that leadership is about speaking up, stepping up, and using your voice to advocate for change, which takes courage. It is scary as heck sometimes. At times, you get tired and incredibly frustrated of being the only voice, the only one saying something or seemingly taking action. I have learned from another fierce woman leader that being the ‘only’ is your superpower rather than a stereotype. Be the ‘only’ and be the change.

I was raised by a brilliant academic whom I credit for encouraging me to be a lifelong learner. It could also be the journalist in me, but I want to know what is going on and be on the pulse of change. Frankly, the world is constantly and rapidly changing, and I think it is critical for us as a collective to stay informed and constantly seek new knowledge so we can be more adaptable and open to new ideas and approaches. How do you learn and grow? In mentoring aspiring leaders, I encourage them to build a strong professional network, which can open doors to opportunities and support. Consider serving on boards or committees in your industry or community. These positions provide valuable leadership experience and networking opportunities. Additionally, take courses and training, and attend conferences and seminars to upskill yourself. One of my favourite online learning platforms is Coursera, which afforded me access to a course called ‘Indigenous Canada.’ This course offered a wealth of valuable insight and knowledge on the complex experiences and rich history of Turtle Island’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit ancestry.

I will caution that the path to leadership is not linear, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Embrace your unique strengths and qualities, and never underestimate the impact you can make.


What excites you about the future?

I am excited to watch my two young Black sons grow up into brilliant, strong, and resilient change-makers, but what excites me the most is that perhaps one day, my two sons will be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I dream of that day.