NSB Logo Tanya (Toni) De Mello Tanya (Toni) De Mello

Tanya (Toni) De Mello


Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Leadership & Human Rights Expert

Tanya (Toni) De Mello is a human rights expert with a unique background in finance and economics, management consulting, and law. 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.

Keynote Speeches

Virtual Keynotes & Webinars
Contact us for more information about this speaker & their virtual presentations. Click here for some of the most popular formats for virtual events.

De Mello provides an extremely valuable interactive session on racism and how it is linked to current systems and institutions. Focusing on recent events, De Mello discusses anti-blackness, anti-indigeneity, islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Chinese racism.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a widespread phenomenon that causes people to doubt their accomplishments and generates a persistent fear that one doesn’t belong or will be exposed as a fraud. Feelings of inadequacy and insecurity often persist in spite of success, which can have harmful psychological impacts and influence one’s self-perception and mental health and well-being. This session will provide an overview of the imposter syndrome and its psychological and sociological roots, tools for recognizing it and practical tips and solutions for overcoming it.  

This presentation is also available in French. For more information, please click here.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion 101

This presentation covers the basics and engages staff and leaders to think about how to engage in a practical way to advance equity, diversity and inclusion as a shared responsibility.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to build an equitable and inclusive work space.
  • What inclusion looks like within an organization.
  • What diversity means to different people and perspectives that contribute to diversity.
  • Ways to improve retention.
  • Equality Vs. Equity.
  • Understanding what micro aggression looks like.
  • How being neutral isn’t neutral.
Women's Advancement

This program will explore concepts relating to equity for women, especially in terms of advancement.

Key Takeaways:

  • The “Why”: overview of current trends and call to action
  • Current stats on women’s compensation and the gender pay gap
  • The issues and career impact from sexual violence and harassment
  • Challenges that persist due to continued bias and discrimination facing women in business
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. 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.

This presentation is also available in French. For more information, please click here.

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.

Customized Presentations

De Mello also offers presentations in French. You can view a list of her French presentations here.

Audience reviews:

  • Hearing Tanya De Mello speak is always a treat. An expert in her field of human rights and social justice, she brings a precision and passion to every presentation. The only thing better than watching her in action, is watching the audience watch Tanya. Her talks wake people up and gets them thinking. - Former Head of News and Government, Twitter Canada
  • Tanya De Mello is an outstanding speaker who brings a big personal presence and inspiring approach to her remarks and training. She is also an award-winning equity and diversity advocate who meshes her firm principles with concrete experience in resolving human rights concerns. - Former Member of Parliament, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Faculty of Arts and Community Services, Ryerson University
  • 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

Speaker Biography

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 is a human rights lawyer, a member of the Ontario bar, and has served in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the World Food Programme in Geneva (Switzerland), Senegal (West Africa) and Columbia (South America). She was the Director of Human Rights at Ryerson, in the Office of the Vice President, Equity and Community Inclusion for 4 years before becoming the Assistant Dean, Student Programming, Development and Equity at Ryerson University Faculty of Law in 2020. 

She holds a dual Bachelor of Economics and Political Science from the University of Waterloo; a double Master in Public Policy and Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University; and a dual law degree from McGill University.  She recently successfully completed her PhD at the University of Toronto on bias in hiring where she examined recruitment and interview processes and focused on the fit interview where people say “This person would be a great fit for our company!” and she asked: “What does it mean to fit? Who fits? And who doesn’t?” She is considered an expert on equity and inclusion in Canada.

Tanya has experience creating curricula and advising on curricular reform that embeds equity, diversity and inclusion in courses. She has created innovative and award-winning practical experiential learning programs, and volunteer and work opportunities for students locally and internationally. Tanya has years of experience developing programs on issues of recruitment, retention and advancement of underrepresented groups in businesses and organizations across Canada and the US, with an additional focus on  the legal industry in Toronto.  She has 20 years of working in the postsecondary sector in governance, student affairs and admissions, and for the last 10 years, in human rights. 

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.