UNB Alumni
Telling our #ProudlyUNB stories

The technology and science behind sustainable diversity and inclusion

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Nov 13, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton , Inspiring Stories , Computer Science

Michael Wright (BBA’96, BCS’99) says that lasting and meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts have to be about the science.

That’s why he and co-founder Dr. Leeno Karumanchery created MESH/Diversity, a New Brunswick-based company offering software grounded in behavioural science and data, tailored for forward-focused organizations who want sustainable culture change.

“The platform we’ve built leverages the power of behavioural science, providing organizations an outcome-based, metrics-driven DEI program,” Mike explains. “Leeno has worked in this field for over two decades and is widely respected as a thought leader in this space. We have systematized his learnings on a platform to help businesses scale their efforts for inclusive change that lasts.”

The platform tracks and analyzes metrics to find a baseline for organizations and identify trends and areas for improvement. Targets are then set, and organizations use the data, training content, and AI solutions within the platform to drive change throughout their workplace. “Good DEI is about so much more than counting heads and telling stories. It’s about weaving science, technology and business together to build an environment where there is unambiguous safety and belonging.”

Mike, who is the CEO of MESH/Diversity, has straddled business and technology ever since his days as a student at UNB. As the Woodstock, New Brunswick native was heading into his fourth year of the business undergraduate program in Fredericton in the mid-90s, he realized that the emerging technology – and consulting opportunities that came with it – were going to be huge. He transferred to a computer science degree and went right into the co-op program to gain work experience. “By the time I graduated in 1999, I had a business degree, computer science degree, 20 months of work experience and my first full-time job!”

Even though the next few years were impacted by the dot-com bubble burst and travel disruptions after 9/11, Mike did what he set out to do: work for a tech company travelling the world. He left New Brunswick but always ended up working remotely for New Brunswick-based companies, bridging business and technology to help bring products to life and to the marketplace.

Now living in Ontario, he’s doing the same with MESH/Diversity. “When I met Leeno, I learned he was one of the preeminent leaders in the DEI space globally and had been working on putting software around years of research on the behavioural science behind inclusion. I was intrigued, and we ended up working together to build a platform that could help workplaces create an environment where there is unambiguous safety and belonging.”

These days, Mike is spending some time back at his old stomping grounds at UNB. The Faculty of Computer Science, in partnership with the McKenna Institute, is initiating a pilot project with MESH/Diversity that will create an Inclusive Leadership program.

“When I did my CS degree in the late 90’s, there weren’t many women in the program. This project aims to effect change in not only gender balance in computer science but all aspects of diversity, equity and Inclusion, by giving students a deeper level of understanding as they head out into the world. The program will help faculty and staff develop this lens that will surely enrich their understanding of a diverse student population and each other.  It’s a phenomenal faculty and I’m excited and proud to be part of a project that helps elevate its profile even further. There’s no reason why UNB and New Brunswick can’t be a leader in the DEI space.”

Mike says that the positive impact this work has on people and organizations is why he loves what does. “Biases and racism are real, and often perpetuated by regular people participating in traditional systems every day and not even knowing it. Ambiguity in the workplace makes it tough for people to work to their best ability. Having an opportunity to change that – and create safe, completely inclusive environments is exciting. That’s when you get the best from people. That’s what drives me.”