Her Climb: Women of colour talk about leadership and resilience in a changing world.
By Shilpa Tiwari
In this podcast, Her Climb, we speak with women of colour about leadership. The strength, resilience, and unique perspective of these women has a hand in shaping the world we live in today, however all too often we don’t hear their voices or see them. Studies on women can group all women into one category, minimizing the unique experiences of women of colour. Through our conversations we begin to understand what diverse and inclusive leadership looks like and how we can begin to create organizations that make space for women of colour to lead.
While working in the corporate world Deborah had an experience with discrimination and a series of aggressions that left her feeling helpless. The experience impacted her mental health causing her to lose weight, creating anxiety and self-defeating thoughts. She learned the skills and acquired the tools she needed to successfully navigate the situation, but also knew not everyone is as fortunate. After a long successful career in the corporate world Deborah Owens left to start her organization - Corporate Alleycats to support professionals of colour navigate sticky situations.
The US has Kamala Harris, we have Annamie Paul, the first Black leader of a major political party in Canada. Annamie has been an advocate for environmental and social justice from an early age, whether she was stuffing envelopes with her mother for the local MP or working as page in the Ontario Legislature at age of 12 -she believed in actively participating civic action. Today we learn more about Annamie and the plans she has for. much needed change.
Conversations about the need for a more diverse and inclusive corporate Canada are not new - we have been having them for years, with not much changing. But recent anti-racism protests have placed the corporate realm under increased scrutiny.
While making charitable contributions to organizations committed to serving diverse groups and supporting events that celebrate our vibrant and diverse communities are important, they are starting points not the end state. We cannot brush off the hard, roll-up-your-sleeves, long-term work of creating a diverse workplace where all employees can bring their full selves to work, be engaged and have a sense of belonging. To do this we need data, useful data, and an understanding of data analytics- only then can begin to develop meaningful programs and strategies for change.
In this episode Miranda McKie and I talk data and artificial intelligence as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion. Both Miranda and I have worked in large corporations and seen first had the ad hoc approach do diversity and inclusion, the absence of data or an understanding of how to use data to identify opportunities, manage risks and hold leaders accountable.
When I read Amara’s article on Medium “I survived abuse, the shelter system and city politics. The thing that broke me? Being Black in Corporate Canada” I thought of the courage it takes to speak up, and yes, corporate Canada can really break people of colour.
“People of colour are an engine of Canada’s economy, yet they continue to face some of the workplace’s most entrenched hurdles, such as near invisibility in top leadership roles, pay inequities, and discrimination”.
Amara is not only courageous; she is a force destined to make big change in the world. In this week’s podcast Amara and I talk about the curve balls that life has thrown her way, micro-aggression in the workplace, and leadership that fosters diverse teams and an inclusive culture.
What corporate functions do you think have the least diversity in senior roles.
Some of you might find it surprising that Sustainability is one of them…people of colour who have spent years advancing sustainability are not so surprised. There are an increasing number of people of colour in junior or mid-level roles, however they aren't moving into senior sustainability roles and the very few that do make it into these coveted roles are often not given the support, resources or the space required to succeed.
Heather Mak Co-Founder of the not for profit Diversity in Sustainability and Principal Advisor at Heather Mak Consulting about efforts increase diversity in sustainabiliey and why this is important an initiative.
Although there is no difference in performance between funds with diverse and non-diverse management when controlled for factors like fund size and geographic focus, a study conducted by Illumen Capital and Stanford found that investors still had a preference for funds with white leadership over high-performing funds led by people of colour. And guess what? The sad reality is that leadership in impact investing, investing for social and environmental impact in additional financial return, mirrors traditional investing. Narinder Dhami talks to us about being the first female of colour in a Managing Director role at an impact fund in Canada and how the “doing good” world has a long way to go in terms of creating diverse and inclusive leadership.
At the age of 17, Fatima Zaidi moved to Toronto from Oman and start her first year of university. After graduating with a degree in HR from University of Toronto she moved on to HR roles in a number of Toronto based corporations. Tenacious and quick thinking it didn’t take her long to realize a slow placed, bureaucratic corporate environment where success is rarely tied to merit wasn’t for her. Fatima needed to make a move; it was time to pivot. Her next move …a start-up …and she’s never looked back since, her career sky rocketed, and she is now the Co-Founder and CEO of Quill.
On our episode today Fatima talks to us about her career and barriers that women of colour face when entering the start up world.
In episode 3 of the Her Climb podcast Sandeep Tatla and I talk about diversity and inclusion in corporate Canada. First there was the business case, followed by targets for gender diversity, and now organizations are ready to talk about race. Terms like #blacklivesmatter and social justice are making their way into boardrooms. In fact, Globe and Mail recently published an article, “Canadians increasingly seeking stances on social issues from their employers”. We also talk about conforming to fit in - what it takes for BIPOC survive and/or thrive in corporations.
This leaves one thinking what kind of engagement does a corporation get when employees have to leave behind or shed a fundamental part of who they are?
As a former Indian Residential School student (Lebret IRS) and foster kid (Sixties/Seventies Scoop) Myrna has become passionate about educating lawyers, judges and police officers on Indigenous intergenerational and direct trauma as well as trauma-informed practice because she holds a deep awareness of how our justice system unnecessarily fails and traumatizes victims of crimes. Myrna and I talk about her career trajectory from working as a Crown prosecutor to now having her own law practice - Miyo Pimatisiwin Legal Services. We also talk about what it takes to create inclusive organizations in which people have a deep sense of belonging. Thank you for joining us.
Adeola Adebayo is a Director in Global Credit Team at OMERS Capital Markets. Her Climb wasn't short, easy or direct - immigrating from Nigeria to the UK, and then Uk to Canada, there were many "no's" and even more doors that were tightly shut with "do not enter" in bold invisible ink scrawled on the front before she finally got her break. Adeola and I talk about first failures, resilience, and dealing with discrimination in our very first episode of Her Climb. Thank you for joining us!
Here's the thing women of colour are qualified and ambitious, yet they are the most underrepresented group in organizations. Why is that?
Starting this September 2020, join me Shilpa, as we talk to women of colour who are change makers and trailblazers, LEADERS. We ask hard questions to understand what needs to happen for organizations to make space for the unique experiences and perspectives women of colour bring to the table. Episode by episode, we unpack what types of changes are required to create diverse and inclusive organizations and communities — so that we build the future we want. I can't wait for you to meet these extraordinary women, because without their voices we can't make meaningful change. And we need change.