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Getting through the tough days in our EDI roles...

Attached image of Denise Young and Honourable Julia Gilliard

Article by Denise Young MAct who offers empowering Keynotes, Training and Facilitation services to a variety of organizations in areas of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Leadership and Communications Development

I had an opportunity to emcee and to be a presenter at the World Diversity in Leadership Conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

It was exciting to be in a room of inspiring speakers and a room where attendees and presenters were courageous in speaking of their experiences. I wanted to share some personal observations that stood out for me as it relates to those of us who are in this space.

Observation #1:

When I looked around the room it was 90% women and I “saw” diversity in the room. This was great and was empowering to be in a room of women leaders and changemakers BUT we need more men to attend these events as well. The majority of senior leaders are men therefore as the change needs to be driven and supported at the top, more men need to attend to deepen their understanding of the barriers that women and other underrepresented groups face.

Observation #2:

This work is tough and messy. Presenters shared their experiences of being in this space. Some days, I feel like giving up, other days I am inspired and motivated to keep going. Being around like minded people who understand this work and want to make the changes is important in your journey

Observation #3:

There were so many great presenters who shared different perspectives in this field. I was reflecting on the conference and as emcee, wanted to sum up what will keep us going in this field of constant uncomfortable conversations, feeling that our work is not moving forward to our expectations, being shut down etc. Three things emerged for me:

  1. Resilience: Dr. Cindy Blackstock is a member of the Gitksan First Nation with 25 years of social work experience in child protection and indigenous children’s rights. She spoke about her work to drive change with minimal movement from the government for over 15 years. This would make a lot of people want to walk away. What keeps her going, she stated “because children matter, this work matters”. This stood out for me as sometimes I get discouraged and think why does this have to be a fight everyday for some of us, but at the end of the day it is because it matters. This is what I have committed to keep thinking about on my hard days.

  2. Being Courageous. The former Prime Minister of Australia, Hon. Julia Gilliard shared with us a heartfelt story of her time of being Prime Minister. She shared the sexist comments, the threats and other harassment that she encountered prior and during her term. She had the room in tears but I also saw the courage in her. This had to take a lot of courage to continue to move forward and not just “run” away. It is women like this that are our role models and we can learn so much from. We need to have the courage to speak up and continue to work through the hard times.

  3. Professional Attitude: This work can make us angry and deflated. It is important to maintain a place of “what can we do” versus the negativity of “what is wrong” with this world. It is human for us to get into this negative headspace, why wouldn’t we, when doors are slammed in our faces constantly, and we care so much about this work? This is not to say we can’t discuss the hard stuff and vent nor is it about having a constant “positive outlook”. I saw a quote the other day on LinkedIN that resonated with me which sums up this point. It was along the lines of “I prefer to work with children over adults as their perspectives are fresh and solution based”.

Denise Young, CEO/Founder/Consultant: Tiger’s Eye Advisory Group. Denise creates collaborative work spaces where “everyone is at the table”. She has a Bachelor of Management and a Masters of Arts in Communication and Technology from University of Alberta. Reach out to Denise, if your organization is interested in EDI, Leadership or Communication Workshops, Keynotes or Facilitation Services.

Connect with Denise:

LinkedIN: Denise Young



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