Florentien Verhage led the research team behind Racism in Greater Victoria: A Community Report. The research was supported by the Inter-Cultural Association (ICA) and the Greater Victoria Local Immigration Partnership (GVLIP). She shares her advice for what this means in business.
The Mask of Niceness
One major theme that came out of [the report] is the mask of niceness. People characterize Victoria as being kind and welcoming, but not inclusive. Sometimes under superficial friendliness we see there are huge problems in terms of microaggressions and straight-up racism.
What does this Mean for Businesses?
We need to make sure we understand what racism is and how it looks. There are some pieces of learning in the report — like the glossaries — to make sure people understand the jargon that’s out there. I really want to encourage business leaders to take their learnings from the report and figure out what that means in the context of their own sector. Look at what’s in your own business: What are your policies? What are your practices?
What the Data Tells Us
It is really important to realize that this is only a first step. There’s some specific information that we do not fully have access to yet. We can say people report that racism often happens in workplaces, which is consistent with the fact that’s where we spend most of our day. In terms of the data we have, we can’t spell out more deeply what’s going on — what shape and what types of racism are happening in workplaces.
Asking the Right Questions
Imagine that people [who have filed claims of racism in the workplace] really have cause to say they’re right. For a person experiencing racism in the workplace, these are huge intimidating steps to take. What can you do to make people feel that they’re listened to? As a business leader, are you protecting them? What can you do within all these systems? Is there a mediation system process that you have to follow? How can you make the mediation process such that this person feels better supported?
The ICA’s Tools for Equity homework guide is available now to prepare businesses for October uptake to the program which will offer training and coaching to develop long-term equity frameworks.
ROUNDTABLE: THE BUSINESS OF INCLUSION
On September 22 Douglas is hosting a roundtable discussion in partnership with ICA, bringing panelists together to discuss systemic workplace racism and how businesses can create inclusive cultures. It’s free to attend. For details and to register, click here.
In Demanding More: Why Diversity and Inclusion Don’t Happen and What You Can Do About It, Sheree Atcheson presents practical advice and real-life examples of racism, sexism and the lack of inclusivity in a range of workplaces. Her background directing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the tech sector gives her a lot to draw on, as does her own experience of being born in Sri Lanka and being adopted by a family in Northern Ireland.
Atcheson calls out the lack of awareness around privilege and unchecked and unconscious biases. She details what intersectionality does to feelings of discrimination and disadvantage. “Allyship” — taking ownership of the issues and standing up to biases or discrimination — is the solution she proposes, along with some very actionable tools and strategies, to make us all accountable to delivering change.
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