Archive | Creating Inclusive Spaces RSS feed for this section

Inclusion Means Everyone

10 Mar

Last week at the Cities of Migration conference in Toronto, one of the panelists was Rachel Peric – the Deputy Director of Welcoming America. She and the organization were introduced as having helped to turn hostile communities into welcoming ones, which of course caught my attention right away. When Rachel spoke, she mentioned the personality of a welcoming city: equity, opportunity and inclusion.


These are components that can be applied to an organization or a corporation (or any other structure) to create a welcoming environment where people feel a sense of belonging.

Equity asks us to look at and consider people’s needs, power and access to resources, information, and opportunity – and address the imbalance so everyone can participate fully.

Opportunity is not just about what is available, but about being able to access it.

And inclusion is about bringing people into the conversation, creating a space for participation and to be seen and heard, and using the information that comes out of that space to create something new together – whether it’s a community, a city, an organization, or a corporation.

One of the things that Rachel said that stood out most for me was the importance of empathy for all involved, and that these three components of a welcoming city’s personality apply everyone. She made specific reference to the people who are already living in a city that is becoming a welcoming city, who are feeling left out and marginalized. How do we welcome others, when some of the current citizens don’t feel they belong?

It’s a powerful question. And it echoed the question someone asked at the conference about the attention paid to assisting new immigrants and (specifically now) the Syrian Refugees coming to Canada when our Aboriginal/First Nations populations continue to deal with poverty, lack of access, and discrimination on many levels. Our Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said he believes we can chew gum and walk at the same time – that both is possible. Too often, however, we look to who is coming and forget who is already there. We look to who we want to attract, welcome, include and in so doing alienate others.

Inclusion means everyone.
When we commit to it, we make a big circle around all involved and we find ways to see and acknowledge who people are, what they need, and what they have to offer – and we move forward together with these things in mind so that everyone feels a sense of belonging and can contribute to making the city, community, organization or corporation a better place – for everyone.

See More.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
Interested in how the power of inclusion can transform your organization? Send me an email!

Radio Show Host – Creating Families
Have a story to tell or want to advertise? Please get in touch!


The usefulness of identity-based groups

7 Jan

Questions about identity-specific groups often come up when we talk about inclusion. These could be based on race, sexual orientation, age etc. Identity-based groups are often viewed with caution and the accusation of exclusion. Afterall, we don’t want to go “backwards”.

I’d like to suggest they are often necessary and helpful when creating meaningful change.

Many companies have Employee Resource Groups based on identity (LGBT, women, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities), and often they include allies. Many schools have GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) but they too usually include allies.
Allies are important.
And sometimes it helps to have an identity-only group or meeting. Here’s why:

Sometimes we need to be exclusive to get to the heart of an issue, to allow people the space to really share how they feel, and to ultimately support inclusion.

Marginalized groups (people of colour, LGBT people, people with (dis)abilities, etc) don’t often have the opportunity to speak amongst themselves about issues that impact them within a forum that can make an difference (I’m not talking about a gripe session over lunch). And it can be hard to have a frank conversation about race and racism, homophobia, ableism, etc or just the reality of being a person of colour, gay, or living with a disability (etc) in our societies, because we often have to manage the emotions of white, straight, or able-bodied (etc) people – from ignorance to guilt to outrage. Managing those emotions undermines the conversation – and the possibilities they can help to create.

We see and experience the world differently because of our identities (like race, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, etc).
We are impacted by systems and society differently because of our identities (like race, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, etc).
In an identity-based group, we can talk about things frankly, without having to explain, apologize, or take care of others.

In a work setting, and as a part of creating change and a more inclusive environment, identity-based conversations can help to surface issues we may not hear elsewhere, and give us clues to deeper issues. It can be a tool to help people feel safe enough to share what’s going on for them, what’s important, what they are concerned about (things we may otherwise not hear about). This information can help to address an issue or move an organization forward.

Identity-based groups aren’t meant to keep us separate, but to ultimately help us move closer together, by creating greater understanding.

For marginalized identities, these opportunities are more important than for dominant identities (white, straight, able bodied, etc), because dominant identities carry power and privilege that one taps into no matter who else is in the room. Power and privilege give people the safety and the permission to speak up (and be heard), no matter what.

Just in case some of you are thinking that I’m advocating for segregation, that’s not at all what I’m saying. The opportunity to speak with and share ideas (and even more importantly, concerns) with people we share a marginalized identity with can be an important component to help create meaningful change. Creating a forum to hear voices that are often silent (and silenced), and using that information to inform change and raise awareness in a broader context can help to create environments where everyone is heard, seen and valued for who they are and what they bring – and where the biases and unconscious biases that filter in and create experiences and systems of inequity are seen and addressed.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families

When it’s just not that funny…

21 Aug

We’ve all had the experience of making a comment that was intended to be funny, but that didn’t land that way.
Even among friends who we routinely joke with, sometimes we cross a line we didn’t intend to. Sometimes because we didn’t know it was there, or because we weren’t paying attention, or we should have known better, or something has changed, or they are having a rough day.

Whatever the reason, and whomever it is with, when it happens we feel awkward and uncomfortable – and we may wish we could take it back – or even disappear.

But the words are out, so now what?

Apologies go a long way.
Saying “I’m sorry” in person (not over text or email) and meaning it is a great first place to start. (We’re trying to teach that to our 3 year old right now!) It shows that you have seen and acknowledge the impact, and the person.

Then what?
Last week’s challenge from my coach was about how we treat our mistakes.
Do we use them as opportunities to learn? Good point!

So what can you learn from such a faux-pas?
What was it about what you said that hurt?
If you don’t know, find out. Learn from the mistake so you grow in awareness and can make a different choice next time.
Why did you think it would be funny? Ask yourself. Find out.

Of course talking about it can be challenging. But when we do, we connect with someone else; we get to know them a little better and they get to know us a little better too. And looking inside and asking ourselves some questions can also be challenging. But we get to know ourselves a little better.

Both are important for creating inclusive spaces.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, Consultant, and Author on issues of Diversity & Inclusion (new website!)

A Diversity Allegory

7 May

This week I heard a story that sparked my D&I interest.

It’s about insects, but bear with me, it’s a great allegory for D&I!

If you put bees and flies into a glass jar and put the bottom of the open jar against the window (so the open end is away from the window) on a sunny day, what do you think happens?

Apparently (and I haven’t tested this, so I’m going on faith that the story teller did their research), the bees move towards the light. That’s what their DNA tells them is the right thing to do. The flies on the other hand, don’t have a “go to the light” instinct, and fly around all over the jar (noisily, maybe annoyingly). Eventually the flies find the opening, and away they go. The bees stay collected at the closed end, still trying to get to the sunlight.

What’s the moral of the story?

I’m sure there are many, but here’s one: If we get stuck in “what we know” and don’t let others contribute their knowledge and insight, we might miss an innovative solution, a creative idea, a different path. Working with others can be challenging – annoying even – but diversity, innovation and creativity are linked – if the environment supports it.

You may never sees flies in the same light again (pun intended).

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator and Author on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.

Mother’s Day – while celebrating inclusion

30 Apr

Thanks to my toddler I’ve had some interesting conversations with her Daycare teachers recently about being inclusive of all types of families.

They are a great daycare and a super team, and don’t mean to be exclusive – in fact, they regularly remind the kids if they are fighting over who gets to be the mommy or the daddy that there can be TWO mommies or daddies. It’s a great start (and a big improvement over when I was a kid) but there is more to including all types of families.

And then there is Mother’s and Father’s day! What do we do about those?!

So, I decided to create a short webinar.
It’s designed for childcare providers, but anyone can join if it’s a topic that interests you.

It’s tomorrow (Friday May 1) at 11:30EST and it’s only 20 minutes. Plus it’s FREE!

you can sign up here:

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator and Author on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.

Check out my new blog:

What gets us into trouble…

11 Feb

On the weekend I was reminded of a great quote by Mark Twain:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Although I would argue that what we don’t know can get us into trouble, the second half is particularly insightful when talking about diversity and inclusion.

Think about it:
What do we think we know for sure about people who are “not like us” that we then use as truth to interpret and judge their behaviour – and to determine our behaviour, decisions and language towards them?

“What we know for sure that just ain’t so” is about unconscious bias.
And the tricky thing about unconscious bias is the unconscious part.
Notice Mark Twain didn’t say it’s what you think you know for sure that just ain’t so, he said it’s what you KNOW for sure.
Sadly, if we know it for sure, we’re not likely to check to see if we are correct.

What do you “know for sure” about someone in your office, gym, class, neighbourhood, family, household, etc. And how might it be getting you into trouble?

See more

copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

Freedom of Speech and Diversity

15 Jan

In the wake of the events in Paris, I’m thinking about freedom of speech.

I’m not a cartoonist or a journalist.
But what I do know is that it is a lot easier to make fun of, criticize, demean, or negatively highlight something or someone when they are “not like me”.

It’s easier to point fingers, to think of something as “odd”, “weird”, “unfair” or even “funny” when one doesn’t have the inside perspective, understanding or context.
That is why gay jokes are still heard in the workplace and at school, and the attempted suicide rates for transgender youth are even higher than their lesbian, gay and bisexual peers. As two examples.

With this in mind, who are we talking about, pointing fingers at, or ridiculing the most? It’s definitely not the “dominant” group in society. That is where the privilege and power lie, and those things afford some protection from public ridicule, scrutiny and attempts at humour at one’s expense. No one is telling straight white able bodied male jokes at the office. For example.

I think that freedom of speech brings with it a responsibility to examine (or at least be willing to) what we don’t know about a situation, belief, culture, or person and consider the impact that our often uninformed and always biased words and opinions have on others.

Maybe if we did that, the world would be a safer and kinder place.

See more.

copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

%d bloggers like this: