Tag Archives: Diversity

Systemic Racism in many forms…even dolls!

27 Jul
Last week in Calgary, a woman was shopping for dolls for her children at Toys R Us and made a startling discovery – the “dark skinned” doll was priced lower than it’s “lighter skinned” counterpart (those are the words from the CTV new report).toys r us dolls
Image from: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/toys-r-us-says-doll-pricing-discrepancy-due-to-an-operational-error-1.2997459

So, that’s a problem.

The woman was horrified and called the manager who told her that they were aware of the issue, and had already taken it to corporate (where pricing is set).

Also a problem.

The price has since been noted as an operational error and corrected – both dolls are priced at $22.99 (the lower price).

I’m going to go with the operational error explanation – but here’s what comes up for me.

Corporate knew about it, and did nothing until someone complained.
How many other people were in that store, looking for dolls, and didn’t say anything? And why is that?
I’m going to argue that it’s because we have a deep bias that dark skin colour lowers value. And not just in toys….

Then, let’s think about this:
If a Black woman had complained, what would this have looked like?
Often when people of colour advocate for themselves around issues of racism, we are seen as:

  • taking things too personally
  • being too sensitive
  • having an agenda
  • and let’s not forget the “angry Black woman” stereotype!

So I would bet that if a Black woman had raised the issue, we at the very least wouldn’t have the same news coverage.

And why do I say if?
Because many people probably picked up that doll and said nothing. And some of those people were likely people of colour. Over time, when you are inundated with messages about your worth (or lack thereof) you begin to believe it. So I use if, because raising the issue would mean that they would expect something to be done – and that’s an expectation that (sadly) I’m not sure is always realistic.

Allies are important. They shine lights on issues of injustice and exclusion in a way that often makes it possible for the mainstream to hear and take notice.

But in that noticing, there is a bigger issue for us to come to terms with – we live in a society where some people are not seen as equal.
Not really.
And that needs to change, no matter whose voice is shouting it from the rooftops.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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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.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
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Radio Show Host – Creating Families
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Why the Oscars are White

21 Jan

Last year was the first year I remember there being a wide unrest about the “colour” of the Oscars. Hashtags abounded. This year, there has been a stir as well – including an amazing video by Jada Pinkett Smith where she talks about it maybe being time to stop asking to be included, because it makes us small.

Here are a few thoughts, from my D&I lens:

The Oscars are white because that’s how bias and unconscious bias work. The colour (and gender) of the nominees (and the winners) should come as no surprise given that the Academy is 93% white, 76 percent male and an average age of 63 (stats taken from an article in Toronto’s Metro News from Friday January 15, 2016).

I’m not saying it’s ok, I’m just saying it makes sense. Here’s why.

First, the age. People in their 60’s were born in the 1950’s. The U.S. civil rights movement was beginning, but it took time for people to see each other as equal. We’re still working on it, by the way.

So when we consider this, it’s no surprise that 93% of the people they attract and bring into the Academy are white. In addition to personal bias, unconscious bias means that we lean towards (figuratively) people who we even think we have something in common with (to read more, check out Blind Spot). Skin colour is obvious, so it can be a powerful common denominator. Same for gender.

What I’m saying then, is that unless the people inside the Academy change, the nominees aren’t likely to change, and the winners aren’t likely to change to be reflective of the population and the vast talent among non-white and female actors. Unless the Academy becomes more diverse (and inclusive) that vast talent will not be recognized, simply because actors of colour and female actors will just not be on the radar in the same way, with the same respect and true recognition. Their work will not be valued or appreciated in the same way. They will be seen, but not really noticed.

Sometimes we need to start something new, because there are too many barriers to progress in the way things have always been. Who says the Oscars have to continue to tell us the who’s who of Hollywood? That’s another example of taking on “the way it is” without asking questions (like “why?” and “who says so?”). Maybe we could, as Jada Pinkett Smith suggested, rethink how we value diversity and DO something about it, rather than complaining about what isn’t happening.

Just saying.

See more.

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

Radio Show Host – Creating Families


Board Diversity – Congratulations Macy’s

1 Sep

Macy’s has one of the most diverse Board of Directors in America. Probably North America.

While much attention is being paid to the gender disparity in boards (most Directors are male), we should also be looking at other areas of diversity – like race, culture, age, etc. All of these identities (and more) factor into the vast pool of experience and perspective that a Board member can bring to the table – and ultimately to how an organization succeeds.

Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren has taken steps to have not only equal gender representation on his board, but also has African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic-American representation, along with a variety of ages and key skills like technology and finance.

He is clear  that his choices benefit the company because they provide insight into Macy’s client base, as well as offering key areas of expertise. NOT just because of their gender, race, culture, etc. This is a rabbit hole that many organizations fall into that Lundgren has expertly sidestepped by being clear about what people and their diversity of experiences, identities and perspectives can offer.  He is quoted in the article I read as saying that diversity on his board has  “without a doubt become a tremendous advantage”. That’s likely because they are not just sitting there looking good, but are valued and heard as they contribute to discussions and decisions.

One last thing that came to light in this article very nicely is that not everyone on his board is a CEO. The pool for female CEOs is small, as it is for non-White CEOs – for reasons of systemic inequity. By looking outside the traditional pool – while maintaining clarity around the value people can offer to his Board and therefore his company – Lundgren has assembled a powerfully diverse group.

When the people who help you make decisions reflect the clients and customers you serve (and your staff), as well as offering you value, it’s bound to be a win-win – IF the table they sit around is inclusive, and their voices are heard and matter to the decision making process.

Read the full article, which has more stellar points!

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copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker | Workshop Facilitator | Consultant | Author on issues of diversity and inclusion.

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).

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

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?

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

A Few Lessons about Racism from 2014

3 Jan

Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York:

– As long as the unconscious bias is that Black males are a threat, police officers (and others) will keep feeling that they have to use extreme force to protect themselves – even in situations where it seems clear that there is no threat.
– Case in point: Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner’s death (caught on video) in Staten Island, New York.
– Because of this unconscious bias, and the resulting systemic racism, racial profiling is alive and well, and also easy to get away with (as evidenced in both cases cited above) – because those called upon to make judgments about it are also victim to the same unconscious bias.
– Although I heard reporters say things like “Thank God that isn’t happening here” – it is. We have a smaller population, and maybe it’s not quite as insidious, but make no mistake, racial profiling is alive and well north of the border too.

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling:

– One of the results of systemic racism is that someone can own a team with Black basketball players (and make money from their skill), and even sleep with someone of colour, but not want to socialize with Black people – and not see an issue with that.
– This reminds me of slavery: when Black people were property, and a means to generate wealth and status, but were not considered people.

Black Pete:
– In the Netherlands and Belgium, protests erupted over Saint Nicholas’ side-kick Black Pete. Faithful fans don’t see the depiction (black face, a frizzy wig and bright red lipstick) as racism. Their opponents disagree.
– “Cultural tradition” is how it is explained and how efforts made to preserve it are justified. This is true, but it’s the culture of colonization that created a black skinned figure that traditionally was to be feared by children. Have we not evolved?
– As countries become more diverse due to immigration, what’s the impact on people of colour who see these traditions, and on the populations of white children who learn them? Is it any wonder that xenophobia is alive and well?

In 2015, I hope we can continue to have courageous conversations about systemic racism that shed light on how people of colour are perceived and misrepresented in the media, and the ripple effects of this on policies, practices, and on how we treat each other – so that we can make real change.

See more.

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

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