Tag Archives: inclusion

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
Interested in how the power of inclusion can transform your organization? Send me an email!

Radio Show Host – Creating Families
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I am NOT Black…video comments

9 Nov

New Canadian Federal cabinet aside (more on that later) I have to comment on Prince Ea’s video (I am NOT Black, you are not White) that is making the rounds on social media.

It’s a lovely sentiment. I hate labels too.
And if you are White, chances are you love this video. We have been taught that being “colour blind” is a good thing.
But here is the problem with not seeing skin colour in a world where racism is alive and well (systemic and individual):

We are not always treated equally based on skin colour.
Look around: driving while Black, carding by police, disproportionate numbers of Black (and Aboriginal) kids in the child welfare system, H&M not wanting to include Black people in their South African advertising (more on that later too!). The list goes on.

Because of this, erasing my colour when you look at me doesn’t work because it fools us into thinking we are treated equally. And it makes it even harder to talk about (and rectify) the injustice, the prejudice, the discrimination. People are treated differently (negatively) because their skin is not White, or their skin is darker.
It happens all over the world, and is a legacy of colonization.

Noticing that I am brown is NOT the same as assigning my skin colour a value.
It is noticing an important and fundamental part of who I am.

Using my skin colour against me is another story, but that doesn’t automatically come from noticing: that is racism and it’s taught. Small children notice differences all of the time: skin colour, hair colour, body size, etc… It’s ok to notice. It’s when you judge it and assign these aspects a value (negative or positive) that the trouble begins.

So I think I see where Prince Ea is trying to take us – to galaxy far far away  – is where the words we use to describe ourselves don’t carry the weight of “I’m better than you” or “you’re not as good as me”, where we can just be who we are and all live happily.

I hope we make it there in my daughter’s generation, but I’m not so sure.

Until then, please notice my colour.
It tells you something more about me, and it certainly impacts how I see and experience the world (like my other identities). Not talking about it doesn’t make it better, it makes me invisible.
Everyone wants to be seen.
When we really see each other, we can connect. And it’s through meaningful connections that we will make the world a better place – together.

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

Radio Show Host – Creating Families

Our New Prime Minister

23 Oct

A few things have given me cause to be hopeful about the direction of our country, following this week’s election (congratulations Justin!)

Firstly, I feel like I can use his first name. It’s nice to have a young PM that actually seems to be engaged with the Canadian public – shaking hands in a Metro station post election?! Amazing!

And then last night I saw two videos that made my heart sing: Justin joining in some cultural dances – SOCA and (I think) Bhangra! Well!! I smiled. I was happy. I felt hope rising.

It might have been just dancing, but I’m hoping that’s not all it was. I’m hoping it’s a sign of integrity, genuine interest and caring, and a sign of things to come: that we have a Prime Minister who actually acknowledges the diversity that makes this country great, and is committed to creating a Canada where we all feel included and welcomed again.

Fingers crossed!

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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.

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: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7635871126399292161

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

Check out my new blog: www.3queerparents.wordpress.com

When Positive Words Exclude

28 Nov

I’m working on a contract with a colleague for Special Olympics Canada. SOC is an amazing organization doing amazing things, and this week I really want to share what I’m reading on their Language Guidelines page.

The language we use (i.e. our choice of words) is an integral component of creating safer and inclusive spaces – at home, in the office, at school, on campus, in the community etc. How we treat people is another key part of creating safer and inclusive spaces. The SOC Language Guidelines are specific to people with intellectual disabilities, but we can take much of them and apply them broadly. One point in particular stands out for me in the SOC Language Guidelines:

“Do not sensationalize the accomplishments of persons with disabilities. While these accomplishments should be recognized and applauded, people in the disability rights movement have tried to make the public aware of the negative impact of referring to the achievements of people with physical or intellectual disabilities with excessive hyperbole.”

Ah. What does it say when we “go overboard” and fall all over ourselves to recognize and congratulate (in this case) the accomplishments of someone with an intellectual disability. The underlying message (subtle, but present) is that we didn’t expect it, or we didn’t think they could do it.  

In almost all of my workshops the conversation turns, at one point or another, to the sentiment that “we can’t say anything anymore”, and that people are too sensitive. What I think this shows is that people are mourning the loss of a culture where we could speak without thinking, and where the onus was on the receiver to ‘suck it up’. Ah yes.

And the challenge of not thinking before we speak is that so many of the things we say (and the ways we act) are based on outdated and deeply held beliefs in society – so deep that we don’t even recognize them – that we (often unconsciously) perpetuate in our words, actions and inactions.  Are we getting too sensitive? Sometimes, perhaps. But we are also becoming more aware of systemic inequities and how these are perpetuated overtly and covertly. Inclusion requires work. Part of that work is thinking more; being more aware.


Athletes who participate in Special Olympics are achieving their personal best and being recognized for it, just as athletes who participate in the Olympics are achieving their personal best and being recognized for it (note that I didn’t write Special Olympics Athletes, put athletes in quotation marks, or write the ‘regular’ Olympics – more examples of inclusive language). In both cases, the athletes’ efforts and accomplishments should be admired and applauded. Period. And if one of these accomplishments catches you by surprise, take a moment to think about why – and use the opportunity to perhaps challenge a belief you may not even know you had.

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Copywright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.


Happy Hallo-what?!

29 Oct

The eleven year old daughter of a friend of mine stormed into her principal’s office recently to demand why they weren’t being allowed to wear their Halloween costumes to school this Thursday.

The reason given was that not everyone celebrates Halloween, so this makes it more fair. I would guess the word may even have been inclusive.

Halloween isn’t a big deal for everyone. Some religions don’t acknowledge Halloween. And it’s one of those things that new immigrants possibly scratch their heads over (last year I gave candy to 2 girls who barely spoke English and who weren’t dressed up, but who dutifully held out their pillowcases while their mother looked on from the driveway). 

But income is also an issue. Families who don’t make a lot of money likely won’t have disposable income for something as fleeting as a Halloween costume – or a good one anyway (and in elementary school I would imagine that it’s almost worse to have a bad costume than no costume).

So the principal’s intentions are good. 

My friend’s daughter wasn’t impressed.  No surprise there. 

Inclusion can be tough, especially since income can be such a very large barrier to participation and people can be judgmental and mean. But my point is this: it is common that when we make efforts to become more inclusive our first response is to remove things instead of finding creative ways to make the event more inclusive, or broadening our awareness of things to acknowledge.

In this case, the school could be losing an opportunity to have a fun day. The solution would likely look very different from the starting point, but it could keep the spirit of celebration. That’s the spirit of inclusion.

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copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion


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