Inspired by Tragedy: How an Act of Terrorism Fuelled a Vision to Unify

By Colleen Sargeant James 

Colleen Sargeant James and Daren James, Founders of Divonify
Colleen Sargeant James and Daren James, Founders of Divonify Join the conversation! Twitter @divonify or email

We were in Paris celebrating the final night of our honeymoon on Friday, November 13th, 2015, the same night the terrorist attacks struck. We were thousands of miles from home, our own environ, and with the borders closed. We were trapped in a country that was in a state of emergency and panic.

Like so many others we had no idea if or where more attacks would happen. All we could do was have faith and believe that when the nightmare was over, that the world would come together, and that all could fight collectively against terrorism.

However, though there were many acts of love and unity taking place throughout the world, we noticed a disturbing number of messages on social media targeting fear, hate, discrimination and prejudice towards people who were “different.” Moreover, to make matters worse, upon our return to Canada, we noticed these feelings being publicly displayed–cars were vandalized, religious institutions were targeted and racist graffiti was appearing on residences–in our local community.

However, within weeks, citizens started speaking up. They felt excluded in their own country, discriminated against within the community they love, and some had even been denied advancement in their career because they were “different.” Sadly, it became very apparent that not enough work was being done to make others aware of how to fully embrace differences and really understand the dimensions of diversity. 

Because of these developments, Daren and I began researching global diversity and inclusion standards, looking at best practices and current industry trends. I obtained my certificate in Leadership and Inclusion so that Divonify could be born.

“We realized that diversity is complex. It means accepting everyone for who they are regardless of our differences. The minute one person is left out or does not feel like he/she belongs either in the workforce or the community; that negatively affects a corporation’s culture and a community at large. We want organizations to fully understand the importance of having a diverse and inclusive workforce, where fostering a corporate culture of inclusiveness is set in the core values. Diversity and inclusion are not a short-term goal; it is a long-term journey.”Daren James Cofounder and Director of Business Innovation.

What happened on November 13th, only validates our need to focus on the inclusion aspect of diversity.  Moreover, as governments continue to focus on and drive out immigration programs, some election campaigns even promoting “segregation through barriers” – barriers that many had worked so hard to remove. It is clear that there is a growing need to educate, inform and coach individuals on what it really means to be diverse and inclusive.

There needs to be an understanding that we are all individuals who bring unique perspectives that everyone can benefit from.

Work in the field of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is continually evolving, with more and more topics to address, but to do so in the most meaningful way possible, companies will need help from trained specialists who fully understand the practice of D&I. That said, Divonify recognizes that there are many businesses, organizations, and leaders who “get it” and are committed to creating a corporate culture of inclusiveness.

Divonify keeps a regularly updated database of these small to large-sized companies on their “Inclusive Companies” list. The businesses and organizations on that list have shown their ongoing commitment to diversity and fostering an environment that promotes inclusion, at an average 75% or higher when compared to global D&I benchmarks. Daren and I realize that conversations about our differences can be difficult to have, but they are important and are the foundation for creating fully inclusive workforces and communities. To start these conversations, people need to understand that it is okay to ask questions and talk about our diversity. Moreover, when it comes to workplaces, leadership teams must model and implement healthy, culturally inclusive practices organization-wide, addressing unconscious biases in hiring practices, building a fair system free of racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes, and instilling the core values of a progressive, respectful corporate culture. Because… it is more than just a series of computer-based cultural assessment tests; it is a change of mindset and a fair, humane way of thinking.

I believe that people who do not understand why we care so much about diversity and inclusion usually have never been made to feel excluded. But , I have never lost hope in humanity.

Originally posted 2016-12-29 17:45:49.

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