Cecily Blain
Credit: Tanya Goehring

Blain sees more businesses showing a genuine interest in transforming their culture

True diversity and inclusion requires honest commitment, according to this HR consultant

Diversity and inclusion is everyone’s business—and there’s lots of help out there. Take Cicely Blain Consulting, an inclusion consulting firm based in Vancouver. Blain, the company’s founder and CEO, and their team offer services ranging from equity and inclusion auditing to policy development to anti-racism staff training. In the past two-and-a-half years, the business has rapidly expanded to include clients in the U.S., West Africa, Europe and Asia. They’re hot off their first virtual Stratagem Conference, an annual event focused on equity, inclusion and social justice (the online model resulted in quadruple the attendance of last year’s in-person gathering). In all their work, they aim to remove access barriers for marginalized communities and improve the workplace environment for all.

Why is diversity and inclusion engagement important in B.C. at this time? 

It’s important all the time! Especially at the moment, more and more people are realizing that. Requests for bookings have skyrocketed in the past month, given the recent focus on racism and anti-Blackness, so I am glad people are realizing how important it is to address these issues.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see local companies making when it comes to equity and justice?

Companies often think this work will be a quick fix. A one-hour workshop won’t transform organizational culture or improve the company drastically. Businesses need to commit to long-term work (with or without a consultant) and recognize that this work is never really “finished.” Language and standards are always changing, just like any industry, and companies need to keep up to date with that. Thirty or 40 years ago (when they thought only men had jobs), we were changing policies to say “he and she” instead of just he—now we know it’s better to use “they.”

Companies also make the mistake of not budgeting for this work. Real change often requires radical transformation, usually on an annual basis, and should be written into the annual budget.

Do you believe that B.C. businesses are really taking diversity and inclusion more seriously, or just bandwagoning for the sake of appearances?

Given the number of emails in my inbox right now, I do think a significant amount of businesses in B.C. are actually interested in serious change. The test will be if they are willing to wait for us to have availability and to commit to a long-term and meaningful process. 

Can you explain the importance of sitting in discomfort?

This work is not easy. Change only happens if we are able to expose and call out harmful and problematic actions and behaviour. That’s what we see happening right now—many people are being called out, held accountable and asked to change. As a result, people feel uncomfortable and awkward—part of this is guilt, frustration and fear, and we have to feel those things to move forward. If we don’t feel those things, we aren’t paying attention to the injustices in the world around us.

Tell us about your new book.

Burning Sugar is my debut book published by Arsenal Pulp Press and VS. Books. It’s a combination of poetry, prose and letters capturing the Black experience and bringing to light experiences of anti-Blackness, sexism and homophobia in the world around us. It’s available for pre-order now.