The 2021 Women of the Year Awards: Equity and Inclusion Champion – Runner-up

In her role as chief people officer at BCLC, inclusion has become a focus for longtime workplace consultant and facilitator Yabome Gilpin-Jackson.

Equity and Inclusion Champion: Runner-up
Yabome Gilpin-Jackson
Chief people officer, British Columbia Lottery Corp.

An adjunct faculty member at SFU‘s Beedie School of Business, Yabome Gilpin-Jackson sometimes teaches there and at Montreal’s Concordia University. Her courses, which fall under the umbrella of leadership and organizational development and are often attended by professionals, tend to involve discussions of Deep Democracy—a theory that advocates for more inclusion in decision-making—and privilege. And they often get emotional.

“By the end of the modules, people are in tears, and I’m like, What’s going on?” Gilpin-Jackson says. “Because to me, this is par for the course. But they say, I have some tools for this work, but it’s mostly Western-oriented ways of thinking and colonial-oriented ways of thinking. And you’re the first Black or person of colour that we’ve had who is going deeply into the issues.”

Gilpin-Jackson, who was born in Germany but spent much of her life in her parents’ native Sierra Leone, took her current role as chief people officer with Kamloops-headquartered British Columbia Lottery Corp. around the same time that COVID-19 came to North America. At BCLC, which has roughly 1,000 staff across the province, the question of inclusion has been a chief focus of her work.

“I came with that lens of, in spite of the pandemic conditions, how do you support people to be included, how do you foster inclusion and engagement in all conditions?” says the longtime workplace consultant and facilitator, whose four degrees include an MBA in leadership and organizational change from SFU and a PhD in human and organizational systems from California’s Fielding Graduate University.

The result has been “not only having virtual meetings and town halls,” she explains, “but having engagement sessions and walk-through sessions, and employee conferences that allow people to connect to the BCLC.”

Even though she holds a top position at one of the province’s biggest public agencies, Gilpin-Jackson knows from experience that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to inclusion, even in her industry. “I show up for conferences, and people mistake me for foodservices until I get up on the stage,” she says with a wry laugh. “And they go, Oh my God, she’s the speaker.”