Nov
8
By admin|November 8, 2017|Category: General

On October 11, the International Day of the Girl, I traveled to Khalsa School, an all-Sikh high school in Surrey, BC to participate in a WE FOR SHE NextGen event. I presented a workshop, “Battling Unconscious Bias to Become a Diversity Champion,” to 350 students and faculty to help students discover how they can battle bias to help build inclusive schools, workplaces and society that honours diversity.

“Unconscious bias” means the assumptions and conclusions we jump to about another person without thinking. The problem is… it’s unconscious! So we set out to identify some of the ways that we are all biased and how we can work to overcome it.

I was joined by Manpreet Dhillon, Founder and CEO of Veza, HR Consultant and Cecilia Mkondiwa, Senior Director, Program Delivery from Women’s Enterprise Centre who shared their personal encounters with unconscious bias.

 

Picture at WE FOR SHE Khalsa School

 

When Cecilia came to Canada from Malawi for University, her classmates initially did not sit beside her. When the professor announced that she was at the top of the class, students began to approach her and to become her friend. At first, they made comments like “Do you miss sleeping in trees?” Cecilia used this as an opportunity to teach people about her culture.

Manpreet shared that, as an Indian woman born to immigrant parents, her first boss assumed she didn’t have career goals. Although she received this negative feedback, it motivated her to work even harder in her career and to achieve her goals.

This message is so important for students to hear, and although the topics are heavy they are also inspiring. We live in a world of diversity, and bias matters when people are excluded or treated unfairly based on things like the colour of their skin, gender, age, or wealth.

The students were very receptive to the messages and there was lots of lively discussion! Their comments after the workshop show how important these conversations are for high school students:

“It has been a great experience that opened my eyes on how discrimination is still a problem in our society.”

“It taught me not to back off of my dreams because someone told me that ‘you’re a girl and you should take care of the household chores.’”

“I learned that working with new people helps you expand on knowledge and come up with new ideas.”

Do you know someone who needs to hear this message?

The WE FOR SHE NextGen Leaders Program is offering free programs and resources for BC schools in the 2017-18 school year. Presented by Minerva BC in partnership with Women's Enterprise Centre, the goals of the program are to advance diversity and gender equality and to help students gain the skills and confidence to make bold career choices.

If you’d like me to deliver this workshop as part of a WE FOR SHE NextGen event at your school, learn more at weforshenextgen.ca.

Picture of Danielle HoferDanielle Hofer, is the Client Service and Events Coordinator at Women's Enterprise Centre. As a former member of the social entrepreneurship group Enactus, she developed projects to help teach entrepreneurship to K-12 students. Now, she plays an active role in the coordination and administration of events/sponsorship for WEC, provides office administrative support and, as a member of the client services team, she connects clients to the resources they need to succeed in business.
 

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