In March the Carleton Ravens were proud to welcome Carleton Alumna Ginelle Skerritt for a conversation on the importance of inclusive leadership and diversity in team building, and the key components in the transition from performative to actionable antiracism measures.
This event, which was put on by the Varsity Council division on racism equity and diversity, saw over two dozen students, coaches and staff join Ginelle for over an hour-long discussion.
Began with a discussion about experiencing racism in Canada, Skerritt took participants through her youth describing her experience as an immigrant to Canada. "It's interesting because I think we're all victims of [racism] and it is true that I'm aware of it every day, but, I confess that, as I get older I feel as though I'm able to cope with it better I'm facing it a lot less."
Skerritt shared her experiences as a young child, being a victim of racist comments and being excluded from visiting friends' homes because their parents didn't agree with them having black friends.
While Skerritt did share stories of her childhood, she admits most racism she faced was more covert.
"I think most of the racism was invisible. You just know it it's kind of like the experience of a woman going to a mechanic shop, no one has to tell her that she's experiencing subtle sexism in the way that she's spoken to that has happened to me right, and so I kind of think that the experience is an experience that I would say, most people can relate to, regardless of whether they have skin privilege or not is something like that, where you just know somewhere that the mechanic doesn't talk to men like that and that's what I would say the subtlety of how racism appears."
Unsatisfied with her experiences and having experienced racism in her professional career, Skerritt took a new path toward leadership. "I became a decision-maker around what happens and who gets hired and how the culture is set in the organization."
Today, Skerritt has learned lessons to deal with her frustrations in the workforce. Rather than sit by and get angry about the situation she's able to redirect her efforts. "What I learned to do was to read repurpose that building anger and resentment and doubt self-doubt all those things really channel that into."
As hosts Ricky Comba and Jimi Aribido continued the dialogue with Skerritt she was quick to recognize that deep down everyone wants equity. However, it's about putting together processes and checks that ensure fairness and equity remain the foundation of our work.
"Today, approaching our lives with attention to the importance of diversity will only help us further our understanding of ourselves and encourage growth," shared Skerritt. "Diversity helps us to know ourselves more it gives us the gift of perspective as well." Skerritt would stress the importance of diversity in shaping the evolution of our society, by fostering new relationships and improving our understanding of the world around us."
Comparing diverse workforces to playing multiple layers of maps to understand a region or integrating multiple fields of study to a single problem Skerritt reminded the community how we need diversity to grow. "We need to innovate always and with diversity, you have ideas being exchanged you consider different and you take nothing for granted."
For leaders in our community, be it coaches, staff, student-athletes or others, the road to change requires reflection. "In acquiring knowledge, you have to then acquire self-knowledge," she explained. "You have to go through a process so that when you walk into a space and into a conversation, you know as much as you can about yourself, about your role, about your own fragility and your own responsibilities. You have to spend the time on personal reflection as a leader because this work is not something that occurs in their organizations or societal structures in isolation."
There are no easy tick boxes to making for a more equitable society, instead, as Skerritt shared, it's a personal journey that each individual must follow.
"At the leadership level, there needs to be a discussion about the assumptions that are being ignored and you may need the substance of something like an anonymous survey to help. We understand that it's easier to suppress trauma with the experience when there's racism in the workplace and so people may not speak up."
As Skerritt concluded her Q&A with the community, she reminded the audience that for true change to occur we must be deliberate in our actions and our teams. Beyond simply acknowledging our faults and making promises, Skerritt believes we must ensure we're surrounding ourselves with different voices which bring a diversity of experience and opinion to our organizations.
"We should be deliberate; we need to be where we are not just attracting and selecting people who agree with us."