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B.C. diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm sees 1,000% spike in web traffic
Cicely Belle Blain runs a diversity and inclusion consulting firm based in B.C. (Photo by K. Ho, courtesy Cicely Belle Blain)
VANCOUVER -- Cicely Belle Blain's diversity, equity and inclusion consulting business has seen a 1,000 per cent increase in web traffic over the last several days.
Blain's company runs workshops on anti-racism, inclusive language and LGBTQ inclusion. They also audit companies' diversity and inclusion measures, as well as draft guidelines for schools and workplaces, such as anti-bullying policies.
"(We've been) very inundated with messages over the past few days. We are having trouble wading through our inboxes," they said Thursday. "I think we've gained close to 5,000 followers across our social media platforms…it's been quite a lot to see this sudden uptick in interest for equity and inclusion work."
Blain, who also co-founded the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, says their organization has typically worked with non-profits in the past, organizations that they say already have a deeper understanding of the importance of equity and inclusion. But recently, those prospective clients have expanded to include larger corporations, and even individuals interested in receiving coaching.
"In the past few days, the increase has been a lot more corporate," they said. "We've even had families get in touch. They want training for their family. So it's been really cool to see how this work can be beneficial to anyone, regardless of what industry they're in."
Blain says the world seems to be in a pivotal moment right now and there has been more public awareness around anti-Black racism and police violence because of the death of George Floyd, but adds that doesn't necessarily mean things have changed within the Black community.
"We've been campaigning about these issues for years," they said. "Our families, our friends have been campaigning about this for decades, for centuries, even. So it is kind of interesting to see how this one incident suddenly increased the interest."
Blain adds that they also believe there's a link between the increased awareness and the COVID-19 pandemic, as people not only have more time to reflect on these issues, but they see how the virus has disproportionately impacted marginalized communities.
"People are finally slowing down and starting to look at the world around them," they said. "The pandemic is really highlighting injustices, and we're really beginning to see how systems and global issues impact different communities, and there's lots of data out there that shows that marginalized communities are being a lot more impacted by COVID-19."
Blain says they're optimistic about the future since companies, as well as individuals, are no longer just speaking out about racism, but also actually taking action.
"It really shows something is changing. And I do feel optimistic about that and just some of the emails we've been getting from all kinds of non-profits, companies, individuals…I think people are really utilizing this moment to actually do the work which is something I don't think I've seen before," they said. "Traditionally, we see companies posting, 'we support X,Y,Z community' but then nothing happens. But now just as a consultant, and I'm obviously only seeing a small part of it, but I'm actually seeing companies posting, 'we're doing this,' and then actually doing it."
They were also heartened to see thousands of demonstrators attend last Sunday's anti-racism rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery and are encouraging people to maintain that momentum by showing sustained, year-round support for Black businesses, organizations and non-profits, such as Hogan's Alley and BLM Vancouver.
"We don't realize that throughout our lives, we have internalized so much racism about other people and especially anti-Blackness," they said. "That has been embedded in education, in media, in health care, from our parents, from our teachers. We absorb, throughout our lives, negative stereotypes about other people, especially about Black folks."
While some people might feel uncomfortable confronting their own inherent biases, Blain says people should give themselves an opportunity to give themselves a second chance and learn from their mistakes.
"It's never too late to do that," they said. "Some people might feel trapped by that sense of guilt but it's never too late to unlearn something, and I think the work that we do is trying to transform organizational culture or company culture so that folks in the future, people of colour, LGBTQ people, whoever it may be, feel a greater sense of inclusion."