Tough talk around gender equality essential for Women’s Day

by | Mar 11, 2020 | Life

Kristen Cussen, News Reporter

Life coach Joyce Shabazz says equity is often viewed through the prism of business, but it should be something that is shared evenly.

She said equity is only given to people who occupy dominant positions in society, based on their multiple identities including physical ability, sexual orientation, gender, class and race.

If a person fits within the preferred categories, it’s easy to tune out authentic dialogue, Shabazz said at the Humber College International Women’s Day forum on March 7.

“More often than not, [equity] is held in this way: equity holders in business enterprises and only equity holders can truly participate in and benefit from growth in the value of the enterprise,” Shabazz said.

For Shabazz, redefining equity is an important part of ensuring that it is distributed equally among all people, despite a person’s multiple identities, in part defined by race, gender and orientation,

Certain specifications of identity disqualify marginalized groups from their fair share of human value, disrupting the fragile scales of social equality, she said

Transforming leadership practice is essential in order to create equity as an imperative and sustain it, Shabazz said. She said a lot of money has been spent internationally to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I think it’s because the outcome [of equity programs] was not a success,” Shabazz said. “It’s not that complicated. Are you holding humans, all humans, at value? Or are you not?

“It needs to manifest day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment. It is a behavioural change. It is about taking charge of how you live your life,” she said.

“Dominance will put you to sleep,” where leaders and company executives remain unaware of the struggles people around them are going through, Shabazz said.

But she said the only way to provoke change is to have a worldview, “and not just because it’s an agenda.” Listening without truly hearing is problem-solving without all the necessary information, Shabazz said.

“We hide behind politeness to cover our lack of interest and ownership of our personal agendas and the fear of making mistakes,” she said.

Discomfort in situations can be used as a barometer measuring progress towards transformation, Shabazz said.

At a workshop, a simulated fire crackled and sizzled behind Haesun Moon as she explained the power of words and how people interpret them.

Moon, the executive and program director at the Canadian Centre for Brief Coaching where she studies dialogue, kept with the theme of intentional change, by decoding language, subtext and the history of words. That is the first step toward valuable conversation, she said.

“Discussion and dialogue are often confused,” Moon said. The ‘-cussion’ in ‘discussion’ can be found in words like percussion and concussion. In these instances, the root word means to hit. Hitting drums, hitting one’s head or in the word discussion, to hit ideas.

“We’re hitting and breaking apart ideas,” she said.

“The purpose of a discussion is to decide something by breaking down a topic, finding pros and cons and eventually coming to a decision,” Moon said.

Moon offered a formula to navigate challenging conversations and build ideas rather than eliminate options until only one remains.

“Decision making is about reducing the number of options, meaning-making is generating more options,” she said.

In conversation, it is natural to respond to the negative aspects of one’s feelings or ideas, Moon said.

“Your response shows me more of your own biases and assumptions than anything else,” she said.

She said it’s best to respond to people positively and effectively, rather than being negative.

Moon said conversation becomes a very intentional practice this way. To untrained ears, people hear three times more of the negative and past-based information and are likely to retain and retell negative information, she said.

To generate authentic dialogue, it is important to focus on positive change rather than what is negative and unchangeable, she said.

“Can you invite someone to talk more about what they want? How do we build on that? How do we explore that?” Moon asked.

People often hide their values within their complaints and worries whereas conversation is meant to curate ideas and “listening to someone with a filter will show what the person values or finds important,” she said.