Last weekend, I was called out by a woman who I respect greatly and who I’ve known for over a decade in business as having a blind spot in a marketing campaign that I was running. And my initial reaction was of disbelief, and also defensiveness. Like seriously, how can this be? I go to great lengths to ensure that my images are multicultural. I have a very diverse team that’s operating behind the scenes here at Shelagh Cummins. I love women, all women regardless of who they are, and where they come from, and the colour of their skin. Of course, I notice if somebody has a different colour of skin, but it doesn’t open a judgement. It opens a curiosity and I just want to learn more. I couldn’t understand what she was calling me out on. And I have to tell you, it was the absolute biggest gift I have ever been handed.
It has not been an easy week. It has been a highly emotional week as I stop and pause and listen, and empathize and reflect on my history, my unconscious biases, my white privilege, and how I can do better, be better, and role model better for others. I am anti-racist, but I haven’t been loud enough about it. Today I just want to talk through the process of how I’m coming to terms with my business and where I can be doing better. So hopefully it will inspire you to go through your own journey. It’s not up to me to tell you what to do to stand in alignment with your core values and your beliefs. I am simply going to share the journey that I’m taking myself through.
Let’s go back to being called out. I’ve recently been running a campaign to help advocate for women entrepreneurs who have been overlooked by the Canadian government for funding in response to the coronavirus pandemic. One of the things I wanted to do was to personalize the people who’ve been overlooked, put a face and a story to the people who do incredible work and are impacting lives and have been overlooked simply because their business does not fit and tick all the boxes that are required for eligibility for either a loan or some kind of subsidy. So I put it out to my communities and asked women to share their stories. I then took the stories and I shared those with an image of the woman and a story about them, and they were very powerful stories. But I was called out because, in the imagery, every single woman was white. And they were.
When Christine called me out, she was 100% correct. In that marketing campaign, all of my imagery was represented by white women. My initial reaction was very straightforward, this was my thought pattern, it was ‘I have put the call out and will share the story of anyone who comes forward and shares’. So it wasn’t the intention where I’m I was askew or where I had the blind spot. It was the fact that I was only attracting stories from white women. And that is on me. That is where I’ve started by taking a pause and saying, hang on a second. Why is it that only white women shared their stories with me? And that is where I have started my entire learning journey. And let me be very, very clear. I have just tipped the iceberg. I am unlearning 47 years of unconscious bias.
This is not work that’s going to be finished on Sunday. This is lifelong work that I’m committing to because it’s important, because if I go to my true roots and my true beliefs about what it is that I believe in, I believe in the power of women, all women, I support all women, regardless of the colour of your skin, of your religious beliefs, of your sexual orientation, or your gender identification. I just believe in you. But I have not been taking a stand for you. I’ve done it quietly, but hear my words, I will not be quiet anymore. And I think about where the emotion comes from, as I share that statement, and for sure, there are elements of guilt and shame, guilt that I never saw it. That’s not true, though I did see it. But I didn’t do enough about it. Shame that I overlooked or had blind spots that were hurting people. And I have read every single story of my women of colour who have been sharing, and it breaks my heart that I missed an important element of their journey, that I missed a piece because that’s on me. And only I can fix that.
So I’ve been facing this whole issue, the way I face every problem that’s presented to me. I’m asking people powerful questions. And this is a process I encourage you to go through as well. I’m asking questions that are going to help me find solutions that work for me. Solutions that are in alignment with my core values and my beliefs, and solutions that I know can have a greater impact because, at the end of the day, I wake up each and every morning with the exact same commitment. Today, I will leave a powerful footprint on the world. And if I sit here in my little box of white privilege, and don’t open my eyes, to the hurt, to the inequities, to the racism that is rampant, rampant in the business world, in life, in day to day living, then I am not living up to my full mission. I have been asking some really hard questions. When Christine called me out, it all started with the questions of, why is it that I have been attracting a predominantly white audience? The easiest thing I can put my finger on is that I am white. I speak a white language. I speak Canadian.
I am just me. But even as I present as a white woman, I can still be cognizant and aware of how my messaging may be falling short of someone who does not look like me, who has not been born of white privilege. So I’m immediately going back and working with a copywriter of colour to help me see where my messaging can be stronger and more inclusive. Now, I think I create a welcoming community. But a welcoming community is just like “Hey, come on over for dinner,” but then I don’t find out about you or I don’t learn about you. So I serve you something for dinner that you can’t eat because I haven’t taken the time. And so I’m committing to building an inclusive community, where we welcome and hear stories from all different women. And so it starts with the messaging.
But you know where else I’ve had a blind spot? Is in my team. And I have to be clear, I have a phenomenal team that I work with, and they make me look really good. They do amazing work. I have a very multicultural operations team. My lawyer is an unbelievably strong black woman. My marketing strategist is an immigrant to Canada who came here from India. The woman who produces this podcast is a beautiful woman of colour. I have people all around me and on my hiring hitlist, people who I want to be hiring, they are all women of colour because they are the best of the best that is around me right now. But here’s the thing about having a multicultural operational team, you as the listener or you as a member of my community will rarely see them. What you see are me and my coaching team. My coaching team is made up of women who have been through my programs and are certified coaches and are as dedicated to helping women to achieve greater business success as I am. They are all white. I did not hire them because they were white. I hired them because they were the best. And here’s where the biggest blind spot comes in. I did not have a diversity from which to choose. And that my friends, is on me.
I do not have enough women of colour coming through my programs, which means there is a systemic problem that leads right back to the roots of what I’m doing. That is exactly where I’m focusing. Because there are a lot of people who can help you. I leverage a very unique coaching system that I’ve developed called the Seven Pillars to Seven Figures. And we’ve talked about it on this podcast, the mindset, the marketing, the sales, the operations, the fulfillment, the team, the finances. Those are the seven pillars that you require in your business, no matter who you are or where you are in your business journey. But then here’s another blind spot that I’ve had for so long. My programs are based on equality. They are not equitable. And this is where I am digging in deep and studying my heart out and learning absolutely everything that I can. And let me share the difference.
Equality means everybody is handed the exact same thing in order to achieve an outcome. But I think back to my classroom days when I’d look at those 27 to 36 little beauties that were in my class, in order to help them achieve the curriculum outcomes that it was my job to get them to. I had to change how I was teaching based on who they were, what their learning profile was, leveraging their strengths to help overcome some challenges that they had. I adapted my program to better suit each and every individual person. I do provide a balanced program in terms of; I will have visual and I will have auditory and some will be experiential, and it’s personal feedback and coaching-related and that’s offered equally to each and every person. But then the question is, am I achieving an equitable outcome for each person? And that’s where I am dedicated to learning more because I don’t think I have.
Equitable outcomes mean I am adapting and shifting the program to help meet the needs of each individual person. And though we do that, we can do that better. It is just one of the ways that I’m committed to helping make an experience with the Shelagh Cummins programs just that much richer and that much stronger. And so if Christine hadn’t called me out that day and said, “Hey, Shelagh,” and listen, she said it absolutely beautifully. She was polite. She was very kind. She was generous. She was just saying, “Hey, I think you have a blind spot here. And not a lot of us know,” if she hadn’t done that so that I could see that the stories that I was telling were of white women because that was the predominant race that has been going through my programs, I would not be questioning and reevaluating and shifting and being where I am today.
And so let me very clearly articulate for you what I am doing, and what I am going to lead my team through to ensure that we create an inclusive, equitable and accepting community to help all women to launch grow and scale your business by helping you reclaim your time, increase your revenue, and create the systems and efficiencies in your business. Number one, I am 100% committed to building an inclusive community through all of my social media channels. I am learning and open to new strategies so that I am not just speaking to white women. I am also examining every single one of my programs to figure out how I can create equitable outcomes for all women, BIPOC women, white women, LGBTQ women, any woman. What do we need to be doing differently with our programs so that the outcomes are equitable, regardless of who you are. And though my operations team is richly multicultural, and they are a beautiful group of women, and I hang on their every word and if they say jump, I jump. I do whatever it is, they say because they are so dang smart, way smarter than me, and they know their stuff inside and out. But I am, as of today, going to be diversifying my coaching and leadership team so that anytime you see somebody leading some facet of a Shelagh Cummins program, there will be somebody who looks like you.
I am committed to diversifying my coaching and leadership team before I have the women to support their paychecks. I’m also dedicated to sharing more stories on the Road to Seven from a wider breadth of women entrepreneurs. I do look for women entrepreneurs that are multicultural, but I can look harder. I know there are incredible women entrepreneurs who have built seven-figure businesses, and we need to be hearing from them. We need to hear their stories. We need to learn from them, their challenges and their triumphs. Hearing a more diverse range of stories will give us a wider breadth of tips, tricks and tools to be able to apply to our business. And though I am always open to introductions, or suggestions to a woman of colour who runs a seven-figure or high six-figure business, I am also doing my due diligence and we are seeking out great guests to bring to you.
I am going to continue to ensure that my imagery represents all women in every single marketing campaign. And if I don’t have stories from multicultural women, I am not going to run that campaign, period. I’m going to continue to make sure that the speakers I bring to you, the experts I bring into my program, come from a variety of cultures and experiences, are a variety of colours, and are from a variety of races and creeds. Our world is rich if we tap into the knowledge that’s around us, and I’m open, I’m open to introductions, but please know I am also doing the work. I’m 100% committed to doing the work. It is my responsibility and my responsibility alone to educate myself so that I can do better. I can be better and I can serve better. I take this to heart and I stand with you, I will stand for you. On those days when you can’t stand for yourself, I will be there to stand for you.
To Christine, thank you. Thank you for calling out the blind spot that I hadn’t seen. It was just that, a blind spot. Thank you for creating this cascade of actions that are now allowing me to open and reevaluate and unlearn unconscious bias that is a part of who I am. That is allowing me to explore more blind spots in my business and therefore supporting others to support blind spots in theirs.
I will not be speaking and teaching on diversity, on inclusion, on equity, and on acceptance. I will always bring in an expert and pay them to share their expertise, but I will always be bringing someone in from whom you can learn. And I can learn as well. I don’t know how to end off in a way that doesn’t sound trite or casual. And so I’m just going to end off in a messy way. One that just simply says, I see you. I hear you, and I will do my best to support you. No matter who you are. You have all my love.
Resources From This Episode
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