A former Liberal member of parliament and representative for Whitby, Ont., Celina Caesar-Chavannes made headlines last year when she left the Liberal caucus (citing hostility with the prime minister) and sat as an independent, until bowing out of politics in October. We asked the entrepreneur and owner of C4 (an agency that consults on leadership, equity and inclusion advocacy) to fill us in on the art of the transition and her company’s push for equality and inclusivity in the workplace.
Lives in Whitby, Ont., with her husband and three children; born in Grenada.
My sojourn in politics was a painfully beautiful experience. I was able to increase awareness related to issues that I am passionate about, like mental health, equity and justice, and was lucky enough to see my advocacy around mental health result in a five-billion-dollar federal budget. This last year, as painful as it was, provided me an opportunity to grow, find my voice and flourish as my authentic self. It was both refreshing and scary. I realized that I had\ a responsibility to honour the promises I made to the people of Whitby, to not toe the party line when it went against what I stood for, but to honour our values and principles. I left a job that I loved and was really good at. It was heartbreaking, but I left with my head held high and there is nothing better than that.
Transition and reflection.
I think moments of intentional rest are necessary for anyone transitioning from one life stage to another. I am an intentionally unemployed 45-year-old black woman. Everything about that description screams, “Go back to work immediately before the next employer questions the gap in your resume!” But I say, too bad. Let the gap be. If we do not take adequate time to pause, reflect on where we came from and enjoy the moment we are in, we miss an important opportunity to grow personally, emotionally and spiritually. In that moment of quiet reflection with yourself, you are taking time to appreciate the joys and pains, flaws and strengths that brought you to that moment of transition. Appreciating that moment, can help you plan for the next big thing.
“Companies should be actively trying to ensure that the culture of their organization is one that fosters inclusivity, promotes growth and values equality.”
The need for inclusivity and equality.
Companies need to be diverse, but if they are not inclusive (if the culture of the space is toxic, for example), there will be problems. The focus should be on active inclusion. Having employees choose between gendered washrooms, not having a plan and accountability to deal with harassment and/or discrimination, restricting cultural or religious clothing and other paraphernalia, or holding meetings in inaccessible spaces all contribute to people feeling unsafe or unwelcome in the workplace. Companies should be actively trying to ensure that the culture of their organization is one that fosters inclusivity, promotes growth and values equality. In this environment, people bring their authentic selves to work, and research has proven that this will increase the bottom line.