“My initiative is to create an environment where we can have a conversation – it’s a courageous conversation but I want to make it a comfortable one” said Omolade Williams, member of the newest Libro – EPIC Social Enterprise cohort and founder of BLAccess. A local social enterprise that seeks to bridge the gap between the demand for supply of specialist roles by providing guidelines and collaboration relating to diversity and inclusion of culture to employers/entrepreneurs.
Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Omolade lived most of her professional experience in London. Graduating with a Masters degree and obtaining various professional certificates to compliment her qualifications in IT, technology became the basis of her educational and professional experience but it wasn’t until she moved to Windsor that she dove into the world of entrepreneurship.
“I worked in England at a corporate level so I have lived my education to a great extent. Based on my skillset and my qualifications, under the Ontario Skilled Workers Program, I was invited to come here with the promise that I’ll be able to get a job” said Omolade. “If I hadn’t lived my education in England, I think I would have been mentally depressed. Working on a factory floor, earning minimum wage and being mentally abused. I managed to get through it with my personality knowing that I have lived my experience. However, in my travels I started to understand the reason why certain things happen.”
After moving away from home in pursuit of furthering her career, Omolade found herself in workplace situations that she felt to be discriminatory to her and other people of colour she worked with. She saw first-hand how a complete disregard for cultural differences in the workplace can negatively affect employees and have a cascading effect not only on their personal lives, but their physical/mental wellbeing too. “I’m aware of the mental and health implications of the stress of black professionals not getting employed within their skillsets; it eats away at their confidence – I’m impacted myself. This cascades into other areas of their life, socially and otherwise” said Omolade.
After finding herself unable to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Omolade decided to take a stand for herself and others. She wanted to encourage, empower and most importantly, educate and thus, BLAccess was born. “The idea is basically down to experience and issues faced with regards to being a black, racialized, ethnic female professional living in Windsor and not being able to secure a job within my profession to utilize my skillsets” said Omolade.
Equipped with her experience, education and vast knowledge of cultural norms, Omolade sought out to create a venture that allows her to have an open an honest conversation with employees and their employers to enlighten, inform and create a strategic alliance to empower employees and tap into their skillset. With a unique selling point of integrating culture, BLAccess aims to allow all employees to feel seen, heard and understood regardless of any cultural or economic barriers. “I personally believe that if you understand one’s culture, whether they’re white, black, indigenous, etc. if you understand that, you can understand certain mannerisms in regard to how they approach issues” said Omolade “We should do more with regards to understanding not just the number of employees coming to work but the fact that they’re humans, they’re assets to the organization so let’s tap into the people and make it work”.
At the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Omolade began her venture by creating a survey to collect data from co-workers and members of the Windsor-Essex community. Her survey focused on the topics of discrimination, diversity and inclusion – the pain points that she recognized within the workplace – but had a difficult time actually getting participants to fill out the questions. She then sought out to make a business plan, putting pen to paper and making her vision a reality. Through connections at WEtech Alliance, Omolade learned about the Libro-EPIC Social Enterprise Program. A 13-week program funded by Libro Credit Union that gives local changemakers tailored coaching, specialized resources, tools, and networks to help build a thriving social enterprise.
“I don’t want to teach or lecture, I want to have a conversation. Because when you have a conversation, it resonates more, you learn more” said Omolade “What I’ve learned and I’m promoting in terms of diversity and inclusion is that ethnic cultural education is very much needed in a bilateral format for successful adoption of Diversity and Inclusion”.
BLAccess will operate out of the Windsor-Essex region but Omolade hopes to expand to other communities to begin the discussion surrounding diversity and inclusion in the workplace, initially. With her influence and education, she hopes that her discussions will serve as a template for racialized immigrant professionals and workers, newcomers and more.
Currently, Omolade is also the chapter lead for Girls Learning Code in Windsor with a focus on teaching young, women of colour. “There has been an influx of technical companies in Windsor, so the plan and the drive is to provide racialized black girls the opportunity to be leaders in the tech industry” said Omolade. To learn more, please visit www.canadalearningcode.ca.
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