Annie Gichuru is a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) coach and consultant helping online business owners such as coaches, creatives and consultants to serve from a place of alignment with your values, by building a business that’s culturally and racially diverse, inclusive and equitable. She’s a mama, a wife and a hot chocolate lover too.
In this episode, we talk about:
This is such an important conversation and I’m so glad I was able to share it with you.
Suzanne Chadwick 00:00
Annie, welcome to the brand builders lab podcast.
Thank you so much for having me, Suze, I've been looking forward to this conversation.
So good, so good. So Annie, I discovered you, I feel like I just discovered you this year, actually. And I was looking at the work that you're doing, I was looking at your program and your website and all the rest of it. And I'm gonna be honest, I don't think I have anybody else in my community. Maybe one other person that talks about inclusion, diversity, equality, etc. And I just thought, I think this is a conversation that I really want to have. And I really want to share with my listeners as well. So I've done a little bit of an intro, but I'd really love to know, how did you get here.
Annie Gichuru 00:44
So I feel like this work, called me into it. It's not something that I ever saw myself doing when you're thinking about career, direction and decisions. It wasn't one that I so I'm going to be your DEI coach and consultant for online business owners. No, I feel like situations just led me here. But you know, initially, I, my background is in HR. And that's something that I did and was passionate and was, you know, in corporate Australia for over 15 years doing human resource management. And then I had my first baby, I'm a mom of two. And things kind of changed for me in terms of priorities, and just wasn't lit up by the corporate world and always felt like I wanted to have my own gig, do my own thing. And being a mom just kind of put my priorities in a different order. And storytelling is actually something that I had been pursuing for some time. But I always felt like I couldn't do it. Because I didn't see others, particularly on mainstream media who looked like me. I'm a black migrant woman from Kenya. And I just didn't see that representation. And so it's a dream that I kind of tucked away. But becoming mum allowed me to put that aside and really follow my dream and went ahead and made a documentary series that did really well and got picked up for broadcast by Foxtel, here in Australia, New Zealand. And recently, last year got picked up in my home country of Kenya on television. And so being a mom really changed things for me in terms of looking at how can I use what I have as a force for good and becoming a mum for the second time, really ignited that desire to want to tell us stories are stories of people of colour, and telling them in a light that is positive that is often not told, particularly for those of us who come from Africa, there's that perception of that we are coming here to save ourselves or because there's so much lack and illness and disease. And whilst that narrative is true, and it exists, it isn't for everybody. There are plenty who have come here out of their own volition who want to work hard and make a difference and contribute to the Australian economy. And those stories were not being told. And so I started to do that I got into life coaching as well and became a trained and qualified life coach and I started supporting migrant women of colour to really unshackle their limiting beliefs and step into, you know, their work their calling in a way that they hadn't before. And it was through doing that work and spotlighting our stories of rising that I really felt connected to the D and II side of things from my HR background, and felt like I wanted to really dig deeper into this. And then it was through the murder of George Floyd last year in May, that began this for me, in terms of I was really affected by it more than I have been before with other of the cases that we have seen and heard. And I felt I wanted to do something. So I put together a panel discussion on racism. And that really set off this journey of me getting into this work and really working with my peers in the coaching industry and wanting to educate them about how they can be intentionally inclusive.
Suzanne Chadwick 04:41
Yeah, and I think that that's definitely you know, there was so much around that when that happened last year with George Floyd and I'm in communities in the US weather obviously it exploded and there were there were so many conversations around it. So I'd love to know What was the conversation that you were having that business owners and the coaches and the, you know, that you were working with? What was that conversation? What were the questions that you were getting?
Annie Gichuru 05:14
There was just a huge lack of awareness, there was just like they did not know how inequitable the industry was. It wasn't until it was pointed out that there isn't much inclusion for people of colour for black people, for indigenous people. But the penny kind of dropped and went like, Oh, my goodness, I realize I'm only serving people who look like me, when I look at my customers, you know, it is just there isn't much diversity. As far as you know, race goes. And I absolutely want to change that it hasn't been something that I have done deliberately. It has just fallen that way because of the network that I have around me. And so the questions that kept coming up was, how can I be inclusive? What can I do right now to make my business more diverse and inclusive? That was a number one question.
Suzanne Chadwick 06:14
And so what was some of the answers that you gave? I mean, I'm really interested in the conversation as a whole. Because when I said that, you know, obviously, we met this year, there's another client of well, a client of mine, Dixie Crawford, who is an Aboriginal woman, she, we were working together when all of this happened, and she ran a series of online workshops, to really, you know, educate on the history of Aboriginal people and what it looks like in orbit, like for organizations to be diverse and inclusive. And I come from an HR and recruitment background myself. And diversity and inclusion is an interesting phrase, in corporate, I think that it's something that's talked about. I'm not I don't believe in my time, it was something that was actioned in any real way. Yes.
Annie Gichuru 07:12
Yes, I have to agree with that.
Suzanne Chadwick 07:15
And so and so what sort of conversations so obviously, people are saying, how do I be? How are we more diverse? Or how are we more inclusive in our businesses? Was there anything else that came up? Because I think that that lack of awareness, that it's even a problem is an interesting, I'm gonna use the word interesting. It's an interesting perspective as well, like, what were your conversations around that?
Annie Gichuru 07:44
It was a lot of guilt, feeling like, but I am an inclusive person, I am not not inclusive, I am inclusive. So tell me what to do right now. And here's the thing, there isn't a quick fix formula on being inclusive. And having a diverse, you know, kind of clients that you are serving, it really requires you to do the inner work, you know, getting aware, you know, getting yourself into this classes and reading and educating yourself about the problem that exists. It's not a quick fix. Okay, let's sit down, let's look at the people you're serving. Okay, now, let's do a big call out to people who identify in this way, so that you can serve them no, it really needs to come from doing that personal work in first and foremost, because that will in many ways inform how you run your business. So understanding the differences that exist, understanding where your implicit bias comes from, because we all have implicit biases, and understanding about the stereotypes and the beliefs, the internal systems that have been, you know, we grew up with have shaped the way we think and believe and have very much contributed to how we are doing business, being able to, you know, unpack that a little bit to look at the history of what what has led you here, and then begin to put things in place that can make you more consciously aware of what to do moving forward to be more inclusive. So that's something that you cannot skip, you've got to go through that. And be in a place where as you make these changes within your business, you're doing them not only consciously but so that you can be sustainable. It's not just something that you're just doing in the height of this being a realization, but it's something that becomes part and parcel of how you run your business on an ongoing basis.
Suzanne Chadwick 09:41
And what is that bias? What does that bias look like? Because I think the other thing is people like Well, I'm not like I'm not biased. I'm not ready. I'm not racist, I'm not biased. I, you know, I treat everybody equally. But what is that bias that we're we may not be aware of?
Annie Gichuru 09:57
I think understanding that when it comes to people who identify as black, brown, Indigenous and People of Colour, there are challenges and setbacks that they face, things are not equitable for them. And I use the term equitable, because it's quite different from equity, equality, you know, equality is when you're trying to treat everybody the same, which is great, but trying to treat everybody the same when their needs are different doesn't work. So equity comes into play when you are trying to meet people at their point of need, and, and giving them the right support so that they can potentially, you know, catch up with everybody else. And so there is a huge disparity, that you have black, indigenous and people of colour face, and it's been able to understand, okay, so there are setbacks that exist, and having that understanding, and how can I then come in with my expertise to be able to support that? So for example, if you have people who identify as black who have issues, accessing funding for their business, and you're somebody who has a financial background, and you know, how to put together great business proposals, how can you then partner with them to ensure that maybe there are certain areas that they're not addressing that they could do better to see them have, you know, outcomes that are a little bit more favourable for them, and be able to build those businesses that they want to build? So it's really understanding that as an example, knowing the expertise that you have, and the issue that this particular group may be facing and how you can come in? And, you know, be of assistance?
Suzanne Chadwick 11:42
And how do we make those connections? Like we were just talking about before that people like, you know, when I look at my community, when I look at my client base, I seem to have attracted this, this type of client. And intentionally, you're, you know, deaf. Yeah, unintentionally. And so when you're looking to have that influence, or work with people like that, how do you find those groups? How do you start to shift the like, who you're working? Yes,
Annie Gichuru 12:15
yes, that's a great question. And one that gets asked a fair bit. And it's all about expanding your network, you've got to be in a position where you are growing and expanding your network and being deliberate, conscious about how you're doing that. And we're living in times of social media. And so you know, friendships and relationships are being built that way, I think that's how you and I have gotten to know each other a little bit more. And so being more deliberate in who you are following online. Finding more about if it's matters to do with D, I searching on that, and seeing who are people who you feel aligned with you from a values perspective, because not everybody who looks different to you is somebody that you will feel connected to, but beginning to follow accounts that don't look like you, but in some way, you're very interested in the work that they have to do. And creating an organic relationship in that way, liking commenting, in a genuine way, you're not just doing it, because at the end of the day, you want to just fill up your, you know, your networks with certain kinds of people, but you're doing it from a genuine, you know, perspective. And that has worked for me, that is one, you know, I'm pretty active on Instagram. And so that has been an avenue that I have pursued and have done quite well. And a lot of my connections have come from there people who have never met, but have become really good friends, due to the fact that what they have to offer is something that I'm really interested in. And what I have to offer is something that is of interest to them as well.
Suzanne Chadwick 13:59
Yeah, amazing. And so when I was reading through your website, as well, you were talking about serving from a place of alignment with your values, when it comes to the work that you're doing. What does that mean?
Annie Gichuru 14:14
Yes, alignment with your values is I work with a lot of solid and heartless business owners. And so it is wanting to work with people who are like that as well, people who have similar values. And a lot of times when we're talking about our ICA, you know, our ideal customers. We often think of people who are like us and who look like us and potentially went to the same school or this is kind of what you think about when you think of your ICA. But we tend to forget that it's not just about the demographics, that is important, but it's also the other things that are really, really important, you know, the heart led stuff that connects us. And so if we're able to factor that, then we can connect with people who come from different backgrounds, because that aligns with our values and who we are as human beings. And I think we have been very much led as we're trying to find our ideal customer really focused on somebody who is potentially like us, and in so doing have left out a whole group of people who you may potentially serve really, really well, because you're aligned from a heart lead perspective.
Suzanne Chadwick 15:39
Yeah. And when it comes to businesses, and I know that you've got a program as well, for business owners, when it comes to businesses being or looking at how they're culturally, racially diverse, inclusive, equitable, yeah. What are some of the things within a business? So we sort of talked about, you know, taking a look at your ICA, we've talked about increasing like who you're following, so that you've got a broader spectrum of, of, you know, ideas and voices and things like that, from within a business? What are some of the things that we might need to be more aware of, when it comes to building a business where we are advocates, but we're also doing the work ourselves? And we're reflecting that in the business that we're, we've got, and then we're trying to grow as well?
Annie Gichuru 16:32
Yes. So it's not just within who you're serving? Because a lot of times you're thinking, who, who am I serving? Who am I customers, but it's also who you're learning from? Who are you consuming content from? When you look at the books that you're buying? or listening to? Who are the authors? Are they just one type of people that you always kind of subscribe to the groups that you belong to, you know, where you're spending your dollar is this coming from a group of people who are again, identify as those coming from a marginalized group, if I may say, or, again, I use still identifying with those who are very much like you. So it is looking beyond that, who are you having more than guests, we're coming on to your podcasts. And not just people who are talking about di because I think every time these topics to do of this nature, this is when we see people of colour, and indigenous people being given a platform. But beyond that, when it comes to business coaches and marketing gurus, and, you know, financial experts, they are there, they are there, but we're just not, you know, tapping into that. So it is really being able to look broadly enough in all the touch points within your business in terms of who you're learning from, who you're consuming from. And also collaborations, you know, when collaborations happen. And you know, you've seen somebody and you want to connect with them, you know, how could you expand this to include others who may normally not be included, when you have events that have been set up? In perhaps you're in an all white line up, it's questioning that and saying, I would love to be part of this, but I'd also love to see some more diversity. And by the way, here are some great people who I think would make, you know, great guests, either for your podcast or for your event. And, and so it's being consciously aware, not just in who you're serving, but who you're collaborating with and who you are learning from as well.
Suzanne Chadwick 18:40
And I'd love to ask, because when I think right now of the Australian landscape, yeah. Okay, so I'm part of a coaching group in the US. It has got a very large black community within the program, which I don't feel I see here. Yes. So obviously, like I said, when everything happened last year, the you know, the coach that I'm working with, she's super vocal, you know, she they've got like an inclusive language policy on all coaching calls. They're very overt about it. They've talked about how they've worked through their diversity and inclusion with all their employees, and looking at who they employ and all the rest of it. It's just a really, like, it's such an open conversation. And it's a very, what's the word? I don't know. I like I just, I don't feel like I'm seeing it here. It's very compelling, like what they talk about, and it's very open, and it's talked about a lot. Whereas I just don't feel like we see it a lot here. And even as we're talking now, and I think about black leaders, voices that I can think I think of off the top of my head, there's probably like, for like four or five. And that's maybe my, you know, like maybe I need to broaden who I'm listening to, I guess in the circles that I'm in, there's like a few names, faces that I know, what do you think about diversity in the female entrepreneurs space? When it comes to women of colour, black, etc, other from other, you know, Asian, etc? What are your thoughts?
Annie Gichuru 20:41
We're definitely not seeing anywhere close to enough of it here in Australia. And I think it's because this topic of race has been so taboo. For us, it's like the no go zone. You know, it's the big elephant in the room that nobody addresses or talks about, because it's really uncomfortable. And I believe it's uncomfortable, because we haven't really dealt with our past our history, you know, how we've treated our First Nations people that has never been addressed. It's always been something that's been so uncomfortable and not quite going there. And so there's a past that needs to be dealt with and reckoned with that is kind of just sitting there since. But also, I feel in terms of what we're seeing on mainstream media and taking it back to my personal story of really not seeing myself represented and feeling like I cannot be on television. I cannot pursue this because I'm not seeing it. You know, we're very multicultural. But when it comes to the voices that are being showcased, and spotlighted, we are not seeing that diversity. And I think it really comes from that. That hesitation of race being a thing that is embraced and spoken about, it's still very taboo. And I think we've actually even seen quite a bit of the ability to talk about this a lot more, because of what happened last year with George Floyd, we've been able to open up this conversation that has been very much taboo, I feel because of the network's I have Suze there are some incredible entrepreneurs out there. And I know a personal friend who has a conference for women of colour that she launched last year that I find in Melbourne, where you're at. And she's doing it again for the second year. It's hard to be virtual just because of what the pandemic has done to us in terms of meeting and coming together. But it's the first of its kind. And it's bringing not just women of colour, it's definitely spotlighting them, but it's their allies as well, you know, coming in to support them. And so they are there that the women in leaders of colour are there, we just don't know about them, because they're not being given a platform for it.
Suzanne Chadwick 23:08
And what's that call that conference?
Annie Gichuru 23:11
It's called colourful, it's called colourful, and it's by a lady by the name of Winneth Abani. And it's just something that has been quite refreshing and very much needed in that industry.
Suzanne Chadwick 23:29
Yeah, cuz no, I have not heard of that at all. But I think that that's yeah, I think that that's really interesting because I know that CAMI who is part of the business chicks network and the coaching beautiful you that you were, I know that she wrote an article last year on it. And, and her experiences and things like that. But like I said, the like there's like you carry, there's like a couple of other people. And I just find it really interesting that there isn't more diversity. Because we are such a multicultural. Yes, country.
Annie Gichuru 24:08
You're so right. Suze, you're absolutely spot on and right. And I think it's it's purely out of opportunity. And you know, one of the things I have often heard said is when it comes to ally ship, because as you know, Ally ship is something that I talk a lot. It's how can you mention the names of women of colour, or black women or indigenous women who are doing great things, we're making a difference who need to be known of, you know, that the most powerful thing you can do as somebody who is connected as somebody who has a platform as somebody who has a sphere of influence. I mean, we're leaders and so we have our own spheres, where we were influential, and so it's mentioning those names those women like we knit or you know others that are not quite known but are doing substantial work. And in fact, she has an Order of Australia medal. She's an all year or a recipient. So there are there. We just don't know about the we're just not hearing about them.
Suzanne Chadwick 25:18
Yeah. And I feel like I'm like I should, I should know more about these women. So I will do my research, and then I will share that with my community. Because like you said, I think that it's up to us to you know, I, like I said, I know, Dixie, and I know that she's sort of, you know, brought a lot of the Aboriginal story through recently. And it's just been, yeah, it's been such a, it's such an eye opener as well. And I mean, I come from South Africa, I'm, you know, I'm classified as a woman of colour. But when I look at my community, I don't I don't feel like I see a representation of mainstream Australia. We just, I'm like, why is that? Like, what is?
Annie Gichuru 26:10
You know, here's the thing, Sue's just through this conversation you and I have had, you have gotten to know about somebody else who's doing incredible things. And then out of that, who knows, because this might get you quite curious of, Hey, hang on, you know, I really want to find out who's out there who's doing something and just get to know about them and their business. And that will just open a can that will open a can and you'll be like I had no idea. I had no idea that this and we're all connected, because you mentioned we need. I mentioned we need that she and her and Kimmy are great friends. And in fact, Kenny was a keynote speaker at the first conference last year. So they're all we're all interconnected. And we are they're just hoping to, to have our work put on larger platforms that can influence more people.
Suzanne Chadwick 27:06
You think that women of colour, and this could be a really ignorant question on my part, and not as visible? Are they just not they are visible, they're just not followed as like, I'm really I'm actually kind of a little bit stumped. I'm like, why are they not more leaders? Why are they not more visible? Is that that they've chosen not to be that way? Is that? Or is it that they're just not getting the attention? Like, what is it?
Annie Gichuru 27:31
You know, I think there's, there's a number of things, it would be difficult to just, you know, one thing, but there are a number of things. The first thing for me, I believe, is that lack of access, it's the lack of access. And as you do this work, as you do this racial equity work that I teach, you will begin to realize when it comes to equity, it truly is about a lack of access to opportunities, access to, you know, knowing the people that you need to know and having those connections that are door openers for you to step you into, you know, where you want to go and shine a light on the work that you're doing. The women are there and they're there in droves. It's the opportunities as well. And also, you know, there are many things that come into play not being able to network properly, not being able to know enough people who are in positions who can elevate them. So there's a lot that comes into play as well. And not to mention the limiting beliefs that we all face. And then couple that by the barriers and the challenges that don't allow us to be truly seen, unless somebody who is well known mentions our name, and people are like, Hey, how come? I didn't know about you?
Suzanne Chadwick 28:50
Yeah, absolutely. I'm like, get out there.
Annie Gichuru 28:56
Yes, yes. Um, they're definitely there. And here's the thing, once you start looking, you find them and you're like, Oh, my goodness, here they are, and how can we share their work a little bit more. And also, you know, this is where we need business coaches, like uses helping, you know, this kind of group of women who are not being seen who need to be more visible because I know, working with migrant women of colour, a big issue has been visibility visible, especially when you're not in a space where you're seeing yourself represented, you're faced with so many things that make you feel less than that make you feel unworthy. And so you have that to deal with the you know, in addition to the all the other things, and so having somebody who is a business coach who appreciates that and is doing this work, to be able to just help propel and push us and you know, help discover the full potential that exists is really Be really needed. And that's why I really enjoy working with business coaches, because it's such a potential there. They're changemakers there's such a potential there.
Suzanne Chadwick 30:11
Yeah, it's so interesting. I mean, I grew up, my mom used to lecture in front of, like, 300 women every, every week, when I was growing up, and, you know, she went through the apartheid system in South Africa. And, you know, there were a lot of not particularly nice stories and all the rest of it. And so, you know, me coming to Australia to and watching her my whole life, to me, it was never something that was not possible. And so when you talk about them not seeing, you know, what is possible for them? Yeah, I just think sometimes we take for granted what we grew up with, or the role models that we had, whether it's personally or professionally. Yeah, and I just, it's, it's so interesting, like, even when I think back to my leaders and things like that, like I had quite a mix. And and I just think sometimes you don't realize that a lot of people don't have that.
Annie Gichuru 31:12
Absolutely, absolutely being brought up maybe in a country or a home where you're like, oh, you know, we have we can't be too loud, or we can't be too visible, or this is the place we have been sort of delegated to. And this is how we've got to keep between this, this confines and this boundaries. Absolutely. That is there. The upbringing plays such a huge role. But those who have had mothers or role figures who have really been outspoken and been doing this kind of advocacy work, you see the difference in their children, even when you hear stories, like Michelle Obama in her book becoming, you know, talking about the conversations around the dinner table where they were allowed to ask every and any question, and they were affirmed about who they were that they were worthy. And so for her rising to where she was at, and all the negativity that came with it, she was able to hold her head up high because of where she came from. So that's something that we cannot take for granted. For sure.
Suzanne Chadwick 32:15
Yeah, and it was really interesting as well, like, obviously, through through everything that's happened in the last year, my daughter has got all of skin like me, my son is like a ghost, like my husband, like a blue, white. And if even those discussions were really interesting, that they kind of came up in our home. And so yeah, I just I just think that it's conversations that the majority of households probably don't have, if there's no need for them to have it or that, you know, when big things happen, like what happened with George Floyd then maybe, is a conversation that's raised in the home, those sorts of things. But yeah, I'm definitely interested in, in focusing in and I can't believe I hadn't heard of colourful before. So I will definitely go and check that out as well. But yeah, I am really keen and want to start to talk more about this, and be able to share with my community, you know, a diverse range of voices as well, because I think that that's just so important. And so is there anything else that you want to share any today that you feel we need to be thinking about conscious of working towards, generally within our business and the way that we are inclusive?
Annie Gichuru 33:41
Absolutely. The number one question I get asked is, where do I start? Because I am afraid I don't want to make a mistake. I don't want to add more harm. And this work is pretty confronting, where do I begin? And what I often say is our leadership, understanding, you know, what is it that it would take to be a genuine ally and advocate for people of colour, and I have created a free guide. It's a free PDF guide with 10 actionable steps that you can begin to take today to become a genuine ally and advocate and to go with that I am hosting a free live training purely on ally ship in action. How does that look like? What is the difference between being genuine and performative? How can I incorporate this not just in my business, but in my life? And how do I overcome the blockers that get in the way because those are the things that stop us from taking action? So I'll be sharing that in a live training on the 24th of November.
Suzanne Chadwick 34:55
Fantastic, so good. So we'll have the links to all of that in the show notes along the way. all of your links and your socials and your website and everything else. But I've really valued your time and the work that you do. And I know that it's not easy. And I know that these conversations that you're having with business owners are not easy. But you know, I think that it's so important. And this is for all of my listeners, for us to ask the question, How do I become an ally? What does this look like for me in my business? How do I raise others voices who do not have the visibility and the opportunity that maybe I have had? And I think that if we, if more of us can ask those questions. And it's, you know, it's always small steps. Nobody's asking you to, you know, organize a protest in the city, nobody's asking you to, you know, get out and do big things. It's just what are the things that you can do? Right now, the small steps that you can start to take downloading and his freebie, checking out the webinar, starting to educate yourself is such an important thing to do. I think and it's an I'm right here, I'm right alongside doing the same work too. So you know, absolutely, we need more people like you who are doing this work.
Annie Gichuru 36:09
And also when you look around your business, and you see who are the businesses that I'm supporting, were the businesses that I'm elevating so that they can make it if I'm not seeing enough of diversity, that means that we're just helping one group of people propel and move on and wondering why why aren't we seeing any changes? Why aren't we seeing all people being included? Let's have a look within our own businesses and see who are the people we're supporting and elevating and what can we do to understand what we need to do better at
Suzanne Chadwick 36:41
Amazing I love it. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, sharing your wisdom with us.
Annie Gichuru 36:47
Thank you so much for having me Suze.