Jessica Heafey is one of Elevate Inclusion’s skilled training co-hosts. She is also a certified Executive Coach, actor, and member of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists.

We asked Jessica to explain how her work with Elevate has impacted her personally and professionally. She also shared her favourite JEDDI related books, podcasts and resources.

Jessica Heafey

As a facilitator, it is so deeply satisfying to witness people in a group or team elevate the conversation and share what they have learned and experienced. I’ve learned that people are generous.

What draws you to Justice, Equity, Diversity, Decolonization and Inclusion (JEDDI) work both personally and professionally?

JH: As a kid, I was very fortunate, in a sense – I grew up thinking life was fair and that everything was going to be okay. I remember feeling utter confusion and disbelief when I began to learn how wrong I was. I started to understand that life is drastically and disproportionately unfair to many and that the harm and trauma were actually caused by others. I wanted to work at making things “fair” early on.

Today, as an adult, I continue to deepen my understanding of how institutional racism manifests itself everywhere and how I have supported it. Once you realize that, how can you not work to dismantle it and simply work to do better? Of course, I have friends and family from many marginalized groups who fuel that fire, including my 6-year-old racialized child who has already been discriminated against on multiple occasions because she has two moms. Life needs to get a lot more equitable, a lot more “fair.”

What have you learned about hosting conversations on JEDDI?

JH: Hosting a conversation on JEDDI is simply giving people the time to reflect on something they may not yet have taken the time to think about. We create the space and framework for these incredibly important conversations, and everyone who joins us is at different stages of learning and unlearning. As a facilitator, it is so deeply satisfying to witness people in a group or team elevate the conversation and share what they have learned and experienced. I’ve learned that people are generous.

What are you reading, watching or listening to that inspires and deepens your inclusive practice?

JH: Right now, I’m reading Lily Zheng’s DEI Deconstructed. Lily is very direct in their approach in supporting people and organizations in this much needed transformation. They provide a valuable road map to the work and have razor sharp analysis, including our own practices as DEI practitioners, so it’s a great companion piece to my work and is still accessible to those who are just getting started. When I read their book, it is harder to be complacent and easier to do the work. When a leader is working to transform their work culture to one where everyone feels they belong, the process is empowering, and it can also feel very slow. This book is a reminder that it’s very possible.

I recently attended a webinar with Ruchika Tulshyan and have gone on to listen to videos and podcasts from her. I have yet to get my hands on her new book, Inclusion on Purpose. As the subtitle of her book indicates, her talks particularly focus on having “An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work.”

I’m also enjoying and learning from the Podcast series of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, and my child loves to listen to them in the car. It is a great example of cultural appreciation, using food, storytelling and deepening relationships with people and different cultures. The books are great as well.

Is there anything else you would like to reflect on about your work with Elevate Inclusion Strategies?

JH: Doing this work with a team is helpful and necessary. We all need to do our own work ourselves, but we also all have fluctuating degrees of capacity in our lives. Working as a team helps bridge the gaps and keeps us engaged.

We love Jessica’s recommendations!  You can find them, as well as many other empowering resources on Elevate’s Inspirations page.