Dr. Helen Ofosu helps businesses move toward equity, diversity and inclusion as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She says that employees of colour who are staying at home during the pandemic are realizing that their workplace may not have been a very welcoming one when they were there in person.
Dr. Helen Ofosu is an Industrial/Organizational psychologist, an Executive Coach and HR Consultant who founded I/O Advisory Services Inc. in Ottawa. She has extensive experience working with organizations and tackling structural racism at many levels.
“Generally speaking, I work with organizations – it could be government departments, private sector companies, or non-profits – often they bring me in to help with more inclusive hiring or to help improve their workplace culture. Over the past couple of years, I’ve done a lot more training in terms of equity, diversity, and inclusion with a splash of anti-racism and anti-oppression mixed in.
This winter what has me most excited is doing some work with a large government department on a mentorship program that’s quite different. We’re doing some training upfront with the mentors to make sure they understand some of the issues the racialized employees they’re trying to mentor have been experiencing. The idea is that with better awareness and understanding, mentors won’t be contributing to some of the issues with which racialized employees have been struggling. Equally important, with a more realistic perspective, the mentors can focus their interventions more effectively. It’s training for the mentors, but also offering some coaching for mentees above and beyond the support the mentors are providing.
Speaking more broadly, it’s all about supporting individuals and even organizations that are grappling with issues related to bullying, harassment, and of course various forms of discrimination.”
Dr. Ofosu has recently written and spoken about the “Great Resignation.” Over the past two years, during the pandemic, she has noticed a lot of racialized employees choosing to find work elsewhere, as they are realizing that while working from home, they are no longer subjected to the everyday indignities they experienced in the physical workplace.
“These things have been happening for years, but now people are removed from that environment, and they have the peace of mind that comes from doing their work without worrying about microaggressions, or getting the side-eye, or being excluded from coffees, lunches and conversations. When all of that is gone, people feel so much more relaxed because they can just focus on doing their work.
I think the real trigger was in the summer of 2022, when a lot of organizations were planning their return to work. It was only when people started to realize ‘oh my goodness – I might have to go back to the office’ that they started thinking ‘wait a second – I don’t think I can go back to the office. I don’t want to go back to the office! I don’t want to go back to the way things were.’
During all that reconsideration, a lot of people figured it was a smart time for them to find a different place to work, where there’s more representation, more inclusion, more diversity, and just a better workplace culture. From what I’ve seen, people are reflecting on a lot of things during the pandemic. So, they’re looking for a way to find employment where they can just be themselves, and focus on work instead of focusing on self-protection from all these emotional assaults.”
To some extent, Dr. Ofosu is shielded from this kind of thing, personally, by being self-employed. It is a good thing that she will be continuing to do her job, as she is one of very few Black psychologists doing this work in this space – work that is more top of mind than ever, and is more important and impactful now than it has ever been.