Cicely Belle Blain Is Making “Diversity” and “Inclusion” More Than Just Buzzwords

The consultant explains how they made it happen

(Photo: David Markwei)
(Photo: David Markwei)

Name: Cicely Belle Blain

Job title: CEO, Cicely Blain Consulting

Age: 25

From: London, UK

Currently lives in: Vancouver (unceded Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh territory)

Education: BA in modern European studies and Russian, University of British Columbia; certificate in new media journalism, Simon Fraser University

First job out of school: Nanny

After winning the International Leader of Tomorrow Award—a scholarship dedicated to people who UBC believes will become leaders—Cicely Blain found a new home in Vancouver. During their jam-packed years as an undergrad—which included not only graduating early but also co-founding Black Lives Matter Vancouver—they took every opportunity to develop those leadership skills. “I took this gift seriously and have committed my life to making meaningful change,” they say. Today, Blain is the CEO of their own company, Cicely Blain Consulting, which helps businesses with diversity inclusion practices in the workplace. A necessary role, but what does that mean, exactly?

“My job consists of multiple moving parts, including workshop facilitation, event planning, workplace policy development and long-term consulting on equity and inclusion strategies with clients,” explains Blain. “I get to sit with people and figure out the challenges of creating equitable and inclusive workplaces and guide them towards making good decisions for their employees and clients.” Prior to launching their business, Blain had found themselves back living with their parents in London, unsure about next steps and burned out from working the frontlines with Qmunity, B.C.’s queer, trans and two-spirit resource centre. “I was supporting LGBTQ youth but I was an LGBTQ youth…it was a lot! I was also travelling around Canada, and the world, speaking on anti-racism, Black Lives Matter and social justice,” they recall. “Eventually it all became too much—I was burned out from work, activism and being a Black, queer femme living in Vancouver.”

Starting a business without any business experience is ballsy stuff, but to Blain learning is just part of the job. A leader isn’t just someone who leads by example or who shares only their own knowledge or experiences—being a leader means that you help others see their own potential and see that the knowledge is already inside them. That’s what Blain finds the most fulfilling. “I love facilitating conversations and watching people learn and grow. I love the wide eyes of eager students and seeing the cogs turning in people’s minds as I introduce new concepts,” they say. “It always amazes me how competent and knowledgeable people are around topics of social justice, because it’s often hidden behind fear and vulnerability. Once we remove that facade, we can dig deep into the content, and the rich dialogue starts flowing.”

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