Legendary American poet, writer, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. Propagating the true essence of these words is Camille Dundas, Editor-in-Chief of the #1 Black Canadian online magazine, www.byblacks.com.The former TV news producer for CTV now boasts a career like no other. According to her LinkedIn profile, Dundas went from intentionally failing half her classes in high school to being named one of the top 100 accomplished Black women in Canada.
“I’ve gone from asking the Canadian government for help to helping the Canadian government as a consultant. I’ve had dozens of job applications ignored and now I’m the co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online magazine that’s been recognized by the Prime Minister, while also working as a consultant for the world’s leading social media management company, Hootsuite.”
So, what is her secret to success? “Vulnerability, storytelling and a message of radical transparency.”
“Sharing my own personal stories from my 10-year career as a TV news producer, like that time I accidentally found out I was a ‘diversity hire’ to the stream of microaggressions I’ve navigated in life and at work, has led me to spend more time researching and talking about Canada’s unique place in the diversity, equity and inclusion space,” wrote Dundas.
Taking time off her busy schedule, Dundas spoke with The Edge about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
ByBlacks.com is ranked the #1 Black Canadian online magazine, having won three national ethnic press awards and recognition from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and has grown exponentially in the past couple of years. You started the magazine when diversity was not very rife among business organizations. What initiated the idea of an online magazine, targeting the Black community of Canada?
The idea for the site actually started as a business directory. My husband Roger was meeting so many Black business owners who didn’t have a website, so he wanted to offer them all a space to promote their businesses for free or minimal cost. Then we realized we have to give people a reason to come back to this site. That’s where the business profiles came in and we quickly expanded to cover all kinds of topics, and it was natural for me to step in as editor-in-chief, given my journalistic background.
It was clear to me that people, myself included, are hungry for content that speaks to them, reflects their lives and is informative yet entertaining. Black people, especially right now, are looking to have as much positivity as possible shown about their community. What really motivated us to keep going is knowing that we were filling a need – there just are not enough media outlets focusing on positive Black Canadian stories.
You are certainly a dynamic woman being Editor-in-Chief of ByBlacks.com, named one of the top 100 Black women in Canada, and acting as a solutions consultant for Hootsuite and a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant for several other corporate clients. What is your secret to success? How do you manage almost single-handedly running two practices and how do you balance your work life and your personal life?
There is no such thing. You try to do as much work as you can without feeling guilty about not spending every waking moment with your kids. For me, though, it’s important for my kids to see me doing the work that I love. I want them to see what passion looks like, what hard work and dedication looks like. But when your kid says, “Mom, put your phone away and go to sleep”, you better listen.
With my marriage, it helps that we do so much of our work together, so we kind of have to spend time with each other. But you have to watch that too. So we are very aware of carving out time where we don’t talk about business.
What are your top three core principles for a successful business and, in a nutshell, how would one go about implementing them?
Know your strengths, delegate everything else. You should learn as much as you can, but don’t try to become an expert in everything. Hire experts instead and focus on what you’re good at. Patience is one of the most important principles in business. When you’re passionate about something, you want it all to materialize right away, but that leads to a lot of compromising and mistakes.
Does anybody want what you’re offering? I learned a great and simple piece of marketing advice that will help you avoid investing lots of money building a business no one wants. Most people build something and then market it. But what if you reverse the order, market it first and test the demand? Build a quick landing page and measure how many people click on it or sign up for more info. That will give you a good indication of what the interest level is.
What are some of the current projects you are working on?
We have just relaunched one of our most popular campaigns called #BlackHistory365.
During this critical time, a global pandemic has brought instability, and many businesses have had to restructure, putting a hold on growth and momentum. How has diversity and equality in the workplace changed during this time? What is your expert advice to both large corporations and SMME (small-medium-micro enterprises) on how to navigate through these challenging times?
My advice would be to not rush to action but to focus on learning. When companies rush to action, it’s usually performative. They are worried about being perceived as not doing enough.
But the thing is there is so much you don’t know about the experience of racialized employees, because, until now, you haven’t been forced to pay attention. So, start with researching[and] educating yourself about the topics racialized folks have been talking about [for] decades. Then listen to them. Then figure out what is the best course of action for your company from there.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs to inculcate more gender and racial diversity in their workplace?
If you want to have a more diverse workforce, then focus on it the way you would [on] any other business issue. You have to be intentional and build out a strategy. If you don’t have the skills to create that strategy, hire an expert who does. There are also lots of things you can do to help amplify Black business voices. For example, there are many companies who are setting targets for themselves to ensure that a certain percentage of their vendors and suppliers are Black-owned. On the flip side, if you are a supplier or a service provider, offer to discount your services to Black-owned businesses.
Veruschka Mungroo | Contributing Writer