Approaching my journey in 2019

Michelle Obama.jpg

There were so many inspirational moments in 2018 and challenges too.

I also have many people to thank family, friends, colleagues, business associates and ordinary people who touched my life.

I am looking forward with eager expectations for 2019. My goals are to embrace new adventures or any obstacles I may face.

Thanks, everyone for the many messages of love, good wishes and innumerable notes of thanks. Here is one I received today and wish to share, "Remember when I was terrified of making a career change and you assured me that I will be okay and I would do well. Guess what? I just celebrated my second year anniversary. Thanks for believing in me, much love!"

One of the many gifts I received over the holiday was Michelle Obama's book from two young women I worked with last year. They are extraordinary young women who are going places.

Wishing everyone a successful journey in 2019. Enjoy the ride!

Have a great week ahead.

On the value and power of engaging with women of colour in business


Nova Scotia is becoming increasingly diverse and it is critical that we recognize all aspects of our society and value what each segment has to offer in support of our economic growth and development.


One group within the business community that is consistently overlooked are Women of Colour. Few references are made to our contribution to the province as business owners. This article is in reference to those women who self-identify as Women of Colour and are non-white.


Cynthia Dorrington is the first woman of African descent to be appointed as Chair of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, a 200-year-old institution. Male dominated, the oldest business association in North America. 


In Canada, there are 950,000 self-employed women business owners and 16 per cent are micro-enterprises of 1 - 4 people. There are no readily available statistics for women of colour  entrepreneurs or small business owners (Centre for Women's Foundation). 


However, Women of Colour are making a significant contribution to our ever-growing economy in various sectors and industries but are often not recognized because they are not members of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce or the Centre for Women in Business. The primary reason is that many would say those organizations were not welcoming or inclusive. It has to be noted that there have been recent changes which bodes well for the future.


In 2012, I founded the Black and Immigrant Women's Network at the behest of other women, and I have been privileged to engage with many who are business owners or have a small business in addition to their professional career. 


The little-known fact is that Women of Colour have always been industrious, owning their small home-based businesses, selling their products in their community and earning an income for themselves, to supplement their income or to gain independence and to raise their families. 

Women of Colour have always used their skills, talents, intellect, creativity and innovativeness for the advancement of themselves, their families and communities. 


However, Women of Colour often face insurmountable barriers and are not adequately represented in business for a variety of reasons. Consciously or unconsciously, systemic discrimination has been the major reason why they have been held back.


Today, in Nova Scotia, the landscape is changing because more Women of Colour are choosing to take risks by engaging in various business sectors (construction, technology, export and import, publications, accounting, education, catering, pharmacy, online products, quantity surveying, hair salons, dry cleaning, management consultancy, automotive industry, catering, medical and legal professions, are just a few to mention), and owning shopfront businesses. Some of these businesses have been in existence for over 30 years.


Some of the challenges include finding appropriate funding sources to start their business, trusting mentors, building the right networks and contacts, knowing where to go to get information and advice, understanding procurement, access to contracts, finding the market, research, how to bid for contracts etc. Understanding the competition and how to use one's competitive advantage to find your own unique selling proposition.


The good news is that we are a growing network, who are not only providing for ourselves and our families but have international business connections and are employing men and women in other countries. Those who have online businesses are selling their products to a global market We are finding new market places, ways to collaborate, build allies, and aligning ourselves with people who are like-minded.


We need to surround ourselves with women from all industries, all colours, and together lift our collective horizons for our mutual benefit. 


Authored by Ann Divine, CEO Ashanti Leadership & PDS



Past and Present Managers of Human Rights Education

Ann Divine, Tracey Thomas and Kesa Munroe-Anderson

Ann Divine, Tracey Thomas and Kesa Munroe-Anderson

It is rear to see a bevvy of ladies who shared the same role in government as managers in the same place at the same time. This was a powerful and highly unusual moment, especially in the Nova Scotia Public Service Commission. We all worked at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission as manager, Race Relations, Equity and Inclusion. A position which we held in high regard, and with a great sense of pride.
We must thank Carolyn Thomas and Viki Samuels for paving the way for us (Tracey Thomas, Dr Kesa Munroe-Anderson and I). Ironically, this is the only position in government that has been held by women of African descent and legislated for Race Relations, Equity and Inclusion matters. It enhanced our professional standing, decision-making and influence. We, in turn, have given a great deal to make a difference in the area of Diversity and Inclusion in our province by raising public awareness about discrimination, education and training.
We cannot forget Moe O'Keiffe who also acted briefly. Hopefully, she will be next in line.


Viola Desmond featured on the new $10 bill today

Launched today the new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond

Launched today the new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond

Today is a historic day, and celebration for all of us, especially women in business. I'm am getting my $10bill today for the archive.

A great day for all of us women who are striving against all odds to move forward. it takes courage, the determination in everything we do to succeed in business. For women of colour especially, the road to a successful business is still challenging but we have examples of how we can do it. Viola Desmond is one of those women.

Congratulation Mrs Wanda Robson for your determination in bringing your sister's story to the world.

Speaker for Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine Admissions Committee

They are all black women medical doctors.

They are all black women medical doctors.

I am looking forward to speaking to the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine Admissions Committee. This an exciting opportunity for me to meet such a prestigious group as they seek to find solutions to engage more African Nova Scotian/Canadians and Indigenous students in their medical program. Thanks to Dr David Haase, Professor of Medicine at Dalhousie University.
This article really impressed me. 

Sister Supporting Sister - Appreciation


There are many people who have contributed to my success in various ways. I recalled when I mentioned in a meeting that I was leaving government to become independent, some people at the table laughed but Tracey Thomas, Senior Policy Advisor in the government of Nova Scotia, believed in me. She recognized my potential, valued what I had to offer and sent a group of women to meet, to be coached and mentored because they were experiencing some serious challenges in their workplace.

Today, none of those women are in the same positions including me. They have gone on to become a director, business advisor, government position, others have left our province and are very successful in their career choice.

Thank you, my friend. I found this image and had to share it because I appreciate you as a sister giving another sister a step up.

My Person of the Day

David ad Aunty Phyllis (House Mother) Aberlour Orphanage

David ad Aunty Phyllis (House Mother) Aberlour Orphanage

Today, I nominate and voted my husband David, my "Person of the Day." He is one incredibly strong and determined person. We saw him off last night at HFX Int'l Airport, bound for a conference at Stirling University, Scotland on The Aberlour Child Care Trust. Uppermost in his mind would be his role, which is to deliver a keynote speech on his work. It is the most comprehensive study about the Scottish Child Care System on the Aberlour Orphanage founded in 1875-1967, where he grew up from 18 months to 12 years old. At that time the Orphanage housed over 600 children. This is a major contribution towards the Historic Child Abuse Inquiry in Scottland.

As I watched you depart, I gave thanks to those who have been part of your journey, Veronica Divine,(my mother-in-law, deceased), yes, she and I connected instantly. She gave me your father's name and I committed to memory. Susan Hart, your sister, (who did the best she could at her age to show you love), your father David Gist (deceased) and innumerable, all the American family he gave us and they have loved us unconditionally. Aunty Phyllis, your house mother who raise you. As well as your Orphanage family, who are counting on you to give voice and validation to their stories, especially those who are absent for a variety of reasons, and are voiceless. We are very proud of you and your journey to stand up, speak for, and inspire others.

Addressing Diversity and Inclusion with Parks Canada, NS

Best Westin Hotel, Bridgewater, NS - Ann Divine

Best Westin Hotel, Bridgewater, NS - Ann Divine

Time spent with individuals who want to learn and build their knowledge about Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace always energizes me.
Thanks to Parks Canada, proud stewards of our historic sites and marine conservations. I was able to share my thoughts on Unconscious Bias, have some uncomfortable conversations and their demonstrate willing to stay on the path of continuous learning. Their staff were engaging, open and friendly. These were decision makers in various departments of Parks Canada.

I can’t wait to hear from their managers about the evaluation of the day.

Great sites and scenery. You have convinced me about Kejimkujik (Keji) National Park for Camping but I am definitely not going to Sable Island in the winter.

Thanks for a great day and your generosity.

Keji National Park

Keji National Park

Sable Island

Sable Island

WLC - Women's Leadership Collaborative


It was unbelievable.
A room filled with women, sheer brilliance, opportunities and possibilities. Here's the thing. I'm sure some of you have seen the Iris Professional Photobooth in Scotia Square, Halifax. NS. Well, that was invented by my fellow panelist Sue Siri, they are now going to be found in Asia and Europe. Desiree Stockermans, Ocean Sonics, design and builds innovative products to improve the quality and success of underwater sound measurements. Can you image all that talent and more? Thanks, everyone for all your thoughtful words of encouragement and empowerment.

YWCA Women's Leadership Collaborative


I am excited to be a Panel member tonight with the YWCA Women’s Leadership Collaborative which is a platform that supports economic inclusion and women’s leadership development. It was launched this past April as a partnership between the YWCA and NSBI as its founding host. The initiative aims to provide semi-annual networking events that are currently led by a group of 16 women sponsors, comprised of CEOs and senior VPs from the private and public sectors.

Accompanying me are six young women of colour and future leaders. They are intelligent, innovative, creative and determined to define themselves, and accomplish the very best for themselves. Looking forward to a great evening.

Special thanks to our hosts and sponsors. they are phenomenal women in our city.


Person of the Day

Sara Napier

Sara Napier

It is amazing when travelling high in the skies what inspiration comes to mind. I was journaling and reflecting on my career, what I am currently doing, and just reviewing my goals. Then I got the idea to send a tweet every day for just over a month acknowledging and recognizing people who have supported me, helped me along my journey and put their trust and confidence in me.

My first tweet is for my friend and colleague Sara Napier. We don’t see each other but we value each other’s knowledge and wisdom. She means a great deal to me. So, I thank her for her support and confidence she in me.

Annual Reflection and Sound Business Advice

Image gleaned from Public Site 

Image gleaned from Public Site 

This time of the year, I take the opportunity to reflect on my work and meet with those whom I have worked with as clients and colleagues in various organizations, in particular those individuals who have given me sound business advice. I also invite new people to share their experience of our working relationship. It is like getting a 360 degree performance review. I see this as an important aspect of my continual professional development. The best business advice this week came from my friend Saeed El Darahali, President & CEO of #Simplycast. I left our meeting feeling thrilled, filled with renewed energy, a strong sense of purpose, positivty and determination. Special thanks to you Saeed. Our conversations was forthright and encouraging. There were so many precious gems shared by someone who is insightful and very successful.

Re-Imagine Diversity, Inclusion and Transformational Change

Fusion Conference 2018.png

It is critically important for us as small business owners to know our worth, own who we are, recognize our competitive advantage and what is our unique selling proposition.  Unless we have a sound knowledge of these key points no one else will acknowledge your true worth. It takes time to build your reputation, solidify your base and acknowledge who you are.

2014 seems so far away now when I left my government job. It was a good one with autonomy and influence across the province. People thought I had lost my mind, some questioned if I was eating,  my close friends questioned my existence. There were so many doubts about how I would survive. Listening to those concerns, I even doubted myself during those long hard days. What I was selling, no-one wanted. Human Rights Education. People who I trusted, considered friends and colleagues in the business world turned me down. I had no business for ONE whole year. What I had were good people encouraging me to stay the course. My family were so patient with me. My children, even my son-in-law gave me money and kit-kat chocolate when the chips were down. Now that was tremendous to have such support. I recalled one person I was meeting for the first time  took me aside and said there are days when there will be feast others will be famine but don't give up. I have always valued her wisdon and encouragement to this day.


Back then, I was the new kid on the block, struggling to get my name out there and trying to convince people that I can be trusted to go into their organizations and do the work that I had in my portfolio. It was not easy. Although I was known in my community and city, I was not known as a self-employed person. I had to build my reputation. After tones of rejections, I went back to the drawing board, found some advisors, listened, reflected on what I had to offer. Reviewed my qualifications and started again.

The terrain, in Nova Scotia is rough. And there are not too many people in the field doing the work I am doing. Buth never- the-less, the competition is great becaue there are so many well established people doing leadership development which is part of my portfolio.

I have had to push myself hard even when I did not want to. Demonstrate commitment and driven.I have done tones of work for free. I had to learn to be fearless, get a tough skin, accept no and closed doors Also, I had to learn to say no, even though it might be a lucrative the contract but if it comprimises my principles and values, I have to be bold and turn it down.

I am the face of my business and I have to promote myself continuously. Saying relevant and current in the market is critical to my survival. People would often say, I see you every where and that equates making tones of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is about working hard, building relationship, trust, understanding. It is also about being creative, innovative and open tonew ides. When I get turned down for a contract, I get disappointed like everyone else would but I try very hard not to think that because I am a woman of colour this is why it happened. I try to stay true to my values and integrity. I draw strength from my faith and belief that I would be provided for. Sometimes things get scarey but I try to remain positive.

I don't have time to waste and I am never bored. There is always so much exciting things to do. People to meet, new challenges and ideas to explore and boundaries to cross..


At this time of the year, I generally go back to my clients or seek to build new relationships. Two days ago, I sat down with a colleague, senior executive in one of the largest not-for-profit organizations in the province. During the course of our conversation, she told me that I was ahead of my time. The reason being, in 2015, I introduced Unconscious Bias training to organizations in our province. Now it has become popularized for a variety of reasons including the Starbucks Incident which led to all staff receiving implicit bias training in the US and Canada. But back in 2015, people gave me strange looks and asked me several times to repeat myself. It was like a learning a new language for all of us. I certainly did not see myself as being "ahead of my time" but I had to pause for a moment an allow what she said to wash over me. Thank you!

As I reflected on the future and what will come next, I have begun to talk about how we need to Re-imagine and Re-think Diversity and Inclusion, and how our workplaces will be transformed in the next 5- 10years, into the new age of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Currently, we talk about having five generations in the workplace and how that has impacted our relationships with the younger workforce. Now we will have to consider what kind of transformational change will take place and work environment. Now e will have to think about who else will have to accommodate or include at the decision-making table. At times we will not see the individuals, they will be in remote destinations, they may be overseas in a different country.  How will we source talents? Particularly with the new wave of digital transformation taking place in some organizations. For example, we now have driverless machines, trucks as well as robots doing the jobs humans once held.  Although some of this is not entirely new. For example, in the UK,  have had driverless trains for almost two decade. The DockLand Light Railways liking the city to certain parts of East London.

New technologies are causing the shift to automation. Many of the jobs in the lower pay sectors will be lost. It is predicted that women and those from the lower educational background, in particular, will be among the biggest losers  - recognizing that some jobs will disappear particularly those that can be done by machine and o not need humans to complete. Our new competitor will no longer the person in the next cubical but the technology in the cloud. This means that in order to be included and relevant, there has to be a shift in mindset and psychological thinking.

Do we re-think and re-imagine diversity, inclusion and digital transformation? Absolutely and fast.

Fusion Halifax Conference 2018 - Diversity, Inclusion andTransformational Change

Fusions Halifax #3.jpg

I had the privilege of being asked to present at the Fusion Halifax Conference 2018.

Initially, I was in shock because I was not sure what I could say to a group of young, intelligent, ambitious, creative and innovative future leaders. 

Fusion Halifax#4.jpg

The topic of my presentation was Diversity, Inclusion and Transformational Change.

I was very surprised at the numbers present at my talk. The group was very diverse and predominantly males. I invited to Re-think, Re-imagine what diversity and inclusion look like the fact that diversity includes white males and it goes beyond potluck and something we do in the workplace. Diversity must also include the things we do in our communities because we are also leaders in our communities and we bring those attitudes, feelings biases and cultures in to the workplace, so they are not separate. 

Fusion Conference 2018.jpg

The energy in the room was electrifying, our young people did not hesitate to have open conversations about how they view the world and its impact on their lives. 

Fusion Halifax Ladies.jpg

I was very surprised at the diversity in the room - a multi-generational group who were excited to learn. Together we shared their individual stories. (my story, your story and our collective stories) People were engaging, and creative in our discussions.

Fusion Conference 2018.png

We talk about what diversity and inclusion really mean to people. Receiving that they are other competitors as the world is changing. What skills are needed in the workplace given that it is ever-changing and digital technology is revolutionizing the workplace.  Skills such as data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation and so much more. 

Fusion Halifax Conference 2018.png

Diversity means we have to be more inclusive, look to see who is absent from the table and conversation, make every attempt to include them in all aspect of the decision-making process and valuing their contribution. Recognizing that our world is a much better place when all feel included.

Unconscious Bias - Starbucks June 11, 2018



All Starbucks coffee shops were closed today to take Unconscious Bias Training. this follwed the US training which occurred on May 29, when 8,000 stores were closed for 179,000 staff to be trained following the incident which occurred in Philadephia in April when two black men where arrested while waiting to meet another friend in the store.  The police were called by the store manager. In this case, this was clearly racism becuasethe individual was very aware of what she was doing.

Unconscious Bas occurs when seemingly good people make decisions and are unaware that their behavious is discriminatory.

Unconscious Bias in the workplace is more than one day feels good factor training. It is about every person in the organization being willing to address their own biases and call each other out on a daily basis when people are being treated differently. Recognizing that everyone has bias and it impacts our decision making. We must learn to value each other and engage them at every point. 

I am so glad to see that corporation have finally turned their attention to Unconscious Bias Training. In 2015, when I started this training in Halifax, NS, no one knew about it and looked rather bemused. Now everyone has gotten the message. Let's hope it makes a  difference.

Where do biases come from?

“Unconscious Bias comes from social stereotypes, attitudes, opinions, and stigma we form about certain groups of people outside of our own conscious awareness.”  Ross Cook

It is also know as the new form of discrimination and most dangerous because it is difficult to prove.

“We all carry with us lived experiences that shape who we are and what we believe, and those experiences help guide the decisions we make. But it is important that we also take time to better understand the world view of those who turn to us for relief, particularly when those individuals come from a background different than our own.” Chief Justice Michael MacDonald - June 9, 2018.


Keynote Speaker for the UW BHAYANIA AWARD.jpg

I was honoured and privileged to be the keynote speaker at the United Way Halifax Bhayana Family Foundation Awards. This was an incredible opportunity to meet seven volunteers who were recognized for their commitment and passion in service to their work and communities.

I was particularly moved by the resume of each of the award recipients. it was evident that their time, commitment, the dedication was very much front and centre. We wish them every success as they continue to serve. 

More than Good Intentions in the Workplace

This picture is a compliment to my son David Divine

This picture is a compliment to my son David Divine


More than good intentions and open minds: We all have a responsibility to end unconscious bias in the workplace

Unconscious bias is defined as “social stereotypes, attitudes, opinions and stigmas we form about certain groups of people outside of our own conscious awareness.”*

What is interesting to know is that virtually all bias is unconscious. For example, we learn to trust women to be nurturing and men to be powerful. We develop biases towards people and behaviours throughout our lives. We learn to align with people who act or look a particular way, preferably those who act and look most like ourselves.

I spent eight years at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) as the Manager of Race Relations, Equity and Inclusion. This position gave me autonomy and the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people in all aspects of the private and public sectors. Being mandated to take human rights training from NSHRC was an absolute failure for some organizations. Some did not know that treating all people with respect and dignity was important for a healthy work environment, and for the growth and economic sustainability of our province. Diversity and inclusion continue to be major challenges, and many people remain consciously and unconsciously biased toward those who are different.

After leaving government, I started my own business with the intent of continuing human rights education. I discovered that human rights, and diversity and inclusion, appeared to be irrelevant in some workplaces. While many organizations displayed the obligatory posters of a woman or person of colour, the message I received was a lack of inclusiveness in the workplace.

I was curious to know how organizations could spend time and money on this topic but not see change. What was holding them back? There was little change in numbers of diverse people in business, government, and the private sectors. Many people from equity-seeking groups felt they were not being promoted to senior positions, were not valued for what they could bring to decision-making tables, and there was a continued lack of diversity on Boards.
My research led me to the work of Doctors Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji. I immersed myself in the study of unconscious bias and immediately knew that I had embarked on an area that had not been recognized or addressed in Nova Scotia. It took me some time to help leaders realize they had a challenge, and in order to make a difference in their organizations and bring about real cultural change, they had to work to shift mindsets and begin to tackle unconscious bias in their workplaces.

My breakthrough came from a most unlikely source, and what can only be described as one of the toughest work environments: the Canadian Armed Forces. I delivered training in a predominantly male environment where participants were not afraid to ask difficult questions or respectfully challenge my thinking when they felt uncomfortable.

I applaud the leaders, including base commanders, diversity managers, and the Defence Visible Minority Groups for their vision and willingness to address the issues in the workplace. As a result of my work with the Forces, others began to ask questions, and my services have extended beyond the province of Nova Scotia.

Working with very hierarchical organizations, I quickly learned about my own strength of character and abilities, and that I too had a lot to learn as I challenged my own biases.

I assessed my own thoughts, actions, and perceptions of “the other”, accepting difference and my overall experiences with people. I had to check in on myself and give family and close friends permission to call me out on my behaviour.

Where do these biases come from? It is important to recognize that social conditioning, belief systems, stereotypes, and cultural upbringing all have influence on behaviours and decision-making. Over the years, television, newspaper, and other print media, as well as social media, has a profound impact on judgments about how we profile others.

I became aware that I could have good intentions, an open mind, and still walk into a room and make assumptions about a person’s colour, gender, or ethnicity. So unconsciously, my biases manifest themselves.

With this new self-awareness, I respectfully double-check my actions, attitudes, and behaviours that may lead to someone being denied an opportunity or continuing to experience discrimination when I have the power and level of accountability to make those decisions. And I accept the feedback from others close to me about my actions, attitudes, and behaviours.

The simple fact is “human beings are consistently, routinely, and profoundly biased”, and if our biases go unchecked they lead to poor decision-making. +

As our workplaces become increasingly diverse, unconscious bias is considered the new form of discrimination , impacting who gets hired, promoted, and has access to special favours or projects.

Unfortunately, even though we have laws to address discrimination, unconscious bias is very difficult to prove in a court of law. Overcoming unconscious bias is very much dependent on individuals developing their emotional and cultural intelligence so they can recognize and value what each person has to offer in any situation. Only then will we create truly diverse and inclusive workplaces.

* Howard J. Ross. 2014. Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgements in Our Daily Lives.
+ Ibid.

Ann Divine, Founder & CEO, Ashanti Leadership

Ann Divine is founder and CEO of Ashanti Leadership and Development Services, and provides career and professional guidance in leadership development. Ann’s work is underpinned by her knowledge and expertise in human rights and people management. Her unique style combined with adult education principles has brought her recognition in the fields of leadership development, change management, coaching and mentoring, facilitation, diversity and inclusion, and more recently unconscious bias training. 

Ann has lived on three continents and worked in diverse organizations and communities in senior management positions in London, UK, and Canada. She has a Sociology (Hon) Degree; a Diploma in Social Work; a master’s degree in Human Resource Management, Human Rights; and a Coaching Federation Certificate, Adult Education and Leadership Development. Ann is a popular public speaker on social justice, leadership development, and inclusivity. Recently, she provided her informed commentary on the issue of racial profiling at Starbucks in Philadelphia on April 12, 2018, to Thompson Reuters media. In November 2017, she received an award from My Halifax Experience as one of the Top 25 Immigrants in the Maritimes. In April 2018, Ann was nominated as one of RBC’s Top 25 Immigrants. For more information, visit 


About My Halifax Experience 


My Halifax Experience is a multimedia publishing platform, celebrating the similarities and differences of people choosing the East Coast of Canada as their new home. 

PreviousWomen at the forefront of change

NextChoose What Defines Your Story

Check Also


Top 5 Immigrant Women Influencers in Halifax

Photos Joseph Robichaud, Tanglewood Studio For our tenth issue, My Halifax Experience is proud to …