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Creating Safer, Respectful, And Inclusive Workplaces – Exclusive Interview With Adriana Leigh

Adriana Leigh is a Canadian self-described "recovering lawyer" turned global gender consultant, facilitator, trainer, writer, and speaker, she builds safer, gender-equitable, caring, and inclusive workplaces and organizations, free of sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

She brings a much-needed human and heart-centered, rather than a merely compliance-centered approach to these issues, combined with her legal and subject matter expertise and background in human rights education.

Adriana delivers global workshops, on sexual harassment, and violence policy and reporting processes development, implementation coaching to managers and human resources, and thought leadership. She works cross-sector with UN agencies building the capacity of partner organizations, and international human rights organizations, in addition to private sector clients and universities.

Her work has been showcased by Charity Village, Medium, UN Women, Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Mtavari Channel, Brainz Magazine, and World Pulse, among others.

Adriana has been featured by World Pulse in the article: Her Story Makes History: 21 Women Leaders to Watch in 2021 and in 2022, was included on the list of Brainz Magazine’s 7 Female Entrepreneurs and How they are Changing the World.” She is also the recipient of a BRAINZ CREA Global Award 2022, honouring individuals who are paving the way in sustainability and mental health, and of a Digital Changemaker Award as one of the World Pulse 50 Rising Voices, recognizing 50 leaders who are shaping our future.

Adriana Leigh, Founder and Principal Gender Facilitator and Consultant

What is your business name and how do you help your clients?

I am Adriana Leigh, Founder and Principal Facilitator/Consultant of Adriana Leigh Group Consulting (but always playing with a more creative title!)

I build safer, more caring, gender equitable and inclusive environments, including workplaces and organizations free of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence.

As workplaces continue to struggle with sexual harassment, violence and discrimination, and we know traditional “checking boxes” or “compliance-based” approaches have not worked. I bring a new human and heart-centred, and trauma-informed approach to tackling these issues, informed by my own lived experiences, my background in facilitation as well as having been a human rights lawyer.

I help organizations with reporting policies, processes, training and thought leadership on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and violence, building more respect and intersectional gender equity at work, using the ALG human and heart-centred approach.

Areas of expertise:

  1. Prevention and response to sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse

  2. Respectful workplaces

  3. Intersectional gender equity integration in workplaces

  4. Workplace culture & well-being (psychological safety, supporting survivors)

ALG’s four 4 Rs respectful communication model, which draws on a background as a workplace human rights lawyer and facilitator, which takes off where more traditional approaches end. In my training on sexual harassment prevention and building a culture of respect, I use this model to help folks learn to respond, rather than react to problematic behaviour at work. Folks learn and apply new communication skills, how to both call out but also call-in behaviour, and learn to respond supportively and in a trauma-informed way.

When it comes to collaborating with leaders, I specialize in helping them learn to better prevent and respond to those that name harm in the workplace, in particularly gender-based and sexual harassment and discrimination, and to take the right steps to address it. For example, when someone reports sexual harassment, how does a manager, and others in the organization treat that person? Are they supported? Do folks responding understand the nature of trauma and how those who experience sexual violence may be playing out trauma responses?

What kind of audience do you target your business towards?

I primarily work with large institutions within the international aid/development space and institutions that promote thought leadership within and across sectors. For example, UN Women and their partners. I have partnered with the Centre of Expertise on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Canada on creating manuals and trainings for the development sector, and I have helped developed a blueprint for gender equality in the Canadian Private Sector with UN Global Compact Canada. I also work with large private sector companies, such as tech companies, and university business programmes, who continue to grapple with gender bias and harassment in increasingly diverse and global teams. I have also been evolving into more thought leadership for organizations and workplaces more broadly; one of the writings in the past year that seemed to resonate widely was an article I wrote on why trauma-informed approaches are the future of work, and diversity, equity and inclusion, which folks can read here. What are your current goals for your business?

To keep building my thought leadership practice! I love knowledge building and sharing within and across sectors, particularly writing good practice manuals and guides, and thought leadership articles for my linked in audience. I also aim to train more folks on ALG’s model on respect at work – reach out now for bookings!

Who inspires you to be the best that you can be?

My mother and the long line of social entrepreneurs in my family, the World Pulse network of women and non-binary folks that I have been part of for several years and my wonderful friend Elise, who is an amazing parent to two fabulous kiddos. The spirit of my grandmother, my mother’s mother and my ancestors, a line of women who were forced out of their home due to antisemitism and spent a life fighting and defying sexism, living strong, proud and as authentically as the time in which they lived allowed. I channel them in my work.

And then of course we cannot forget… my dog Maya, she is just, omg I cannot describe the level of cuteness she brings to the world! Anyone who knows me probably knows Maya, and what a huge animal lover I am!

What is your work inspired by?

Like many women, I have experienced institutions that reacted rather than responded to trauma, harassment, and discrimination. It fuels me. ALG is a way to bring prevention to organizations and inspire them to build safety, based on care, compassion and courage to act.

I am neurodivergent, so tend to think freely, creatively, and deeply! I am also a progressive Jewish woman growing up as a minority in Quebec, Canada. I always felt a little like an outsider, but living as a minority within diverse environments has informed my work, and the depth with which I approach issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?

I have a couple of things!

I have seen a siloing of different forms of sexual violence that happen within workplaces, for example, sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector, separated out from sexual harassment at work. It is important for folks to understand that violence operates on a spectrum and the more we can name it on a spectrum the more we can work on prevention, understand the harm of microinequities and change the way we relate to each other for the better.

I have also seen the rise of a checklist and task-driven mentality in the DEI world, which often fails to account for the human element. I have heard leaders dismiss communication skills training, for example, as not concrete or not practical. In fact, the reverse is true. These “soft skills” (I prefer the term relational skills) are a core part of what we need to create inclusive, safer and welcoming workplaces where everyone can belong. Tell us about a pivotal moment in your life that brought you to where you are today.

There were many moments that culminated in me making the decision to fully step into ALG Consulting.

Like so many of us women, I experienced sexual violence and am a survivor of complex trauma.

For years, I ran from these experiences, trying to achieve perfection, be more, do more. I worked as a human rights lawyer, burning myself out trying to help others. I tried to be the “perfect” leader for a team. This is one of the reasons I call myself a recovering lawyer (and recovering perfectionist!)

At some point, my body told to stop. I finally, I made the choice to step into my power, and from there emerged the work I do, helping organizations to heal what I and so many needed. I started my own business helping organizations and their people to build gender equity, caring and safe environments that are sexual violence free. And I have not looked back!

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and visit my website for more info!



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