5 Minutes with Dauna Jones-Simmonds, co-author of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women
Born in St. Kitts, Dauna Jones-Simmonds migrated to Canada almost forty years ago and has first-hand experience navigating the roadblocks and challenges encountered by new Canadians — particularly those of colour. Today, as the President of DEJS (Diversity) Consulting, she shares her accumulated knowledge through consulting and diversity training activities, and providing mentorship and assistance for young Black women looking to advance their careers.
She is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for ACCES Employment, a past Board Member at SKETCH, and has been the only Black female member in the Rotary Club of Toronto.
Get to know what inspires her, and how her personal and professional journey led to her becoming one of three co-authors of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women.
What inspired you to get involved in the writing of this book?
At our regular husband and wife Sunday morning breakfast, Dr. Denise O’Neil Green shared her frustration about finding Black female talent in leadership positions and turned to me for an answer. Embarrassingly, my response was so slow, and I knew immediately that I had to fix that response gap. Our husbands suggested that perhaps we should write a book about Black women. We then approached Hon. Dr. Jean Augustine, since she knows so many people in our community, to help us in our quest to spotlight our accomplished Black women. The rest as they say, is history.
Is there a particular story that inspired you in the book?
The stories in the book are very different, yet equally inspiring, so it would be unfair for me to point out one particular story. What I would say is that every women to whom I spoke was very humble. Their consistent response included –“who me?” “I didn’t do much” and “I have never been recognized before”. Each time we spoke to them, we gained more nuggets about their accomplishments.
Why did you choose your field of work?
Being an author was not my chosen field. I started off in banking and later on in life moved on to Human Resources. It is the field of Human Resources where I gained tremendous exposure to diversity issues in the workplace. I also recognized that people of colour had very little opportunity to maximize their potential and showcase their talent. I found out very quickly that “people don’t know what they don’t know” — if they don’t know that there are talented people in our community, they will not seek creative opportunities to find them.
What education and training did you pursue?
Apart from my basic university education, I attended conferences and took courses that were relevant to my passion. For example, I was interested in training, so I pursued a master’s level of facilitation – this would come in handy for developing and facilitating diversity workshops. I also focused on building my communication skills, completing courses to strengthen my written and oral communication. The point is, if you are to succeed in your career, you have to invest in yourself. You have to be the best that you can be! This is advice I have given to all my mentees.
What do you wish you had known when you started out?
My biggest regret before co-writing this book is that I had not been so deeply engaged in my community sooner. If I had known that so many women had made such impactful contributions in our community – and to Canada at large – perhaps the start of my career would have been different. Who knows?
What are you passionate about?
I have two passions – supporting people with disabilities, and helping our Black youth succeed in their career goals. I have never turned down the opportunity to provide some words of advice when sought, or to link that individual to a potential opportunity, be it a mentor or job opportunity.
What would you like to be known for contributing to the community, industry or world?
I have always been and continue to want to be known as a person who quietly, yet strongly through my words, helped people with disabilities. In addition, I want to be known as someone who was passionate about participating in recognizing and documenting the efforts of accomplished Black Canadian women. Their work is critical and must be part of the Canadian history books, particularly as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Ultimately, it’s not about me, but that our future leaders and youths will know about, learn from, appreciate and share the historic stories of these incredible women.