Meet Dr. Golnaz Golnaraghi, Founder of Divity Group Inc. and Accelerate Her Future
Dr. Golnaz Golnaraghi (she/her) is a facilitator, educator, researcher, published author, social entrepreneur and an advocate for gender and racial equality. With a combined 15 years in corporate marketing with large multinationals and 14 years spent designing and delivering transformative learning experiences focused on youth, women and early career leaders, Golnaz is Founder of Divity Group Inc., through which she provides facilitation, learning and program design, as well as leadership development and equity and inclusion education. She launched her legacy project, Accelerate Her Future in 2019, a career accelerator for early career racialized women pursuing careers in business and tech. She holds an MBA from the University of British Columbia and a Doctor of Business Administration from Athabasca University.
My first job ever was … at my mom’s women’s clothing store, which she shortly opened after we immigrated to Canada out of necessity and to financially support me and my brother through school. With little English, zero business background and limited understanding of Canadian practices, witnessing her struggles and triumphs taught me the power of persistence, agency, and resistance in the face of circumstances which were less than ideal at times. Working in the family business, I received first-hand experience into operations, marketing and sales and the day-to-day challenges of running a small business. My mom role modeled what it means to be strong, resourceful, and resilient especially during a time when there were no communities and support for women in business like we have today.
I founded ‘Accelerate Her Future’ because… I recognized the gaps in career and professional development programming tailored to the unique experiences of racialized women in college and university and in their early careers, especially at a pivotal time in their lives. As a leadership educator and feminist scholar, I have dedicated my research, teaching, and mentoring to better understand the experiences and needs of early career racialized women. I decided to take this work into the community because we need programs that are tailored and that apply an intersectional lens. I launched Accelerate Her Future in 2019 as a career accelerator that seeks to do just that through network building, skill and career advocacy development, and mentorship while fostering cultures of allyship and advocacy to affect transformative change.
Leaders should prioritize diversity at all levels of their organization because… diversity is our strength and representation matters. Early career talent can’t be what they can’t see. Although I will say that a focus on diversity is not enough. We also need organizations that prioritize inclusion, equity, and justice. Racialized women are highly educated yet are missing from decision making tables. What’s more they experience a labyrinth of barriers within workplaces from the very first promotion opportunity. They also don’t typically have the same access to influential networks, mentorship, and sponsorship in our workplaces. While white women have made advances into leadership roles, this is not the case for racialized women, especially Black and Indigenous women. We need to do more. We need to do better. Representation matters.
Be clear about your values, what you stand for and the impact of your decisions. Your values and your integrity are your compass.
My proudest accomplishment is … completing my doctorate in my 40’s while working full time and raising a young child. During my first doctoral course, I was introduced to critical theoretical perspectives including intersectional and postcolonial feminist theory by my professor who later became my supervisor. As I delved deeper into understanding how our history informs our modern day, the impact and legacies of colonization, I felt compelled to take action.
I surprise people when I tell them… I am a certified meditation instructor. I began on my meditation and mindfulness journey during a particularly tough year when I felt stuck with my doctoral dissertation research and after a car accident left me in a lot of pain. I found grounding, focus and calm in this practice as well as greater self-compassion and connection to my whole self. We need to bring our whole selves into different facets of our lives, especially work —– head, heart/emotions, and body. Over time, I’ve begun integrating mind-body connection and energy leadership into my teaching, facilitation, and learning design.
My best advice to people starting out in business is… to be clear about your values, what you stand for and the impact of your decisions. Your values and your integrity are your compass. Lead with ethics and moral character. Beyond scandals like Enron and the 2008 financial crisis, we’re also seeing growing inequalities, climate change and other complex global challenges. While business plays an important role in the economy, leaders have a moral imperative to contribute more toward the betterment of society placing greater focus on people, planet and profit.
Embrace who you are, especially the things that make you different. Only you get to define you.
The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… trust in your own abilities, decisions, ideas, and voice. This is especially difficult when you find yourself in spaces where you’re one of few or the only racialized woman. I’ll never forget years ago being invited to present a new program I had led to design and launch at a departmental committee. Immediately after my presentation two male peers went on the attack in a demeaning and inappropriate way. My team and I had invested a year in research, consultations, iterative pilots, and had launched the program successfully. To have me and my work minimized and marginalized was hard and the imposter syndrome aftermath was real. I promised myself to never allow anyone to speak to me or other women, especially racialized women, that way again.
I would tell my 20-year old self… this powerful quote by Audre Lorde that embodies what I’d tell my 20-year old self who felt her differences acutely: “If I didn’t define myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies of me and eaten alive.” Embrace who you are, especially the things that make you different. Only you get to define you.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… my relationships. While life has taught me to be resilient and never give up in the face of challenge, my community and relationships have been essential to my success. These relationships started in my youth with a few notable teachers and professors who invested in my potential, provided mentorship, and connected me to their networks. Their impact on my life was significant and transformative, especially as a racialized immigrant youth. These early experiences are what inspire me to do everything I do focused on early career women.
I stay inspired by… the brilliant, talented young women that I have the privilege to get to know through Accelerate Her Future, get to teach and mentor, and get to work with every day. I was recently asked by a young leader what solutions I see in response to the systemic barriers racialized women face in our workplaces. My response, the very same young women that I see every day stepping into their leadership and potential who are responding to these complex issues with solutions, projects, volunteerism, activism, and entrepreneurial ideas.
The future excites me because… I see so many people, especially young people, stepping into their leadership potential and working in solidarity to challenge the status quo. A little while ago I was approached by a women’s facing student club at a large University that wanted to do more meaningful anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism work. After a mentorship conversation with the student executive, I have been excited by the bold and courageous work they have done in solidarity with other clubs on campus. These brilliant courageous young talented minds are our future and I feel we are in good hands.
My next step is… My next step is to continue to build Accelerate Her Future into a sustainable national online career accelerator. My team and I are gearing up to re-launch our website and new flagship program and looking to engage corporate/business sponsors and partners who believe in our mission of accelerating Black, Indigenous and racialized women in their careers and have a genuine commitment to equity and justice.