Behind the Green Apron: Québécoise Black Partner Network Co-Chairs Discuss the Importance of Professional Networks for the Black Community
Throughout February, Starbucks Canada is celebrating Black History Month by sharing the unique stories and experiences of its Black partners (employees) each week on Starbucks Stories.
Concluding the month-long series are two Montreal-based Starbucks partners, store manager, Virginia and Carine, a Starbucks real-estate representative. They are proud members of Starbucks Canada’s Black Partner Network and the co-chairs of the Montreal chapter.
Here, the two partners reflect on the importance of BPN’s presence in Quebec and the changes networks like theirs can have in the lives of Black professionals.
Born and raised in Montreal, I’ve had the benefit of being surrounded by people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds throughout my entire life. However, despite Montreal’s diversity, many large companies with a strong Québécoise presence still fail to have that diversity reflected among their employees. Being in a francophone province, I believe it’s especially important that our partners who are racialized minorities or BIPOC have the same space, support and resources as their anglophone counterparts throughout the rest of Canada. This belief was the driving force behind establishing our local chapter of the Canada Black Partner Network – giving Black French-Canadian partners the opportunity to take up space and to ensure that other Black Starbucks partners feel our presence and understand that Starbucks values our contributions to the company and to all the communities where our cafes are found.
I love being a Starbucks partner because the work that I do, both as a store manager and as co-chair of BPN, allows me to pursue my purpose and personal goal of positively impacting as many people as possible. The continued growth and evolution of BPN has amplified my ability to impact my community as I broaden my network and collaborate with partners across Canada. Together, we are stronger, and united, we can achieve so much more than we ever could apart, by helping shape both our business and our communities.
I’m really excited we are celebrating Black History Month in such a big way thanks to the collaboration of BPN and so many partners. I’m learning a lot about the history of Black Canadians, whose contributions to society we don’t often take time to recognize. Since establishing our BPN chapter last August, our focus has been on the engagement and education of partners, but as we move forward, I hope to work more closely with our local Black community in Montreal.
As our first year with the Black Partner Network comes to a close, we anticipate the years ahead, creating change and continuing to heighten our impact in the communities we call home by sharing resources and leveraging moments of connection.
Keep it brewing!
I immigrated to Canada in 2018, and when I arrived, I was surprised to discover the existence of Black professional networks - a resource that is practically non-existent where I grew up in France. These networks offer a great deal of value by supporting members of the Black community to advance their careers and further their professional development. As someone brand new to the Canadian job market, tapping into these networks introduced me to job-search workshops, networking and mentoring events and helped me connect with other professionals.
These opportunities and experiences helped me successfully navigate my job search and connect with Black professionals to expand my network. Through these new connections, I received support and advice from people who understood my reality as a Black person, and I began to recognize the importance of having a network in order to find a job in Canada, a network that Black people are often lacking.
During my recruiting process with Starbucks, the very first person to contact me was a Black partner named François. Knowing my first interview was with a Black person like me helped put me at ease. I knew I would be judged objectively based on my qualifications, skills and work experience. My skin colour and my ethnic origin would not be seen as a disability. I was confident that I would be treated like any other applicant, and I was. My interview with François went extremely well, as did the other interviews with my team’s leaders, and the experience increased my confidence in both myself and my abilities, and I knew that, by joining Starbucks, I would be joining a company and a team where diversity and inclusion are important values. I shared my experience with Francois to show the importance of having representation of Black people in an organization and the impact it has on us. Having Black people in a company is the best way to demonstrate that we're welcome there.
These experiences are why it was natural for me to find a way to give back and provide others with the support and resources that helped me on my professional path. Together, Virginia and I founded the Black Partner Network’s Montreal chapter with the goal of supporting members of the community by helping them with their development and creating a forum for discussion where everyone is welcome, Black people and allies alike!
While we look back on our first six months as a network with pride, we look forward to the important work ahead. We look forward to growing our network, hearing their voices and being part of their professional journey.