Leading inclusively involves more than learning a list of best practices; it requires developing a personal development mindset.
That’s why a new course from The Ivey Academy called Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Practice goes beyond the common equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) offerings that are focused on checklists. Instead, it takes participants on a personal journey to develop the critical thinking and perspective needed to make structural change in their organizations and society that increase equity.
Running November 15 to 16 at Ivey’s Toronto campus, the course was created in response to growing demand for inclusive leadership programming as society calls for organizations to be more just, equitable, and inclusive. It complements other inclusive leadership offerings that The Ivey Academy has created in partnership with ExecOnline on topics such as leading inclusive teams and neurodiversity in organizations.
“We are experiencing rapidly growing demand for focused courses that support leaders at a time of increased complexity and uncertainty. Integrating EDI practices into all aspects of leadership is a great example,” said Bryan Benjamin, executive director of The Ivey Academy. “This is fundamental for any leaders who are committed to unlocking the full potential of their teams and creating cultures of true belonging.”
Mazi Raz, MBA’05, PhD’14, assistant professor of strategy; and Erin Huner, PhD’21, director of culture and inclusion at Ivey; will co-teach the course and each lead specific sessions. They have been working together to ensure the course prioritizes leadership growth and human development – a critical aspect that differentiates the course from common offerings related to EDI.
“It directly links with critical issues around the future of work. We need to think about how human dynamics and human relationships can flourish beyond what we already have,” said Raz.
EDI issues are systemic issues
One differentiator is its focus on systems thinking, which involves having the participants develop an awareness of the systems and structures in society as well as how each individual might be affected by the systems or be contributing to upholding or changing the systems they operate within.
“Some of the innovation that we’re bringing to this course is starting from a lens of practice and asking, What does it mean to actually practice equity and inclusion as a leader, team member, or member of a broader organization? When we ask ourselves that question, we begin to understand that at the root of practice is recognizing the system you’re practicing in,” said Huner. “Once you understand that layer, you can then reframe your practice to challenge or intervene in the system with the goal of broadening it to have more equality within it rather than creating inequality.”
It also brings in the process of universal design, which involves the creation of products or environments that can be used by as many people as possible.
Using carpentry as a metaphor, Raz said, instead of only teaching people how to use tools like a hammer or saw to build a chair, you help them to consider the many ways a chair might be used, who might use it, and who might not be able to use it if designed a certain way, so that you ultimately create a more inclusive design. That same universal design approach can be applied when considering how to design or redesign organizational systems.
When it comes to universal design, Huner said she’s never experienced a situation where she applied universal design principles to rebuild a system or a product, and someone who was excelling in the inaccessible system, or with the inaccessible product, was no longer able to access a system, or use a product, that was redesigned in a way that removed barriers.
“For example, when we think about our built environment, and the products we create for them, and from the beginning of the design process we think about, and expect individuals who have differing physical abilities to be in our physical environments and use the products we place there, we have the opportunity to design the environment to be accessible because we entered the design process with the expectation that many types of community members, with varying different needs, would be there.”
Raz said the course focuses on case-based experiential learning and will include cases on universal design, diverse visible identities, as well as invisible diversity. Participants will also discuss several current and prominent EDI challenges that all organizations are facing and prepare a course of action that they can apply at their own organizations or in any context.
“People will learn from each other. We will be relying on people’s lived and professional experiences and the way they are advancing the conversations and learning with each other,” he said. “You’re not going to walk away with a series of best practices, but you are going to walk away with an awareness, an extended curiosity, and guidelines and wisdom around these personalized practices.”