At Doran Leadership Partners, we have challenged ourselves to further our individual work in diversity, equity and inclusion. I approach this effort with humility and – honestly – awkwardness, knowing that I have stumbled and will continue to stumble as I work to grow into an ally and accomplice in equity.
Over the past few months, I’ve sought to learn and absorb others’ stories and perspectives through conversation, listening and reading. One of the most impactful discussions I have been part of is with Anika Ward, who’s the founder of the Sankofa Leadership Network. I am fortunate to be a member of Women President’s Organization (WPO), and Anika is currently working alongside WPO as our equity consultant, guiding our collective work to advance equity in our businesses, our organizations and our communities.
I wanted to share a few quotes from Anika which have lingered with me over the past few weeks. I have come back to them repeatedly to center my thinking and actions in this ongoing work.
“We recognize that when we can so reliably predict a person’s health, their wealth, their education, life expectancy or unemployment status based on their race or place…we know we have a system and a structure to produce those consistent results.”
This quote reminds me in no uncertain terms that the outcomes we experience as a society are the direct results of existing systems. The problems we face are complex and big and deeply rooted, and there is no quick fix here. Until we do the work to change systems, we won’t change outcomes.
“Equity is the work of wellness for us all.”
For a long time, I heard “equity” and thought “fairness” or “consistency.” By defining equity as “wellness for us all,” Anika puts the focus on the human outcomes of equity – health, education, employment, economic and others. This adds specificity and positivity to the outcomes we can expect when we do the work.
“We’ve got the wisdom, we’ve got power in the space, we’ve got resources and the will to shift towards equity.”
This is a call to those of us with all types of privilege. If we are truly committed, we can use our collective voices, power and resources to be part of the change.
“I want to encourage us to envision not just how hard the work is, but what it will feel like once we’ve engaged in the work and we’re approaching the other side of this adversity together.”
Here, Anika reminds us of a vision that is hopeful and bright. She also reminds us that the hard work will benefit us all. As Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.” I like that.
For me, Anika’s words provide a sense of hope, connectedness and inspiration as we take on the work to advance equity. It’s about our collective wellness and how and when we will achieve it.
I invite others to join me in building your understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion. I will keep sharing steps (and missteps) from my work to deepen my own knowledge, expand my experience and engage as a difference-maker. I’d appreciate learning from you, too, so please share your favorite resources, insights and learnings.