In the wake of the pandemic, the racial reckoning, and the widespread commitment to change, framing equity work as an ongoing practice has never been more relevant. When I talk about building an equity-centred leadership practice, I understand it as performing activities and exercising skills repeatedly and regularly to increase awareness, improve capacity and understanding and maintain proficiency.
As a racial and gender equity facilitator, I have relied on the concept of practice for years. It has helped me overcome fear of failure and push through moments of low motivation, both professionally and personally. Applying this concept to my equity work with leaders was a natural progression. In this blog I highlight three reasons why applying a practice framework to equity, inclusion, and anti-oppression work resonates with me and others who have embraced this approach:
Shifting deeply rooted beliefs: Equity work requires us to challenge long-held beliefs, perspectives, and ways of being. We aim to bring awareness and truth to lessons grounded in colonial values and confront unexamined biases that shape our thoughts, decisions, and behaviour. A practice mindset fosters open-mindedness, humility, and a willingness to explore different perspectives and approaches. When engaging with potential clients, I assess their leadership style and organizational culture. Are they a learning organization? How do they address failure, missteps, or harm in the workplace? Have they engaged in collective conversations about anti-racism, anti-oppression, equity, and racial justice? These questions and their responses provide insights into their starting point and their openness to developing a consistent and ongoing equity practice.
Consistency over perfection: Equity work is a long-term endeavour, and there is no single action or approach that can dismantle all barriers or achieve the fairness and justice we seek. We must focus on showing up consistently and making small to big changes that accumulate and shift perspectives, behaviour, and structures. Rather than fixating on the end goal, we should concentrate on the day-to-day efforts. Similar to attending martial arts classes, the key is to consistently show up and progress through each session, rather than solely aiming for the next belt. Overcoming the challenges of this journey requires finding strategies to remain consistent and committed even when it becomes difficult.
Supporting multiple levels of change: Equity, anti-racism, and anti-oppression work happen at various levels—individual, collective/team/organizational, and systemic. A practice framework allows us to identify the support needed at each stage or within specific contexts. Depending on your equity practice goals, you may need to utilize specific tools and resources, such as accountability mechanisms, empathetic practices, iteration, and creative approaches. With a practice mindset, as you become aware of your strengths and areas for growth, you can seek help to accelerate and advance your work. Just like other hobbies or practices, as you learn and gain skills, you require new tools and resources to continue your growth. In martial arts, all you need to start is a gi, as you progress you will begin practicing with focus pads, sparring gear and you learn katas that require a bo or tonfa. Likewise, as a child you may learn to ride a bike by starting on a tricycle then to a bike with training wheels, and finally to a two wheeler. Applying a practice framework brings awareness to your goals, intentions, and the necessary tools needed to move away from the status quo and build equitable processes, spaces, and systems.
If the concept of an equity-centred leadership practice resonates with you or if you'd like to discuss it further, I'm always open to a conversation. Let’s chat.