Anima Leadership believes in a compassionate approach to racial justice: that means making issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion more accessible and understandable to everyone. Join us on the Anima Blog as we journey with you from diversity basics to advanced belonging framed around pop culture, current events, and more.

Recognizing and Managing Micro-Inequities at Work

Four people sit together on a wooden bench and the person at the center of the group is holding the laptop on their lap. Each person is reacting to what they see on the laptop screen.

Sometimes people say hurtful things without realizing the impact of their words. And when those comments are tied to identity, we refer to them as micro-inequities (sometimes called micro-aggressions). When this happens at work, marginalized employees may feel obligated to say nothing for the sake of office politics and “professionalism”.

But these moments shouldn’t be ignored. How we feel at work matters. When we feel like we belong, we improve our emotional well-being, we’re more productive, more creative and better problem solvers.

To create functionally diverse and inclusive workplaces leaders need to use their own JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) knowledge to recognize and manage micro-inequities as they come up, keeping both workplaces and employees happy and healthy.

What is a Micro-Inequity?

Micro-inequities are subtle discriminatory comments or actions targeted towards members of marginalized groups. They are often manifestations of implicit bias, unintentional preferences for a group based on their social identity.

Sometimes these biases show up in everyday language through interactions that are deeply hurtful to those affected while going unnoticed by the person carrying them out — this is part of why micro-inequities can be so difficult to manage.

Why Does it Matter?

Being chronically underestimated, devalued and excluded is exhausting. Humans are social creates and belonging to groups is a need as basic as our drive for food, water or shelter.

When the slight impact of a micro-inequity is felt hundreds of times, it can make us feel like we don’t belong. At work, micro-inequities can make means staff feel unhappy, anxious, excluded, or even fearful, which in turns leads to a workplace with high turn-over, little collaboration and less productivity.

Four colleagues are gathered around a table and appear to be discussing a document in front of them.

Recognizing a Micro-Inequity: Examples

We’ve all had moments of feeling excluded or isolated, but some are constantly targeted because of their social status. Women of colour have long been the subject of social bias, and in our Anima Café Women of Colour Breaking Barriers Anima CEO Annahid Dashtgard and author Deepa Purushothaman shared their own experiences. These true stories capture examples of micro-inequity faced by both.

Story One: Annahid

A few years ago, Annahid arrived on set to speak on a TV panel. Wearing a formal dress and heels, she waited excitedly for the program to begin alongside her officer manager James who was dressed in casual clothes and a backpack. Despite the difference in their appearance, three separate producers introduced themselves to James instead of Annahid, assuming that he must be the talent.

As each producer entered the room, they made the same assumption — that it must be the white man in a position of power and not the woman of colour. That it was the James who deserved their respect and attention and not Annahid. These repeated micro-inequities left Annahid feeling deflated and unimportant.

Story Two: Deepa

Deepa Purushothaman is a woman of colour who made senior partner at her consulting firm at an early age. She would often find herself leading people 10+ years her senior. But people would frequently dismiss the possibility that she could be in charge, even requesting to speak with the senior partner in meeting — with her standing right there.

“The first couple of times it doesn’t bother you,” she says, “but if it’s happening for or five times a day it does start to eat at you. What is it about me that they don’t see me as a leader?”

How to Manage and Respond to Micro-Inequities

Managing micro-inequities at work can be challenging because it requires difficult conversations. Sometimes we know what was said was wrong, but we’re not sure what to say — so we let it go. Instead of staying silent, familiarize yourself with common micro-inequities and practice your response so you’re ready the moment it happens.

Try to come us with some prepared responses to the scanarios below (click the arrow on each scanario for some ideas).

Scenario 1: Someone bypasses a marginalized person in conversation.

Try saying:

“That’s actually my area of responsibility.” or “You should really be talking to (colleague) for that.”

Scenario 2: Someone tries to take credit for an idea from a marginalized colleague.

Try saying:

“That’s the same solution I proposed earlier.” or “I appreciated when (colleague) shared that idea in our last discussion.”

Scenario 3: Someone repeatedly interrupts or talks over a marginalized person.

Try saying:

“I’d like to finish my thought.” or “It seems like (colleague) wasn’t done speaking, I’d like to hear what they have to say.”

Scenario 4: Someone makes an offensive joke about a marginalized group.

Try saying:

“That’s not funny.” or “That comment is inappropriate.”

Dealing with micro-inequities doesn’t need to involve aggressively challenging others’ behaviour. It can be as simple as noticing and commenting on these moments as they come up, whether they are happening to you or to your colleagues.

Beyond that, we can advocate for cultural competency in the workplace to promote lasting change. Building inclusive workplaces requires awareness of how our colleagues, employees and supervisors are treated based on their identities…because once we’re aware, we can begin to make a difference.


Now you know what to do… what’s next?

Equity-based education will always be the best way to build more inclusive workplaces for all employees, regardless of their identities. By learning how to recognize and deal with micro-inequities you’ll be better equipped to promote a truly equitable workplace.

For more on how you can transform your workplace into a more equitable environment integrating these best practices and more, join our Deep Diversity Summer Institute.

Deep Diversity – Creating Inclusive Organizations

Learn how to establish a diverse organization that is inclusive of, and equitable for, all people regardless of identity or background. In this course you’ll develop leadership competencies with a focus on emotional literacy including skill development in self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and relationship management while exploring how unconscious bias results in mistreatment of people of minority groups in organizations.

Anima Leadership

Anima Leadership believes in a compassionate approach to racial justice where everyone can feel like they matter and belong.

Since 2007, we have worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations teaching, consulting and coaching transformative change. Our award-winning training programs and innovative measurement tools will help us journey with you from diversity basics to advanced belonging.

How to Talk About Race at Work

Talking about race can be an emotionally-charged experience, and talking about race at work is no exception. You may feel anxious about introducing JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) topics at work because of the big emotions these conversations bring to the surface, but if we want our organizations to be inclusive and equitable they are conversations we need to have.

But the key isn’t to ignore these emotions, it’s to lean into them. Yes, talking about race can feel challenging. But developing emotional intelligence will help to work through the anxieties preventing you from leading your team with confidence.

Learning how to notice and manage our own and others’ emotions is a foundational aspect of effective leadership. Here are some tips to develop your emotional intelligence skills so you can feel more comfortable talking to your team about racial justice.

Five colleagues sitting around a table for a meeting. The table is loaded with laptops, coffee mugs, plants and notebooks. Three colleagues are visibly smiling as they all turn their attention towards the person speaking in the group. The other two colleagues are slightly out of view of the camera.
Eight colleagues are gathered in a team huddle in their office. Each person has one arm outstretched as they reach their hands towards the middle of the circle. 
They are standing beside a table that is covered in

Don’t Talk Around Emotions — Talk About Them

Remember that—like you—your coworkers are also carrying complex feelings about discussing race and JEDI issues at work (especially if you haven’t made space for these conversations in the past). Some may feel excited, while others may feel anxious or resistant. And as the conversation progresses, these feelings and questions will continue to grow.

While it may feel safer to ignore these unspoken emotions and focus only on theory and statistics, our research shows that this only makes existing negative emotions worse. Humans are not solely rational actors: we don’t just think things through, we also feel our way through the world. And ignoring our emotions doesn’t mean we’ve left them behind.

Instead of letting emotions run unchecked, bringing intentional awareness to the feelings in the room gives you the power to guide your team through them. But having the ability to do this skillfully comes from being able to navigate your own big feelings as well.

Manage Yourself Before Your Team

It’s important to nurture an environment where people can take risks and make mistakes as part of the learning and unlearning process, especially when it comes to anti-racism work. In order to embody these values for others, you must first practice them with yourself.

Self-awareness and self-management are vital parts of effective leadership. As a leader, you set the emotional tone for your team: remember that it all begins with you. With your position comes power, and with power comes emotional responsibility. When we are able to regulate ourselves, we invite space for others to do the same.

There are no shortcuts to the inner work necessary to lead with presence and compassion — but here are a couple of tips to get you started:

  1. Take the time to bring awareness to your emotions throughout the day. Your awareness is like a muscle, and as this practice becomes more frequent it will also become more automatic. Practice asking yourself “how am I feeling right now?” will help you become more familiar with your own emotions and develop the internal and external vocabulary you need to recognize them.
  2. Anticipate and navigate your triggers. Conversations around race, gender, ability, class, and other identities can lead to strong, almost visceral emotional responses. Learn to recognize when your fight, flight or freeze response is kicking in and you’ll be able to take the steps needed to re-center yourself more quickly and easily.
  3. Practice grounding exercises. When you find yourself feeling distressed, it’s helpful to have reliable tools available for self-regulation. Find practices that help to ground you in a more stable emotional state. It could be as simple as going for a walk, taking a few deep breaths or repeating positive affirmations.
Two men dressed in business attire are sitting barefoot and cross legged in a spacious room. Their eyes are closed in meditation.

Now you know what to do… what’s next?

Meaningful, lasting change is only possible when we meet each other with presence and compassion. By developing emotional intelligence you’ll feel ready to confidently lead your team through potentially challenging but critically important conversations.

For more on how you can transform your workplace into a more equitable environment while developing your own leadership skills, join our Deep Diversity Summer Institute. Next course starts August 23, 2022.

Deep Diversity – Creating Inclusive Organizations

Learn how to establish a diverse organization that is inclusive of, and equitable for, all people regardless of identity or background. In this course you’ll develop leadership competencies with a focus on emotional literacy including skill development in self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and relationship management while exploring how unconscious bias results in mistreatment of people of minority groups in organizations.

Anima Leadership

Anima Leadership believes in a compassionate approach to racial justice where everyone can feel like they matter and belong.

Since 2007, we have worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations teaching, consulting and coaching transformative change. Our award-winning training programs and innovative measurement tools will help us journey with you from diversity basics to advanced belonging.

Reframing Racial Justice: Implicit Bias, Explained

Some people choose to commit overt, intentional acts of racism — but most are being influenced by the structures and patterns that have led them to think and act a certain way: their own implicit bias.

When we talk about racial justice we must remember that so much of what we do is quietly controlled by our unconscious mind, the set of cognitive processes beyond our conscious awareness. While your conscious mind reads this sentence, your unconscious mind reacts instinctively to the words on the page. When you hear a bark, it automatically prompts you to think of a dog. And when you see a stranger, it makes quick judgements about who they might be.

Our minds are constantly feeding us impulses, recognizing patterns, influencing our emotions, forming habits and collecting biases all without our conscious input. All of us have bias – and that’s why we need to talk about it. Having bias doesn’t make us bad people, but it does expose a need to explore racism beyond intentional acts of discrimination which are easier to recognize.

Five women are gathered in a room for a meeting. Their attention draw towards the woman leading the meeting at the front of the room. One women is taking notes using a pen and paper while another uses an iPad.

In this article we’ll answer the questions:

  1. What is implicit bias?
  2. How does implicit bias show up at work?
  3. How can you recognize and reduce your own biases without shame or judgement?

What is Implicit Bias?

Within the context of racial justice, when we refer to implicit bias we’re addressing our hidden or unintentional preferences for a group based on their social identity. As a result of both internal patterns (human nature) and external patterns (socialization) our minds make quick associations that help us navigate the world and stay safe. Without the quiet work of our unconscious mind we would struggle to make the mental shortcuts needed to quickly understand and act on the world around us. But what happens when we apply these quick shortcuts to people?

Sometimes our unconscious thinking patterns lead us to make unfair judgements about people based on stereotypes attributed to their social group. Or they can lead us to subconsciously feel hostile or unsure about people who seem unfamiliar. This is implicit bias: the unconscious thoughts, feelings, patterns and impulses that our minds draw on as we interact with others.

Having bias is not a conscious choice, but we can make the conscious decision to acknowledge and correct it as needed.

How Does Implicit Bias Show Up at Work?

What are the things, actions and ways of being that you associate with familiarity? Who are the groups that make you feel safe? Who are the people who feel like you? Although you may not be consciously aware, these feelings affect your actions at work, in school and in our communities.

These implicit biases affect who you feel inclined to help, hire, promote and include. They also impact who makes you feel uncomfortable, who you distrust and who you choose to avoid.

Five women are gathered in a room for a meeting. Their attention draw towards the woman leading the meeting at the front of the room. 
Some women are taking notes on pen and paper,while another uses an iPad.

For example, in most of Canada and the United States the cultural bias towards English results in resumes with anglicized names being favoured over non-English sounding names. You might imagine how easily this can lead to discriminatory hiring practices. When enough people share similar biases, their choices become embedded in the systems that govern our communities. So while implicit biases may play out in subtler actions like micro-inequities at work, they can also compound into massive systemic failings for minoritized groups.

Community is a basic human need. When we don’t feel a sense of belonging, we often begin to question our self worth or hide parts of ourselves to try to fit in. But because certain groups are already marginalized in society, they tend to face the brunt of negative effects from implicit bias. And these same marginalized groups can face chronic feelings of exclusion because of the biases embedded in our minds and social systems.

Implicit Bias: A Community Member’s Story

Unfortunately, when marginalized people try to address these systems, things don’t always get easier — sometimes they get worse. A marginalized member of our community shared the ongoing impact of frequent micro-inequities they faced in a previous position.

In their own words, “Imposter syndrome makes it sound like it’s your fault that you have some issue, right? But it’s not your fault cause it’s something that was put on you. External factors that created this feeling of self doubt where you constantly question yourself.”

Their self doubt was brought on by years of internalizing comments from a white manager who would often undermine, embarrass or question the intelligence of marginalized staff members. They faced regular pushback against their ideas — only to have them adopted by white staff members who would be credited for their work. Their ability to speak English was questioned, not because of their skill, but because they carried an “ethnic” name. And when taking on new tasks, their manager would often initially suggest they were unable to handle it, only to be impressed by their work later on.

While all of this showed a clear and unspoken system of bias in their workplace, when they spoke up they were told they were being “too sensitive.” When they scheduled a meeting to draw attention to how some actions contributed to an uncomfortable environment for marginalized staff—like a white employee being quickly promoted above more veteran staff, including the marginalized woman who’d trained her—their manager took offense and threatened them professionally. That conversation left them feeling scared and vulnerable.

“I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because then it puts me at risk. I felt like I was walking on eggshells all the time.”

The months that followed were marked by the heavy emotional toll of being regularly underestimated, denied promotions and subjected to embarrassing comments. Even when their employer undertook a diversity training as suggested by the marginalized employee, they were excluded from both the planning and execution. Eventually, another employee advised them that it might just be best to stop resisting the “office culture”. But they couldn’t — so they left.

Unfortunately, this experience echoes that of many people in marginalized communities who must navigate the complicated terrain of identity, power and implicit bias at work. If the goal of racial justice is to foster a society where—regardless of identity—we all feel a sense of belonging, then we need to work to address our individual biases and the influence they have on the institutions we are part of.

How to Recognize and Reduce Your Own Biases Without Shame or Judgement

A simple practice to begin recognizing your implicit bias is to begin to notice and question your assumptions about marginalized social groups. You can do this by taking the time to learn and understand the history that informs your culture and the institutions you rely on. Reflect on who was or was not traditionally included and listen to marginalized voices to gain broader historical perspectives.

Having bias doesn’t make us bad people, but it does invite us into the work of understanding our own patterns to identify those that are helpful and those that aren’t.

Be ready to meet yourself with compassion on your JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) journey. You may make mistakes along the way, but your commitment to the work outweighs your imperfection.

Four women are gathered around a table reviewing a document. Two of them are holding pens and appear to be making edits.

Now you know what to do… what’s next?

Education will always be a key component in advancing racial justice, and compassion will always be a key component in education. Anima Leadership believes in racial justice education that allows us to champion compassionate and inclusive leadership.

For more on how you can transform your workplace into a more inclusive environment, join our Deep Diversity Summer Institute.

Deep Diversity – Creating Inclusive Organizations

Learn how to establish a diverse organization that is inclusive of, and equitable for, all people regardless of identity or background. In this course you’ll develop leadership competencies with a focus on emotional literacy including skill development in self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and relationship management while exploring how unconscious bias results in mistreatment of people of minority groups in organizations.

Anima Leadership

Anima Leadership believes in a compassionate approach to racial justice where everyone can feel like they matter and belong.

Since 2007, we have worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations teaching, consulting and coaching transformative change. Our award-winning training programs and innovative measurement tools will help us journey with you from diversity basics to advanced belonging.

How to Avoid Backlash in Equity and Inclusion Training

When done correctly, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) training can inspire deep, purposeful change that creates inclusive, high functioning teams and organizations. Unfortunately, this outcome isn’t a given.

Many well-meaning organizations adopt JEDI initiatives without being prepared to face challenges that may arise. Our research shows there are even specific leadership behaviours that are more likely to inspire backlash and lead to equity-oriented training that fails to promote meaningful change.

Avoid having your organization become a victim to a similar outcome. Whether your company is looking for or engaging in JEDI training, this resource will highlight the five common traps your company should avoid to clear the path for an easy, effective, equity-oriented training.

A woman appears frustrated while looking into the camera and pointing straight ahead.

1. Backlash is Not Anticipated

Although backlash is undesirable – it’s also unavoidable. Educators and leaders often forget that humans are emotional creatures and the process of change will naturally trigger emotional reactions. This is especially true for JEDI issues. The key to navigating resistance is to become aware of its potential, to anticipate its arrival and to incorporate mitigation strategies into the planning and execution of JEDI initiatives.

Doing so will help ready you to meet the moment with compassion, understanding and presence.

A person with long hair is looking down into clasped hands, upset, as someone standing behind them rests their hands on their shoulders.

2. Emotions are Underestimated

There are always big feelings in any equity training context because it touches our identities — our core being — and these feelings govern our actions. Neuroscience research has demonstrated unequivocally that our emotions influence our behaviours more than our thoughts, and this is especially true when engaging in JEDI issues. That means we need to address the emotions in the room first in order to create a productive space to learn. Unfortunately, most leaders and trainers underestimate emotions, believing that sharing compelling cognitive ideas will result in behavioural change. But this is not the case.

Relying on logic and cognition to tackle deeply emotional topics like racial or gender justice only exacerbates feelings of resistance among participants. To reduce backlash, it’s critical to welcome emotions into your JEDI training and communications. As we discuss in our post 10 Success Factors for JEDI Training, when you acknowledge participants’ feelings, you create a psychologically safe container that allows them to feel seen and heard as they move through this work.

3. Shame and Blame are Activated

JEDI trainings often unintentionally activate feelings shame and blame by overemphasizing negative consequences, morality or history. This can lead to feelings of defensiveness, guilt, anger, fear or impatience. These emotions may cause people to shut down or inspire feelings of resistance among staff.

As mentioned above, in order to keep everyone meaningfully engaged it’s important to use the psychologically safe environment you’ve created to help everyone feel able to participate, regardless of their dominant or non-dominant identities. JEDI trainings should promote JEDI literacy and practical skills development without using shame as a motivator. Instead, your organization should aim to select trainings that develop psychological and emotional intelligence and are led by educators who can embody the principles they are teaching.

A person with a beads looks at a laptop screen, frustrated, with their hands over on their head.

4. Urgency Comes Before Literacy

Many anti-racism/anti-oppression trainings unconsciously emphasize urgency rather than equity literacy. Although the issues of race, gender and identity are urgent, over-emphasizing the hurt and harm cause by systemic injustice can backfire by triggering those feelings of shame and blame. From Anima’s experience and internal data, we know that embracing a literacy framework is far more effective in advancing JEDI goals. Like language literacy, equity literacy takes time. It requires people to learn how to identify systemic patterns of racial or gender bias, and to see things from a new perspective in order to learn and unlearn.

Trainings driven by a sense of urgency can also inspire performative actions that are mismatched with organizational goals or values. Truly transformative change requires us to be deeply present while acknowledging that change is an ongoing process, not a one-off moment.

5. The Environment Lacks Trust

Workplace culture is the most important factor in determining how JEDI trainings are received. It would be a mistake to blame the JEDI training if it doesn’t “stick” when your organizational culture may be the culprit. Low trust environments often sabotage efforts because you’re likely to receive backlash fueled by existing organizational dysfunction or from manager-employee tensions. Training often surfaces the hidden (or not so hidden) issues within your organizational context that may require you to spend some time creating trusting relationships and psychological safety so that your JEDI training can grow in a fertile environment.

Now you know what to avoid… what’s next?

Equity-based trainings are an important tool in our path towards more inclusive workplace cultures. But in order to inspire positive change, we need those JEDI programs that work. By watching for and avoiding these common traps, you’ll be better equipped to select a successful JEDI training that creates the kind of change your organization is hoping to achieve.

For more on how you can transform your workplace into a more equitable environment integrating all of these best practices, join our Deep Diversity Summer Institute.

Deep Diversity – Creating Inclusive Organizations

Learn how to establish a diverse organization that is inclusive of, and equitable for, all people regardless of identity or background. In this course you’ll develop leadership competencies with a focus on emotional literacy including skill development in self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and relationship management while exploring how unconscious bias results in mistreatment of people of minority groups in organizations.

Next course starts August 23rd, 2022.

Anima Leadership

Anima Leadership believes in a compassionate approach to racial justice where everyone can feel like they matter and belong.

Since 2007, we have worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations teaching, consulting and coaching transformative change. Our award-winning training programs and innovative measurement tools will help us journey with you from diversity basics to advanced belonging.

10 Success Factors for JEDI Trainings

With the push for businesses to focus on diversity initiatives, you may be surprised to learn that most justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) trainings don’t work. Despite good intentions, organizations are implementing trainings that don’t provide the desired impact. Instead, trainings can even cause more harm by wasting resources or inspiring resistance and backlash that damage company culture.

But—and this might come as a surprise—we don’t think they should stop.

Instead, we need to rethink what goes into racial justice training programs to make them more effective. Education will always be a critical piece in advancing racial justice and we’ve seen that when done correctly, the results are rewarding. Research drawn from nine years of program data involving 870 participants, including 250 leaders from US and Canada-based organizations, shows that there are 10 success factors that make JEDI trainings “stick” instead of fail. This data forms the foundation of our Deep Diversity Organizational Change Program and we hope that by inviting you into our process you’ll understand how to move your JEDI training in the right direction.

Whether your company is looking for or engaging in JEDI training, here are the 10 success factors that will lead you out of confusion and into deep organizational change.

1. Prepared Executive Leadership

The success of any organizational initiative will be determined by your senior leadership’s level of preparation. This is especially true of JEDI work.

Before your training begins, executive staff should invest time to learn about JEDI issues through pre-training, get clear on organizational goals and prepare to receive equity-based feedback. Doing this work in advance will create a strong foundation to support the success of your JEDI initiative and lessen your chances of wasting resources by moving in the wrong direction.

Three colleagues are in a board room at work. Two are seated at a desk surrounded by notebooks, glasses of water and pens. The other is walking through the door while reading a stack of papers.

2. High Trust with Educators

Whether your JEDI training is being facilitated by an internal or external team, building high levels of trust between the educators and participants is critical. As the training progresses, difficult emotions or conversations may arise and the level of trust established between the educators and participants will influence whether your staff resist or lean into the process of change.

To create a smooth path forward, educators should seek to build a sense of community by modeling personal vulnerability, emotional intelligence, compassion and JEDI expertise.

3. Centering Emotions & Psychological Safety

We may like to believe that we are rational creatures, but the truth is that we are also highly emotional. Ignoring these emotions is a mistake—but it’s one that most JEDI trainings make.

Resistance is a natural, emotional part of any change process, especially when related to JEDI issues. Uncomfortable feelings may arise, but when we can acknowledge the feelings in the room educators can create a sense of psychological safety that allows participants to stay open regardless of their identity.

This requires the training team to have done the inner work necessary to connect with their emotions so they can hold space for participants to sit with big feelings and questions that accompany conversations about racial justice and equity.

“We are not rational creatures. We’d like to believe we are. But we are in fact emotional creatures. And us starting with that as the beginning is actually really most helpful.”

— Shakil Choudhury, co-founder of Anima Leadership

Four colleagues are sitting around a table at work during a meeting. The table is covered in papers, folders, Post-it Notes and a laptop.

4. Program Content

Your program content, of course, will be an integral part of your JEDI training. In order to maximize the potential for success, your training should integrate both psychological and JEDI frameworks with practical skill development. Based on existing research and Anima’s years of experience, trainings that use an interdisciplinary approach are more likely to be embraced by learners, and therefore, have more impact.

By recognizing the psycho-emotional state of participants, teaching them JEDI literacy and giving them the tools to implement those learnings in the real world, your organization will be more likely to create lasting change.

5. Program Process

How your organization moves through its JEDI training will impact the outcome. Be intentional about the process and the effects of your training will be more likely to “stick.” Anima’s experience and research suggests that successful JEDI trainings integrate the following processes:

  1. An extended time frame of several months using a cohort model with a clear start and end date.
  2. Enlisting volunteer managers first instead of immediately integrating mandatory trainings.
  3. Opportunities to apply JEDI concepts and problem-solving real time issues.
  4. Coaching and support from JEDI experts.

Meaningful change takes time and intention. The extended cohort model allows your company enough time to make change, while engaging volunteer managers invites those with pro-equity tendencies to create positive “buzz” within the organization. Mandatory trainings are “buzz-killers” because they integrate those that are more hesitant into the room too early, which can result in a disengaged tone for the group. And finally, as you navigate you training, allowing opportunities for applied learning and support will solidify learning outcomes in the minds of employees.

6. Program Supports and Self-Directed Tools

Proven self-directed tools are crucial to help managers engage their teams on JEDI content in order to reduce their anxiety—and unrealistic expectations—that leaders have to be JEDI experts. If your managers feel supported, you set them up to better support other staff through the process of change.

7. Engage Managers

Anima’s experience and research shows that it is critical to have managers meaningfully engaged in JEDI problem-solving and action planning from the beginning, and to have them provide input into the broader organizational JEDI strategy.

Your managers are indispensable human resources in moving your JEDI strategy forward. It’s important to keep them engaged and informed in every step of your process so that they can effectively contribute to the success of the company.

Three pairs of hands holding or pointing at documents being reviewed by managers.

8. Measure Outcomes

In order to identify success, you’ll need to define and measure it. Measure your JEDI program effectiveness using qualitative and quantitative methods. Analyze your data over time with internal measures such as employee engagement, hiring, promotion and advancement demographics. The data you collect will be valuable in tracking your progress and identifying areas of stagnation where more action may be needed.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Anima offers social inclusion audits, measurement tools and reports that will help your organization map out a clear path for its next steps in JEDI work.

9. Organizational Context Matters

Existing organizational context and culture is often the most influential factor in determining JEDI program uptake and outcomes. JEDI trainings are more likely to succeed in contexts where there are high levels of employee engagement and trust. Conversely, trainings are more likely to struggle in environments with low morale, dysfunction and low psychological safety. If the latter is your organization’s reality, JEDI training may reveal some of the organizational glitches that need attention before equity principles and practice will flourish in your context.

10. 360 Hours for Equity Literacy

Racial justice trainings need to be seen in the framework of an equity literacy project, not a one-off moment. Anima’s co-founder Shakil Choudhury often likens this process to developing language literacy.

Three colleagues seated in a sunlit room with large windows.

It’s estimated that 360 hours is required for an adult to develop basic English-as-an-Additional-Language skills. Once the underlying pattern is decoded and recognized, what was once just a “squiggly line” becomes a letter, and an unrecognizable sound transforms into a word or sentence that has meaning. Similarly, in the early stages of learning systemic patterns of bias are like the squiggly line and can be hard to recognize.

Perhaps you may not notice that female employees are regularly interrupted in meetings while the men are allowed to speak freely, or that Black employees are more likely to receive lower performance evaluations than white counterparts — it’s through learning and practice that the patterns become easier to recognize.

It’s useful that successful JEDI training integrate a similar 360-hour benchmark for learning, practice and application for leaders to develop a basic level of equity literacy.

Now that you know what you need… what’s next?

Justice-based training and education are key parts of a necessary shift towards greater fairness, engagement and productivity. But to truly support organizational change we need JEDI programs that work.

Keeping these success factors in mind will help you make better decisions when you design, implement or select equity-based training programs. By focusing on doing the things that matter, you’ll avoid wasting time, resources and energy running an ineffective JEDI training.

For more on how you can transform your workplace into a more equitable environment integrating all of these best practices, join our Deep Diversity Organizational Change Program.

Anima Leadership

Anima Leadership believes in a compassionate approach to racial justice where everyone can feel like they matter and belong.

Since 2007, we have worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations teaching, consulting and coaching transformative change. Our award-winning training programs and innovative measurement tools will help us journey with you from diversity basics to advanced belonging.

Episode 13 — The Concrete Ceiling: Women of Colour Breaking Barriers

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Join Annahid Dashtgard in conversation with Deepa Purushothaman, about her new book “The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America“. 

Since #metoo we’ve seen a societal tipping point moment in realizing the gap between gender forward policies and what happens in reality.

That gap is even wider for women of colour. According to Deepa Purushonotham’s new book “The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America “ one in three women of colour in corporate America want to quit. And yet, BIPOC women represent among the most highly trained and talented workplace demographic to attract and retain.

In conversation with Anima CEO Annahid Dashtgard, Deepa shares what propelled her research and why major media are paying attention. What will it take to move past the tired debate about meritocracy? What will it take for us to break the invisible barriers holding us back? What does a future look like where everyone, regardless of identity, has the opportunity not just to survive, but thrive.

Episode 12 — Café at the Edge of Whiteness: Authentically Breaking Out of Racial Scripts

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It’s common for anti-racist practitioners to turn to the language of “white fragility” to describe those moments where white folks “freeze” out of fear of doing the wrong thing. And the resulting dynamic for people who identify as BIPOC often includes anger and frustration. In both cases, it’s easy for disempowerment to set in. And when that happens oppression wins. 

So what does it look like to push against the edges of whiteness, to be centered, authentic and remain in relationship as we seek to achieve racial justice in the workplace and beyond?

Anti-Black Racism in the C-Suite


Anima Leadership’s compassionate approach to racial justice means making issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion more accessible and understandable to everyone. Join us on the Anima Blog as we journey with you from diversity basics to advanced belonging framed around popular culture, current events, and more.

When Black Excellence isn’t enough

It can be a long way to the top, especially for those from racialized backgrounds. When even the highest achievers come face-to-face with systemic barriers, organizations need to take action to create more equitable workplaces and allow racialized employees well-deserved positions in executive offices.

For fans of the Toronto Raptors (and the NBA in general), Raptors president Masai Ujiri is a living testament to the ongoing challenges of racial discrimination in the workplace. Even after  reaching the mountaintop of NBA glory—leading the Toronto Raptors to win the NBA Championship in 2019—Masai’s undeniable excellence wasn’t enough for some.

You might remember the night of June 13, 2019, where the Raptors had just won their first title in Oakland and Ujiri made his way to the court to join his celebrating team. He was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy on the edge of the court who refused to recognize his VIP pass and instead instigated a shoving courtside match, later suing Ujiri for the incident. When the lawsuit was dropped in 2021, Ujiri released a statement identifying the moment for what it was: an incident of anti-Black racist on the biggest stage in basketball.

Masai Ujiri raises his fists in celebration of the NBA Championship win, surrounded by members of the Toronto Raptors team.
Masai Ujiri celebrates winning the 2019 NBA Championships.

Reputation doesn’t always equal respect

Anti-Black racism can manifest in a multitude of ways, and affects every person of African descent, whether born on the continent or as part of its wide diaspora. For Masai, that meant a long and arduous journey from basketball journeyman to unpaid and then underpaid work as a scout and General Manager, to his eventual role of president of the Toronto Raptors, having to constantly prove his value every step of the way.

Masai’s keen eye for talent and opportunity is one of his hallmarks—being the lead on a blockbuster trade for eventual NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will give you that reputation. But for Black professionals, reputation and respect are not coupled together as often as they should be.

This meant contract negotiations that were so heated that the best president in Raptors history almost walked away from the franchise. Ujiri’s contract negotiations were in their final stages with the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2021. Accusations that Masai “wasn’t worth the money” by one of the Raptors (white) board members almost derailed the negotiations, making Masai consider declining the offer outright to take a year sabbatical.

Anti-Black racism off the court

As we discuss in Anima’s Interrupting Racism course Challenging Anti-Black Racism in Organizations, negative stereotypes about Black people are so pervasive and accepted that even the most successful executive in Raptors history—one that oversaw a quadrupling of the franchise’s valuation from $500 million in 2014 to over $2 billion in 2022, and delivered its first and only championship— was not wholly considered a lynchpin to its continued business and sporting success. In a business where he’s received numerous accolades and awards for his brilliance, where fans of other teams are hoping to lure Masai Ujiri away, his own employers doubted his competency.

This isn’t isolated. A 2021 review of the United States’ 50 most valuable public companies by the Washington Post revealed Black employees represent a “strikingly small fraction of top executives”: only 8%. For the 2021 Fortune 500 companies, only four (less than 1%) of those CEOs are Black. And on the current trajectory it will take an estimated 95 years for Black employees to reach talent parity across the private sector—excellent or not.

What can we do?

If you are reading this and you are of African descent or a racialized person, parts of this probably sound eerily familiar. That’s a great disappointment for me to write, and maybe even for others to recognize. This work to disrupt discrimination never stops. Ujiri’s story is proof that even success doesn’t buffer individuals from discrimination; we need understanding, education, policies, support and accountability as some of the few powerful tools available to navigate this landscape. But the road ahead is long and vanishing.

Masai Ujiri speaks to the media with the Toronto Raptors.
Masai Ujiri speaking to media for the Toronto Raptors.

Masai Ujiri was able to seize the opportunities afforded to him, even if it meant sacrificing during the smaller battles along the way. And while we all make sacrifices, systemic discrimination asks some of us to make more sacrifices than other. Not all of us have the emotional latitude, financial means, or material support to make the same decisions that Ujiri made along the way. That’s why we all have the responsibility to change the conditions around us, so the sacrifices aren’t so great for those of us who follow.

It’s up to each and every one of us to keep pushing our organizations towards equity goals. For more on how you can challenge and change conditions of anti-Black racism in your own workplace, join our Challenging Anti-Black Racism in Organizations course.

Challenging Anti-Black Racism in Organizations – A Primer

Build skills to recognize and interrupt anti-Black racism in organizations. Explore the history of anti-Black racism, identify common institutional patterns, study the impact of racism on Black health and wellness, and develop strategies to address anti-Black racism as a key leadership skill.

Next course starts March 16, 2022.

Headshot for Husayn Symonds

Author: Husayn Symonds

Anti-Black Racism and Equity Educator

Husayn is an educator, leader and writer with over 10 years experience creating and developing ideas to advance cultural knowledge, policies, and environments within organizations across three continents. He enjoys creating opportunities for discovery and helping to broaden the vision of those he works with.

Learn more from Husayn in his Interrupting Racism course Challenging Anti-Black Racism in Organizations – A Primer.

Episode 11 — Fireside Chat with Clayton Thomas-Müller

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Join Shakil Choudhury in conversation with Clayton Thomas-Müller, a best selling author as they discuss his book “Life in the City of Dirty Water”, Indigenous rights and environmental & economic justice. 

In his new book, Deep Diversity: A Compassionate, Scientific Approach to Achieving Racial Justice, Shakil Choudhury asks the question, “how do we make all people feel like they matter and belong?”

Equity and inclusion is about justice, and from an Indigenous perspective, there can be no equity until justice is central to the conversation. As Clayton Thomas-Müller points out, “if Indigenous peoples had access to the land, water and resources, there would be no poverty and things would be very different in this country.” 

How do we help organizational leaders look at equity through a justice lens? How do we help them see their part in this ongoing work? How do we move beyond lip service, performative allyship and surface-level change in order to make lasting, systemic change? 

In this powerful session, Clayton Thomas-Müller, best selling author on Indigenous rights and environmental & economic justice, will join Shakil Choudhury, award-winning educator and author of Deep Diversity, in exploring how we can centre justice in our equity and inclusion efforts, shifting the playing field in our teams, organizations and sectors.

This session is part of a series of Fireside Chats, exploring the themes of Deep Diversity with leaders in the field. Pre-order your copy of Deep Diversity here!

Episode 10 — Fireside Chat with Zarqa Nawaz

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Join Shakil Choudhury in conversation with Zarqa Nawaz, author of the award-winning book, Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, and creator of the internationally acclaimed show Little Mosque on the Prairie, the world’s first sitcom featuring Muslim characters living in the West. Shakil and Zarqa will be talking about their new books, what it’s means to occupy a Muslim identity 20 years after 9/11, and they use stories to educate as well as entertain.

Storytelling to Challenge Racism and Islamophobia

The human brain comes hardwired to pay attention to stories—whether in the form of personal narrative, collective myths or gossip—and prioritize them over dry facts and figures.  So how can storytelling be used to challenge racism and Islamophobia? Why are counter-stories so important for nurturing equity and what lessons are relevant for organizational leaders? 

Episode 9 — Fireside Chat with Adam Kahane: Facilitating Extreme Group Conflict About Politics and Identity

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Join Shakil Choudhury and Adam Kahane in an intimate fireside chat as these two amazing leaders, facilitators and authors discuss their new books and approaches to constructive dialogue both inside organizations and in broader society.

Anima Podcast - Episode 9: Fireside Chat with Shakil Choudhury and  Adam Kahane

In a time of extreme political polarization, call-outs and cancel culture, how do leaders support constructive dialogue and de-escalate conflict in society and organizations? How do we make meaningful change leveraging our diverse identities while working with opposing beliefs and experiences? Join Shakil Choudhury and Adam Kahane in an intimate fireside chat as these two amazing leaders, facilitators and authors discuss their new books and approaches to constructive dialogue both inside organizations and in broader society.

Episode 8 — Deep Diversity Book Launch: Fireside Chat with Loretta Ross

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How do advocates and allies of the anti-racist movement work towards a more just society? What does it mean to integrate, inner and outer, psychology with power? How do we place love and compassion at the centre of our actions and create call-in culture?

In this intimate session, racial justice leader and elder Loretta Ross (author of upcoming Calling In the Calling Out Culture) will join Shakil in exploring the evolution of the anti-racist movement from a culture of shame and blame, towards a more compassionate and inclusive approach, keeping racial justice work at the centre of the conversation. Join us in this powerful wisdom session to help us celebrate the launch of Deep Diversity.

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