Category Archives: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

ITL Year in Review – 2021

As we close out 2021, we have much to celebrate in the Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL). Looking back on the year, we are grateful for our community of transformational leaders: students, graduates, faculty, and staff working to create a more sustainable and compassionate future during these challenging times. 

We have done a lot in ITL this year.  We are so pleased to share these highlights:

ODCCL – The Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership (ODCCL) program has a new name and has been redesigned to meet the moment – where concepts of work and workplace are being reimagined, where diversity, equity & inclusion and OD have become inextricably intertwined, and where OD learning and practice can be maximized via multiple modalities.

Health & Wellness Coaching – The Health & Wellness Coaching program continues to train pioneers in this emerging field – now accredited by both the International Coach Federation (ICF) & the National Board of Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). We are also launching an important partnership with the Georgetown University School of Medicine using health & wellness coaching to empower unhoused populations in DC to make progress towards better health. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) – The ITL DEI program completed cohorts 12 & 13 in 2021. We piloted new content on polarities as a way of offering students another lens through which to view DEI work. This highly sought-after program teaches the leadership skills and insights needed to support a strategic, sustainable approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion management while utilizing knowledge of oneself as an agent of change in the workplace. 

Facilitation – Our Facilitation program is leading us into the complexity and opportunity of facilitating in the hybrid workspace in addition to creatively designing for and facilitating human connection both in person and virtually. 

Leadership coaching – In 2021, we trained 5 cohorts of Leadership Coaches while launching a redesigned curriculum that prepares coaches to support and develop leaders to lead in the complexity of today’s world.  This year we partnered  with multiple organizations as a key part of a strategy to create a culture of coaching from government agencies to nonprofits and foundations.  

Professional Training Programs – We launched six new workshops in 2021:  Culturally Competent CommunicationBody Intelligence in LeadershipFrom CDO to COO: The Business of DEIEntrepreneurial Leadership CapacityCourageous Leadership in Action: No One Said It Would Be EasyBuilding Inclusive Workplaces through the Lens of Women’s Leadership

Faculty Training – We partnered with Georgetown’s Elizabeth Stanley, PhD, author of Widen the Window, to learn about how trauma might show up in our classrooms and how to teach and facilitate in a trauma-sensitive way.

Events- We celebrated the graduation of 760 students representing 31 cohorts across our five certificate programs, and the ITL Network convened our graduate community in a dynamic and moving virtual conference in November.

Partnerships & Training – We showcased our expertise in Leadership, Coaching, DEI and Organization Development through partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs Whole Health, AARP Purpose Prize, Georgetown University School of Medicine, USAID, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. 

As 2021 comes to an end, we wish you much love and peace!

Creating Equitable Organizations

This post was shared by Bill Pullen, MCC, Academic Director in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL), based on his interview with Minal Bopaiah on the ITL Podcast.

Minal Bopaiah is a graduate of ITL’s Executive Certificate in Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership program.  Her recent book Equity has inspired us to think differently about how to create inclusive organizations.

Minal’s parents immigrated to the United States in 1976 as medical doctors who had residencies in Brooklyn, New York. After years of living in Brooklyn, they moved out to Staten Island and started their practice. They lived the American Dream – work hard and success will come. But Minal Bopaiah, author of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives, knows that hard work isn’t all to her parents, her, or anyone else’s success story. System support is also necessary for anyone’s success. System support can come in the form of organizational policies and procedures, the ability to pursue higher education, access to healthcare, and more. Seeing how systems create or inhibit equity is vital to leaders who want to create organizations where everyone thrives. The belief that rugged individualism or that success is garnered to people merely because they worked hard to get it is fundamentally false.

Understanding the difference between equity and equality is essential to creating systems where everyone can thrive. While equality is when everyone receives the same things regardless of differences, equity is when people get what they need according to their difference so they may participate fully and can succeed. In short, equity embraces differences while equality doesn’t. Neither are bad and determining whether equity or equality is the proper course of action in the attempt to provide an environment of opportunities comes with understanding how those differences impact the ability for individual and systematic opportunity and success.

Systems are currently built and designed to work in the favor of those who have the most power. Learning to see systems can be difficult and requires looking at oneself and looking outward to understand how the self and systems interact. Think of yourself through your various identities – your race, culture, gender identity, etc. How cognizant are you of those aspects of your identity as you go about your day?

People are often much more cognizant of the aspects of their identity that are marginalized or oppressed, rather than those that systems center and therefore support. Which aspects of your identity tend to be privileged? For which ones are there consistent barriers which you must navigate?

Taking time to understand how systems have created privilege and marginalization in a leader’s own story is an important first step for any leader who wants to create organizations where everyone can thrive. Doing so helps leaders to develop “system sight” – the ability to see systems and the leader’s impact on people.

Engaged leaders should measure the success of their organization and the systems they are building not by their ability to provide infinite growth, but rather by the impact their companies are having on their employees and society. How can the power that is associated with leadership be utilized to provide equitable opportunities for all? Ask yourself, what are the outcomes that you want to see when designing systems changes? What are the observable behaviors that help produce that outcome? Are the systems rewarding that behavior and holding people accountable who actively try to derail it?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion requires constant iteration and feedback. Engaged leaders must work with people to understand what is beneficial and what is not and adjust according to that feedback. Without this engagement, or a keen and developed system sight, diversity, equity, is ultimately unreachable.


Listen to Minal and Bill’s full conversation on the ITL Podcast: Creating Equitable Organizations. 

Fall Workshops – Something for Everyone

This fall, we have a fabulous lineup of workshops designed to meet the needs of leaders and practitioners as we navigate the complexities of 2021.

Culturally Competent Communication 

Effective communication is built on one’s willingness, desire, and ability to share information with another individual. Culturally competent communication goes one step further by offering a form of empathetic, unbiased, and respectful communication when interacting with an individual who may be different from oneself.  This program is designed for anyone who seeks to understand how cultural beliefs inform behavior and how to show sensitivity to those beliefs through communication.  Learn more.

Entrepreneurial Leadership Capacity

This workshop captures the skills and mindsets of high performing entrepreneurs and presents them in an easily digestible method and playbook.  It is designed for (1) an early stage aspiring entrepreneur desiring to develop their entrepreneurial mindsets and skills in order to move their project/startup forward and (2) an intrapreneur leader desiring to develop their entrepreneurial mindsets and skills to innovate in their current role within organizations. Learn more.

Courageous Leadership in Action: No One Said It Would Be Easy

This dynamic workshop is designed for individuals who are interested in exploring aspects of courageous leadership in the f­­ace of adversity. The 2-day in person or 4-module virtual workshop explores courageous leadership through the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) lens.  The workshop is designed to be inclusive and encompass new and mid-level managers, leaders, coaches, consultants, and facilitators. Learn more.

From CDO to COO: The Business of DEI

The work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is more than a mindset or focus on people – it is core to how a business operates.  However, nearly all corporate DEI positions reside within Human Resources, executing activities and delivering goals geared towards attracting, growing, and retaining diverse talent.  To drive systemic change as well as disrupt and reinvent systems to eliminate  oppression and bias, organizations need to embed the mental models and best practices of DEI into their business operations.  This program is designed to provide foundational business and DEI knowledge to participants who will then use this knowledge to co-create strategies for integrating DEI into the core business operations of an organization.  Learn more.

Body Intelligence:  Leadership’s Untapped Resource

The body is the most direct and fastest route to change. The vast majority of our behavior is generated on autopilot because it happens outside of our consciousness. Body Intelligence in Leadership is designed for individuals who are looking to develop their natural inner resources to navigate the complexities of today’s world. Based in neuroscience, biology, and physiology, this 6-module highly experiential program explores models and theories related to the intelligence of the body.  Learn more.

Building Inclusive Workplaces through the Lens of Women’s Leadership

While the entire landscape of work is getting an overhaul, how are leaders going to adapt to attract and retain diverse talent? What new tactics are being used to drive diverse and productive teams? How do we create belonging and connection for everyone in virtual, hybrid and in-person workspaces using an intersectional lens? Building Inclusive Workplaces through the Lens of Women’s Leadership will explore these questions and use peer learning to uncover how companies and organizations can tap into the values and potential of all workers and leverage opportunities that help them show up at work as their full self – which research has proven fuels creativity and innovation.  Learn more.

LENS: Creating a New Normal on Race, One Conversation at a Time

No matter where you are on the spectrum of unconscious bias and race awareness, in America you are swimming in it 24/7.  Anchored in facts about our U.S. history that most of us never learned in school, this 2-day intensive workshop is an experiential, personal exploration of race and its impact on our perspectives that is guaranteed to give you an experience of diversity, not just a discussion about it.  Targeted for leaders and professionals who are wrestling with how to embody genuine inclusion in order to respond authentically to the cultural shifts after 2020’s racial protests, this approach, tested over 5 years, unlocks a depth of connection and learning unprecedented in mixed race company. Learn more.

Learn more about all the programs offered in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.

DEI Program Promotes Equity and Belonging in the Workplace

This article was originally shared on the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies News & Events page. 

Maria Kelts is the Head of Enterprise Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, at Capital One Financial, but she doesn’t rely on diversity training to make workplaces more equitable and welcoming.

“Diversity training is not a stand-alone solution, and many challenge its effectiveness in organizations,” Kelts says. “I would also focus on creating fair, equitable, and transparent people processes that are sustainable” and encompass the entire employee lifecycle, from the time they are recruited till when they say good-bye.

Because, as she explains, if people “leave your organization with a pervasive feeling of inclusion,” they will promote it as a great place to work or be a long-term customer.

An Increasing Demand

This distinction—between relatively narrow diversity training and a more holistic approach—also applies to Kelts’ other position as an instructor in the Executive Certificate in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion program at Georgetown University. Led by academics and experienced practitioners, the certificate emphasizes the best practices and latest academic research in cultural competency and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

“The course is experiential in nature and is built on the foundation of understanding oneself through the identities one holds and acknowledging oneself as a change agent,” Kelts says. “Knowing how you walk through the world allows you to more effectively analyze, diagnose, and address DEI issues in the workplace and beyond.”

Many practitioners in her field “are absolutely exhausted right now,” Kelts says. Certainly, the pandemic’s outsized impact on underrepresented groups and a heightened focus on racial justice have compelled corporations to initiate, or reinvest in, programs to address inequities. But this investment is also part of a broader trend of corporate commitment to DEI. The demand for qualified practitioners has grown dramatically, with LinkedIn data showing a 71 percent increase in worldwide DEI positions over the past five years.

Universities have also responded.

“We’re at capacity every quarter,” Kelts says of Georgetown’s DEI certificate program, which includes six intensive courses that must be completed within six months. “The demand has enabled us to be selective with those who apply. It is highly competitive.” Admissions officers “are looking for individuals who are open to learning through non-traditional methods and embracing a cohort experience.”

A Well-Documented Advantage

The business case for diversity has been demonstrated repeatedly in recent years: Simply put, diverse, inclusive, and equitable companies are more profitable. According to MarketWatch: “Diverse companies are 70 percent more likely to capture new markets than organizations that do not actively recruit and support talent from under-represented groups.”

This statistic makes particular sense when considering the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that is required for innovation: Is this more likely to come from a group with similar backgrounds, mindsets, and experiences, or a group with more diverse ones? The answer is self-evident. In addition, forward-thinking companies are more focused on addressing inclusivity, fairness, and social responsibility—and in attracting talented prospects who prioritize these values when choosing a job.

“Diversity is an absolute reality,” Kelts says. “One cannot argue with the changing composition of the United States. In addition to being inclusive of differences, and providing your employees with role clarity, a belief that they are being fairly invested in and rewarded is essential in enhancing a feeling of belonging that leads to greater engagement and outcomes.”

A Quest for Self-Knowledge

Georgetown’s program generally attracts three kinds of students, Kelts says. They include: people who have been tasked by their organizations to implement a DEI program; those already in the field who want to learn new skills; and others who are “generally interested in DEI as a field of study.”

Early in the program, students engage in a personal inquiry designed to increase their self-knowledge. “It’s very important that you develop a level of awareness around self—how you experience the world and how that peppers and flavors your interactions with others—and really have clarity on that piece first,” Kelts says. “And then you can dive into, for example, understanding how to address systemic inequities in systems at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.”

Kelts says the benefits of this kind of experience go beyond one’s working life.

“Not everybody who completes the certificate program is going to work in a DEI position, nor should they,” Kelts says. “One of our students shared that this program provided them with tools to transform every space they enter. The cohort experience is a unique opportunity to build a network of support as one moves forward with their DEI journey. We know our sphere of influence extends beyond our workplace, including our friends, family, and community.”


Learn more about Georgetown’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program here.  

Antiracist Leadership

This post was shared by Institute for Transformational Leadership Academic Director – Bill Pullen. 

On a cold January day a few weeks ago, my heart sank as I watched a group of my fellow Americans, holding Confederate flags and racist signs, storm the Capitol. Even though the participants had long telegraphed their intentions, the putridness of the images and videos from the insurrection managed to shock me. As with the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year, the forces of hate that undergird so much of American society were on full display.

As a White American, I had the privilege to be shocked, whereas discrimination and racially based violence are a daily reality for Black Americans. Still, there are moments of inflection that rip away the veneer of civility that permits our country to pretend to be something other than what we are. The events of January 6th were one such crucible moment. The insurrectionists had a message to tell America about who they believe deserve to be treated equally and who they believe do not; we cannot pretend that we did not hear them.

The currents in our society that produced the January 6th insurrection did not begin that day. The people who stormed the Capitol had spent their lives drinking deeply at the trough of a national narrative that told them that power is only legitimate if it is used to reinforce systems of racial oppression. This does not absolve them from responsibility for their actions. It does help us have a context for why they did what they did. Such information can – if acted upon – lead to change.

We ask ourselves, what are Americans – specifically White Americans – called to do to ensure that this crucible moment leads to positive change rather than a retreat to purposeful ignorance?

An obvious answer, one whose urgency is brought home with sickening regularity, is that we need antiracist leadership. For White Americans, sitting back and saying “I am going to avoid racist behaviors” is not enough.

Being an antiracist leader means building, daily, a conscious awareness of the pervasiveness of racism and taking action to end racial inequities in our lives and in our institutions. It involves the recognition that racism is everyone’s problem, and that we can all play a part in breaking down the systems that support it.

The 400-year legacy of White supremacy in our country means that the patterns and systems of racist oppression against Black Americans are deeply embedded in our culture, to a degree that they consciously and unconsciously impact how White Americans think and act. While explicit forms of racism – Confederate flags, for example – are easy to see, antiracist leaders look beyond these obvious signifiers to examine hidden structural inequalities and actively work to overturn them. This is the true work of anti-racist leadership.

In his book Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, Congressman John Lewis writes, “…the true work of social transformation starts within. It begins inside your own heart and mind, because the battleground of human transformation is really, more than any other thing, the struggle within the human consciousness to believe and accept what is true, thus, to truly revolutionize our society, we must first revolutionize ourselves. We must be the change we seek if we are to effectively demand transformation from others.”

As a White American who is committed to learning to become an anti-racist leader, I must first understand my own Whiteness and the privilege and power that comes with it and then build upon this to recognize and uncover the systems that reinforce this same privilege and power.

For White Americans, antiracist leadership begins with recognizing one’s own internalized racism and biases, but it doesn’t end there. Antiracist leaders are called to do the work of ending overtly and covertly racist policies and systems in the organizations of which they are members. Institutional racism is found in policies and practices that benefit White Americans to the disadvantage of people of color. These systems are embedded in education, housing, employment, and – as has been seen clearly in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic – health care.

In his book How to Be an Antiracist, Dr. Ibrahim X. Kendi suggests that we start with one simple premise: “… believe in the possibility that we can strive to be antiracist from this day forward. Believe in the possibility that we can transform our society….” From such a small beginning, many things are possible if we work together to dismantle the structures that hold all of us back. The events of January 6th showed America the face of its past. It does not have to be the face of our future.

To hear more on Antiracist Leadership, download the Transformational Leadership for Transformational Times podcast.