This article was written by Peer Academic Coach Michelle Ajobena (she/her, fourth-year Global Management Co-op student), and Academic Peer Helpers Eric Rajaratnam (he/him, second-year Economics & Management Sciences major), Anuj Agarwal (he/him, fifth-year Entrepreneurship student, with a minor in Marketing) and Muhammad Siddiqui (he/him, fourth-year Human Resources major).

The Academic Success Centre’s student staff participated in a multi-team Community of Practice. Eric, Michelle, Anuj and Muhammad were members of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion working group. Together, they have written this article to show just how to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion into our daily life.


What Does EDI Really Mean?

Equity bicycle graphic, English, green background.
Copyright 2017 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are words that are often used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences between the three. When most people think of equity they may refer back to the image of the people on bicycles. Equality often means providing the same opportunity/ resource to each person. Equity, on the other hand, is about ensuring everyone has access to the opportunity/ resource that best fits their needs, such as the diverse bicycles on the latter half of the image. Equity takes into account the fact that not everyone begins at the same starting point or requires the same resources to succeed.

Diversity is the existence of differences. This can be the existence of different personalities or skill sets within a company, or even the existence of different genders, ethnicities and cultures within an organization such as Ryerson University.

Inclusion is making people with different identities feel appreciated and welcomed. This can be as simple as giving someone the chance to voice their opinion in a conversation.

Equity, diversity and inclusion all lean on each other, and it is important to evaluate each one individually rather than as a whole. It can be hard to find ways to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion into your daily life. This blog showcases some of the ways we have done that.

Reading

Reading books can be a great tool when trying to learn about new topics, gain knowledge and expand your horizons. Some of the recommended books to read related to EDI are How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad. These books, available through the Ryerson Library, are a great introduction to anti-black racism in North America, its roots and how to dismantle it. Also, reading books from diverse authors provides readers with different perspectives. This can help people understand each other, and can contribute to feelings of safety, comfort and inclusion

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is a great novel which explores the themes of immigration, the social isolation experienced by immigrants and the internal conflicts which many immigrants go through. Also, Khaled Hosseini is a Muslim author whose books focus on themes of separation and loss. To build your own EDI reading list, Goodreads has a list of Diversity and Inclusion Books that you can explore. A lot of these books are also available in audio formats.

Courses

A good first step to incorporate EDI into your daily life is to first understand what it is. This can be done by taking courses to increase your cultural competency and develop skills to promote equity and foster inclusion.

Ryerson offers many courses to help broaden your perspective on EDI, all while fulfilling your Table A – Lower Level Liberal Studies, and Table B – Upper Level Liberal Studies requirements.

One such course Eric had the opportunity to take is Geography of Toronto (GEO 793). The course provided him with a greater understanding about the roots of Toronto and the land it is built upon, as well as what shaped Toronto into the diverse metropolis it has become. The course also helped him to develop more awareness of his unconscious biases by educating him about how and why different identity groups (the homeless, persons with disabilities, ethnic groups, 2SLGTBQ+ people, etc.) have occupied and appropriated certain city spaces and occupations, as well as understanding the struggles and challenges many of them have faced.

Here’s one example: according to Professor Daniel Hiebert, Jewish immigrants in Toronto have a deep connection with the textile and garment industry which dates back to the early 1900s. At the beginning of the 20th century, most Jewish breadwinners were self-employed retailers or peddlers, and many began entering the textile industry. Continuing through the 1930s, Jewish entrepreneurs hired mainly Jewish blue-collar labourers to keep their garment production factories running. The result was that the textile industry shed light on class conflict within the Jewish community, who were formerly dictated by ethnic and religious identities (Hiebert, 1993).

Some other recommendations for interesting courses that can deepen your understanding of EDI include, but are not limited to:

Next time you are filling out your course intentions, challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and enroll in a course that may help broaden your definition of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Events

As Ted Rogers School students, we are already aware of and exposed to the diversity at Ryerson. However, we may not be sure how to handle the diversity. One way we can improve our knowledge of this is by attending events. Ryerson offers many EDI events which can be found in the Ryerson Today emails. Michelle had the opportunity to attend an event titled, “Why Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity Matter in our Daily Lives.” This event highlighted the differences among the words “diversity,” “inclusion,” “equality” and “equity,” and explained why they really matter in our daily lives.

Diversity represents the many different types of people (ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, etc.) and the attributes we have. Inclusion, on the other hand, is about making spaces safer and more welcoming for those diverse forces/resources to thrive. It basically puts the practice and concept of diversity into action. Diversity and inclusion both matter for a variety of reasons. They enhance our social development, which can further help to prepare us for work in a global society. They also expand our knowledge base, which promotes creative thinking when viewing issues from different perspectives. Finally, they enhance our self-awareness. Especially in instances where we find ourselves thinking poorly of someone, a focus on diversity and inclusion enables us to stop and consider what influences have created our negative views of that individual.

Equity is the fair and respectful treatment of all people. It involves the creation of opportunities and reduction of disparities in opportunities and outcomes for diverse communities. Equity acknowledges that these disparities are rooted in historical and contemporary injustices, and ensures that we are not denying peoples the right to equal access and opportunity. Equity is really important because it provides space for barrier-free environments. This allows individuals to have genuine access, free from arbitrary obstructions, to demonstrate and exercise their full potential. It considers the individual needs of people — and this is something that “equality” does not do, as it involves treating everyone the same regardless of their differences.

At this event, Michelle learned that we should all strive towards equity and inclusion by acknowledging diversity.

Mindfulness

We hear the term “mindfulness” in so many different contexts that it can sometimes be difficult to understand what it truly means. In the context of EDI, mindfulness refers to reflection and forward thinking in order to gain a more outward perspective on our own lives, and on how our actions affect others.

We all have our own unique experiences and perspectives in any given situation. One of the most beneficial practices we can engage in is to take a step outside of our own shoes, try to experience situations from a different perspective, and be mindful of how our decisions impact the experiences of others. Mindfulness facilitates the experience of learning to understand how we can take calm and careful approaches to similar situations in the future, and how we can leverage our understanding of multiple perspectives in order to become a more grounded person in both personal and professional settings.

We should all adopt the habit of reflecting on and learning from our experiences. This typically works best when done at the end of the day, allowing the mind to rest and come to a relaxed state before delving into the depths of one’s own perspective and thoughts – considering how we can better improve and learn from our experiences. This practice can be vastly beneficial. What works for one person may not work for another, but the widely touted benefits of mindfulness suggest that it’s well worth trying practices like this and finding out whether they provide value for you.

In Summary

There are many ways to better understand and incorporate EDI into your everyday life. Reading books can give you a different perspective on what EDI means, and help you understand the challenges others face. Taking courses can expand your knowledge on EDI principles while satisfying your graduation requirements. Attending events can help you acquire deeper connections with other people’s experiences, which will help you understand their everyday challenges. Practicing mindfulness can allow you to broaden your perspective and be a more inclusive and empathetic person.

Posted by Debra Rughoo

Debra Rughoo is a Writing and Content Specialist at the Ted Rogers School of Management.