As a political scientist I am acutely aware that the November election was an indicator of the ongoing divides in our country. I wrote my book, Radical Empathy, in part to address those divides, but there are many divides that are impacting our country, leading to divisions within families and across communities. Institutions of higher education often find themselves in the middle of these divides as they work to address longstanding practices that hurt women and minorities, as well as student demands for more inclusive spaces and an end to biased policing.
With the forthcoming publication of my book, we have begun to offer workshops that take attendees through the process of radical empathy. What has become clear to me is that we need a new approach to DEI – despite many years of focusing on diversity, with workshops and new positions, women and minorities still lag behind on salaries and promotions in higher education, let alone in leadership positions. We need to do more.
Radical empathy encourages individuals to be vulnerable, looking at their own internal biases and life stories so that they can better understand the ways that structural racism impacts us all. I explore my own life story and juxtapose it with the facts and figures that bring home the fact that we live in a society that was designed to discriminate. Once we become more aware of the pernicious nature of racism, we can better understand the lives of others – practicing empathy so that we can take positive action, create change, and build trust.
I have been working with organizations for many years, particularly within my field of political science, to address bias in hiring process, promotion and tenure, encouraging the institutions I have worked in to build inclusive cultures. Of course, diversity goes beyond race and gender, and it is important to bring a variety of perspectives to the issues raised by pursuing a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.
In order to facilitate an ongoing dialogue, our workshops include a discussion space where participants can ask questions and share information that is helpful to addressing issues that we all face. We connect the themes raised in our webinars to issues of the day, challenges that institutions are facing, and best practices from conversations about race to developing inclusive hiring practices. We have regular half-day workshops for individuals as well as a six-month in-depth workshop for groups.
As the holidays approach, and the pandemic continues to impact us all, we understand that it is a stressful time in academe, and it is important to set priorities. We are happy to work with you and your institution to ensure that you have access to the best we have to offer. We wish good health and understanding to all in these difficult times.