Colorado Women’s College Launches Equity Labs to Tackle Workplace Equity Training
As more companies strive to build a diverse and inclusive workplace, the Colorado Women’s College (CWC) at the University of Denver is introducing an immersive educational experience to help groups tackle the issues head on. With the launch of new equity labs, teams will benefit from a hands-on approach to fine-tuning workplace culture and creating more equitable workspaces.
“People really needed the opportunity to practice behaviors that shift culture,” says Magdelana Red, CWC’s associate dean of programs and partnerships. “[The equity labs] are really an opportunity to exercise these different muscles in a space where people feel comfortable trying.”
The equity labs focus on three pillars: developing long-term empathy, embracing difficult conversations and imagining an equitable future. All activities are backed by research and different interventions proven to be effective in different studies. With help from a design team made up of nine faculty members from across DU’s campus, the CWC team combined all these strategies into a single interactive package.
“We really see them as superheroes,” Red says of the design team. “They’re people who come from all different disciplines, but have a real passion for and care about inclusion and equity.”
Paige Lloyd, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, served on the interdisciplinary team that met regularly throughout the 2019–20 school year to design the equity labs.
“I hope that people who participate in equity labs take away a greater understanding of just how deeply embedded inequality is in our work environments — in our physical space, in our policies and in our day-to-day practices,” Lloyd says.
An important part of the labs is the chance to put equity into practice. Because the lab is interactive, participants get the chance to test the new skills they learn, including new ways to frame difficult conversations at work.
Right now, the equity labs have launched in a pilot phase and soon will be open to the Denver community as well. Lynnea Louison, senior director at DU’s Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, and her team kicked off the equity labs training experience earlier this month.
“If you’re in a group [with] mixed levels of experiences, it’s a way to set a level playing field to have the conversations among the group. One of the learnings that we had is just remembering how many assumptions people are bringing to the table, and that can cloud the conversation,” Louison says, adding that it’s important to be aware of what those assumptions are and how they can impact an unfolding situation.
The equity labs experience is just the beginning. The CWC team will check in with participants 30, 60 and 90 days later to see if they turned the practice into action in their workspace.
“This is a big step in a much bigger journey,” Red says. “One of the things that’s cool about the curriculum is that it meets people where they are. It allows people to tap in whenever they might be on their journey and still have tremendous benefit from it.”