Voices of Simmons

Debra Perez on the Joys of Inclusion

Senior Vice President of Organizational Culture, Inclusion & Equity shares on the joys of inclusion.


As Simmons’ Office of Culture, Inclusion and Equity (OCIE) approaches our one-year anniversary, I have noticed a trend among those of us doing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion, we have forgotten to speak about the “joy of inclusion.”

So many of our discussions on equity and inclusion are only about what is missing, how it feels to be excluded, and how the experience of racism can make someone feel invisible. As a result, we may end up unintentionally causing potential allies to feel shamed and blamed because of how they talk about these matters. “Calling out culture” is when people shout out or shut down divergent points of view -- not with powerful, articulate arguments or critical thinking -- but with shame, humiliation and isolation. Those who “call out” fail to see the value of engaging in respectful discourse. Calling out can therefore be destructive to social justice causes.

Instead of calling out, we need to call people in -- into our community and into relationship with each other. We must lead with letting people experience the plus side of equity and inclusion. To see and feel the joy of being in relationship with people who are different from us. What kind of community would we be if instead of pointing out the flaws or gaps in inclusion, we pointed to what we gain, the beauty of being with people different from you, a different race, ability, age, experience and/or perspective? This is what truly matters. The joy of inclusion means it is worth fighting for, worth the difficult conversations, worth feeling uncomfortable because at the end of the day, teaching, studying, working and living in relationship to each other is what matters.

Simmons has set important goals around equity and inclusion. What has your business focused on? I am a strong advocate to debate, question and push back when talking about the realities and challenges of diversity and inclusion. It is through this type of engagement that we can build bridges and actually change the direction toward progress. Our office is always available as a resource as we move towards a more inclusive society together.

You May Also Like

The cupola at Simmons University

Like many people around this country, we at Simmons were horrified, outraged and saddened by the murders motivated by hate and racism in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton. Increasingly, we are facing the manifestations of white supremacy, white nationalism, racism...

Voices of Simmons