The Equity Imperative - Tonie Leatherberry

Insights from Leaders
3 min readMar 26, 2021


Tonie Leatherberry

The Equity Imperative, is a document with the goal to create better understanding, getting a deeper insight, and working toward racial equity.
I’m excited about this last collaboration with my Deloitte colleagues prior to retirement. Thanks to Janet Foutty, Chair, Deloitte US for her leadership

The document is comprised of three sections. The first acknowledges the legacies and realities of racism in America. The second imagines various potential futures for racial equity in the United States for the next decade. Finally, the third suggests specific steps that leaders can take to promote more equitable outcomes in their organizations, and society in general. All these three sections put together, create an urgent case for new and effective action.

The Equity Imperative talks deeply beyond diversity and inclusion. For years being ‘inclusive’ has been every organization's response to racism. This has helped many organizations to recruit and retain new talent. Yet, these efforts have not been successful in changing the economic and social situation for most Black Americans. What needs to be understood and accepted is that equity is not a program or cause — it’s an outcome. This outcome is what the Equity Imperative focuses on.

Why racial equity now?

Calls for action against systemic racism and racial injustice are not new. But recent events — from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis that have disproportionately hurt Black Americans to numerous public killings of Black people — have sparked a new era of heightened awareness,
understanding, and expectation for action, including by the business community.

Despite agreeing that change is needed, many leaders have come to realize how difficult it will be to create meaningful, measurable, and sustainable change. They are left with the question: How can we make real progress toward racial equity?

Read the full Deloitte document here:

Tonie Leatherberry, one of the contributors to this initiative, is a passionate and invested leader. Tonie has devoted much of her professional life to creating opportunities for women and people of color. At Deloitte, she was the principal architect of The Board Leadership Forum and the NextGen CEO Academy. Each of these had a meaningful impact, ultimately placing more than 70 Black leaders into executive-level and board roles.

As Chair of the ELC, Tonie created the Chairman’s Council of Academic Achievement to address achievement gaps for students of color in America’s educational systems. Tonie served as the President of the Deloitte Foundation, the mission of which is to drive initiatives to develop future leaders through education. In this role, she has overseen the distribution of over $50M in grants to 400+ schools.

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