The Importance of Equity - Tonie Leatherberry

Tonie Leatherberry

Tonie Leatherberry, an avid champion of equal opportunities for women and people of color in and outside the workplace, shares her thoughts on the importance of equality.

She speaks against discrimination based on gender or race, seeing this as a hindrance to the greater good. She believes that society as a whole suffers when people are judged by these external metrics and not based on their respective skill sets. These skills should be harnessed, she says, and used to best benefit individuals, in terms of their capabilities and interests, and society, through contributions made by each individual.

Academic freedom is an area of interest for Tonie, she says that individuals should be challenged intellectually or based on a specific skill set. The existence of an even playing field, where each individual is deemed worthy based on qualifications, is ideal. Equality in education does not necessitate attendance at a four-year institution or the pursuit of an advanced degree. To her, equality in education means each individual can access their unique skills to contribute to society in a mutually beneficial manner.

She also expounds on the challenges faced in a world of rising technology where there is dwindling space for human connection. Whether it’s customer service, supply chain mobility, or human resources, technology is prolific, growing at a greater rate than ever before. According to a McKinsey report, the world will experience great strides in technological progress in the coming decade, more than we have seen in the last 100 years collectively. How can this be coupled with human interaction so that the customer and employee experience is most impactful and beneficial?

Adding to this, during the Covid 19 crisis, we have seen this tussle between rising technology and diminishing roles for individuals become more pressing. The crisis has speeded up the digitization of customer interactions by several years due to the increased efficiency that technology brings. Many of the changes implemented by larger companies are likely here to stay. How do we make room for individuals while maximizing the efficiency and consistent delivery that technology provides? This might be one of the greatest challenges faced by this generation.

Even as technology is more prevalent and on the rise, access to technology, like access to education and opportunity, is not equally widespread. Academic equality is linked to access to opportunity and resources, be those intellectual, technological, or financial. Representation is also important here, to allow people of all backgrounds access to positions of power from where they can enact change. And this is what Tonie has been working towards throughout her professional career, to create opportunities where there is a lack of representation. In her role at Deloitte, and as chair of the ELC, she has strived, respectively, to place women and people of color in high-level positions, and to address gaps in the American educational system for students of color.

She leaves us with the last thought, of technology being mobilized as a unifying force, to ensure that the cultural footprint of any organization is preserved and cultivated along with the advent of new mechanisms. She believes that preserving a sense of community in a world that is propelling towards novel technological advancements is key for technology and humanity to exist in tandem.

Tonie Leatherberry in conversation with Maarten Schafer (Founder CoolBrands People)

Insights from Leaders is a platform where people with a vision can share their ideas and insights.