The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Recap: "What's the Fuss? Understanding the Impact of Inequities"

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For their fourth virtual session of the Rockefeller Leadership Fellowship program, the Fellows were joined by Dr. Lowell “Chris” Matthews, an associate professor and the director of the Honors Program at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Chris’s goal for the session was to breakdown the definitions of the vague but ubiquitous terms equality and equity. With an extensive background in global management and leadership strategies, Chris also has immense experience with being a member of and leading teams, giving him first-hand knowledge of how equality and equity often operate in different settings.

Through his presentation, Chris challenged the Fellows’ understandings of equality and equity, investigating their application to leadership through a systems-thinking framework. By reading a selection of articles, Fellows were tasked with collectively defining the two terms and discussing how the pursuit of both often plays out in academic and professional spaces. Consideration of best practices for and improvements to instilling equality and equity into the Fellows’ leadership styles was central to the outcome of the discussions.

The Fellows came to a mutual understanding that equality is often measured in quantifiable terms, such as equal pay, workplace diversity, or similar opportunities. Equity, on the other hand, is proportional resource provision that takes into account historical and present discrimination. Cultivating an environment that supports both equality or equity is not easy, and takes consistent, targeted mindfulness. As leaders, it is incumbent upon leaders, and thus the Fellows, to question how well equality and equity is supported in their communities and to work toward better supporting these worthy goals. Awareness of group dynamics and communication with community members can support this endeavor. According to Chris, these skills are developed by nurturing a capacity for empathy through working to understand yourself and creating deep human connections.

-Written by Maria Smith-Lopez, Class of 2021 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow and Student Program Assistant

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

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