Continuing with our monthly intro to Drake Black Community Council members, let us introduce you to Akinkunmi Akinnola, a senior DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) practitioner with global corporate experience. Along with Charmain Emerson, Joshua Dyer, Paul Taylor, Angelina Williams and Erica Russell, Akinnola brings a particular skill set and spirit to the Council. As a DEI change advocate passionate about people and places, Akinkunmi facilitates opportunities for aspiring but marginalized talent in business and education. In this month’s blog, he talks about returning to his Alma Mater as an Adjunct Profession in Madrid and emphasizes the importance of creating a world where inclusion becomes an everyday experience.
+ What does a racially just workplace look like to you?
A racially just workplace to me isn’t necessarily a colour blind environment . It’s more of a colourful work environment where everyone can bring what makes them diverse and unique to the table without fear of judgment. Ideally we all want to work in spaces in which our differences are a cause for celebration and not a basis for discrimination.
+ What are you working on right now personally/professionally that has you excited?
I have to say my work with the Drake Black Community Council is really exciting. We are learning so much from each other and I’ve formed meaningful connections with some of my council members. My passions are people and places so I’m always happy to make connections and build value when and where I can. I’m also going be teaching an advanced seminar titled Inclusive Spaces and Organizations at IE University (my alma mater ) in the spring.
+ What Toronto changemakers are inspiring you and why?
I have to say The Drake came up with some really cool events over summer. The Palm Wine Day Party event with Showdemcamp was just one example. As a Nigerian I was thrilled to see the word ‘palmwine’ incorporated into the marketing for a Drake Hotel event. Afro culture is moving closer and closer to the core of mainstream culture in North America and it makes me very proud. Toronto is generally experiencing a post-lockdown renaissance. A spate of Toronto restaurants were just awarded Michelin star status! That’s terrific! I also admire what Brad Wilson is doing with Ace Hotel. The architecture is impressive and a breath of fresh air.
+ What tools have helped you along your journey?
The people I continue to meet in my journey – Friends, mentors and those who have challenged me. Self belief and dynamism have served me well too.
+ Where do you believe we must begin to advance Black leaders? What change would you like to see in your industry when it comes to Black representation?
I think it begins with intention. Organizations need to codify black representation in their leadership roles with the same seriousness as they approach general succession planning and talent development. It is one thing to give Black professionals the opportunity to lead and be visible. The crux of the matter is ensuring consistent initiatives, programs and practices are in place so they can flourish and open the doors for other black employees rising through the ranks. Black representation in leadership needs to be normalized to the point where these sorts of sponsorships and interventions are so deeply embedded in organizational culture they become systemic. As a DEI practitioner I also say a successful outcome is when inclusion becomes and everyday experience – A seamless way of doing things as opposed to a series of programs and practices within a strategic DEI framework .