CEO & VP of Allyship and Inclusion Weigh in on Controversy

Institute Thought Leaders in the News as Authorities on DEI

Thought leaders at the Institute for Inclusive Leadership were recently interviewed by Boston media outlets about the use of the word “ladies” after the Easthampton, Mass., school committee rescinded the job offer of a superintendent candidate reportedly for using the word in an email exchange with two women.

Elisa van Dam, Vice President of Allyship and Inclusion at the Institute, shared her thoughts in a Boston Globe article that pondered if “ladies” can be considered a microagression.

“It’s tone deaf.* It seems that he hasn’t been paying attention to the way language use has been evolving and how we are talking about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging,” she said. “He’s operating on a very old paradigm.”

Elisa, a nationally recognized authority on inclusion, has spent much of her career working with organizations and individual leaders to increase their understanding and practice of inclusive leadership behaviors, furthering the Institute’s mission to develop the mindset and skills of leaders at all stages of life so they can foster gender parity and cultures of inclusion.

*Reflecting on her quote in the Boston Globe, Elisa concluded that her word choice may have been offensive to some. “People who know me have likely heard me say that as part of my ongoing journey to be a more inclusive leader, I will inevitably screw up. Here’s a pretty public example — the term “tone deaf” is seen as ableist by many folks. I apologize to those I have offended, and will endeavor to use different language going forward,” she said.

elisa van dam headshot

Institute CEO Sees Missed Opportunities

Susan MacKenty Brady, CEO of the Institute, continued the conversation on WBZ Radio’s NightSide with Dan Rea, highlighting the complexity and nuances of language in a time when there’s no margin for error. She lamented the fact that the decision to withdraw the offer was a missed opportunity for learning and growth.

“What if he had the opportunity to learn that not everyone thinks that’s an appropriate thing to say, and then he was given the opportunity to think about that and reply?” Susan asked.

Susan said she believes that one must consider intention before cancelling a person for the use of a word. “What was his intention? Was he in any shape or form looking to put down or belittle the women? I don’t see any evidence of that…Cancelling people for a microaggression or for saying something you don’t like kills inclusion.”

Susan published three books on leadership. Her most recent, co-authored by Executive Chair of the Board of Deloitte US Janet Foutty and Simmons University President Dr. Lynn Perry Wooten,  Arrive & Thrive: 7 Impactful Practices for Women Navigating Leadership, debuted in April 2022 and landed on the best-seller list in the Wall Street JournalPublishers Weekly, and USA Today.

Susan MacKenty Brady Chair for Women and Leadership and CEO of Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership.

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Susan MacKenty Brady Honored by Her Alma Mater

Susan MacKenty Brady Chair for Women and Leadership and CEO of Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership.

Susan MacKenty Brady, CEO of the Institute for Inclusive Leadership and the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Chair for Women and Leadership at Simmons University, has been named the recipient of the 2022 Marietta College Distinguished Alumna Award. The award was presented on October 15, 2022, during the school’s homecoming festivities.

“I’m thrilled—and honored—to be recognized by Marietta, and I can’t wait to travel back to campus to accept the award and reconnect with old friends,” Susan said. “I have so many fond memories from my time at Marietta.”

Susan graduated from Marietta in 1994 with a BA in Business Communications.

“We are excited about this year’s award winners, and we are pleased to honor them in this special way,” said Dr. Erika Cornelius Smith, Director of Alumni Relations and Engagement.