Bauer’s First Chair of Inclusive Leadership is Foremost Expert on Workplace Diversity, Inclusion and Equity
Story by Julie Bonnin
Photography by Brandon Washington
I’m constantly consumed by thinking about how we go about making the world a fairer place. I’m looking to open eyes, to create movement where there isn’t, or to create awareness where there isn’t.
C. T. Bauer Chair of Inclusive Leadership, Department of Management & Leadership
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One of the country’s foremost experts on workplace diversity, inclusion and equity, Professor Derek Reynold Avery joined the C. T. Bauer College of Business last summer at a pivotal point in what he refers to as “America’s racial reckoning.”
Bauer’s first Chair of Inclusive Leadership, Avery is a highly regarded Industrial/Organizational Psychologist committed to sharing actionable insights with current and future business leaders eager to evolve outdated and inequitable policies and practices in organizations.
Avery, of the Bauer College in the Department of Management & Leadership, has spent his academic career focused on the impact of individual differences in the workplace. Initially, it was gratifying to have a spotlight shone on issues that impact his area of expertise, he says.
“I’ve done work on diversity for the last 20 years. The percentage of the population that has cared about the work I’m doing went from relatively small to pretty big, really, really fast.”
But the magnitude of what it’s taken to bring mainstream awareness of issues he has spent a career trying to draw attention to is both devastating and daunting.
Organizations already struggling to respond to another recent workplace reckoning, the #MeToo movement, are grappling with how to deal with systemic racism and class disparities, in an atmosphere supercharged by the healthcare inequities exposed by COVID-19, Avery notes.
Obviously, the challenges are even more acute for individuals caught in the crosshairs.
“The nature of your experience in the workplace is so highly contingent upon the packaging that you come in,” he says.
Avery’s appointment at the Bauer College creates a unique alignment of his training, talents, upbringing and interests. Formerly the David C. Darnell Presidential Chair in Principled Leadership at Wake Forest University, Avery earned a Ph.D. and master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Rice University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Tulane University.
Avery’s family origins disposed him to advocating for social justice: His father was a lawyer and minister and his mother was a clinical psychologist with keen analytical skills, he says. One of his grandfathers was a lawyer who worked on civil rights cases and served as the executive secretary of the Louisiana Chapter of the NAACP. All impressed upon him the need to give back to others less fortunate.
“I come from a long line of folks who have invested everything they have into creating a more equitable society,” he says.
Avery’s approach to his work follows suit. “I’m constantly looking for ways to pay it forward, whether that is trying to figure out how my research can be more impactful to create a more meaningful and engaging and equitable experience in the workplace, or how I can help advance the careers of folks who are under-represented in academia, or how I can help my students have more meaningful experiences in my classroom so that they remember more of what we talked about over the course of a class.”
“I’m constantly consumed by thinking about how we go about making the world a fairer place. I’m looking to open eyes, to create movement where there isn’t, or to create awareness where there isn’t.”
Toward that end, Avery has advised numerous organizations on how to create work environments that foster inclusivity, diversity and equity. He serves as associate editor for Journal of Business & Psychology, and as an editorial board member and ad hoc reviewer for other respected academic journals.
Among the distinguished honors he has received in recent years are the Academy of Management International HRM Scholarly Research Award, 2019; the Wake Forest School of Business Cowan Faculty Research Award, 2018; and Journal of Organizational Behavior, Best Paper, 2018.
Avery was elected the inaugural officer of Diversity and Inclusion, an Executive Board position, for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), in 2020. He serves as a Fellow of SIOP and of the Association of Psychological Science.