About the WORKSHOPs

Disrupt Design created our highly engaging workshop package and accompanying tools to level up organizational diversity and transfer key knowledge around brain biases and equity access issues that impact leadership and team collaboration. We developed the Gender Equity Toolkit and have a unique brain-science approach to bias and equity training, specifically for management and leadership to find unique ways of building cognitive and cultural bridges over complex human resources and team dynamics. 

Identify: Insights + opportunities within your organization to grow and iterate ways to foster a positive purpose-filled workplace. 

Show: Leadership with a top down example of the type of organization you wish to see for your employees and industry by identifying problems arenas and bridging them.

Gain: brain-science knoeldge and a common language for the how biases affect decision making and limit workplace equity.

Build: Internal trust, empathy and communication in your team for stronger growth, diversity and collaborative outcomes.

Create: new management and HR approaches that foster equity, empathy and diversity. 

the probelm we help address

In partnership with the AIGA, we set about disrupting the ways in which gender impacts and affects people's ability to advance professionally, in the design industry and beyond.

Implicit bias has been recognized as a major barrier to equitable workplaces. Many organizations now offer generic bias training with mixed results. We discovered some key insights through our extensive research into the cognitive barriers and processing that leads to stereotype based biases.  

Significantly, leadership and cultural issues stem from the power that implicit biases have over rapid decision making and thus subtlety influence who we hire, how we treat people and the opportunities that we ourselves have access to professionally. 

Our approach allows for an equity and role building model based on dialog, empathy and intrinsic change. We share the science behind the issues to help decode their power and offer new ways of solving the cultural issues that biases often result in. 

No senior female leadership (in our office) means that there is no role model of what successful female leaders in our organization looks like.
— Research Participant

our intervention: the gender equity toolkit

To create this toolkit, as with all of our interventions, we employed the Disruptive Design Method of mining, landscaping and building to leverage positive change outcomes. The mining phase of this project involved interviews and workshops with over 150 US-based designers from cities across the country.

A key insight was that one of the biggest issues inhibiting women’s ability to progress to positions of leadership is related to the pre-formed social constructs of what leadership should look like, which is currently inherently masculine.

This creates a double bind: women find they must adopt male leadership traits to get into a leadership positions, but once there, they are penalized for not fulfilling the gendered expectations of the stereotypically female traits of sensitivity and caring.

Other key insights emerged around the use of empathy as a tool for developing equity, the role of restricted thinking and networks, and the bright spot of organic peer-to-peer mentorship overcoming systemic issues that impede gender equality. (For more about the research process and the insights that led to the creation of the Gender Equity Toolkit, check out this Medium Article written by Leyla.)

Through the research that underpins this toolkit, we found that learning to appreciate and understand ‘the other’ really helps overcome gender bias.

So we developed an empathy-building exercise that can be conducted in just a few minutes.

We found that connections through conversation help to ignite the dialogue needed to share similarities of experiences and create an ice breaker: connected conversation. In order to enable greater resilience, we also designed a scenario-testing activity that builds mental muscle around difficult tasks like asking for a raise and negotiating your professional leadership.

The Gender Equity Toolkit, Developed by  Leyla Acaroglu  in collaboration with  AIGA  with card design by  Deb Adler Design

The Gender Equity Toolkit, Developed by Leyla Acaroglu in collaboration with AIGA with card design by Deb Adler Design

All of the activities included in the toolkit are designed for a diverse range of play – from the boardroom to the classroom, by small or large groups, with men and women, and by anyone and everyone interested in increasing their empathy, understanding, and leadership capabilities.

My co-founder is a male and 90% of the time we have meetings with big companies they assume that I work for him and that I am not his equal, they say ‘What’s it like working for (name removed)?’ I say: ‘It’s great being his business partner’.
— Research Participant
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HOW our workshops WORK


The Disrupt Design style of workshop creates an invitational, non-confrontational collaborative space based on knowledge transfer, dialog and capacity building, all designed to address deep-seeded biases that we all hold. We help teams explore how to identify and recode the impact that these have on our decision making and leadership capacity. The workshop structure includes a component of direct knowledge transfer, along with small group work and one on one activities to develop skills and team connection. 


Example activities


Helps groups bond and gain powerful insights into one another by seeking shared values as points of connection. Shift perspectives and challenges biases while forging stronger human connections.

Overcome stereotypes by gaining understanding and insights that allows for a shared feeling or experience.

During the workshop, participants discover first how the brain works, the socially contagious and implicit biases that impact our decision making, and in small groups will work through some of the issues that impede equity and empathy of others. We use our in-house developed tools or create specific ones for your scenario and needs. Sessions are non-confrontational and designed for positive collaborative conversation.


Check out which UN Sustainable Design Goals this workshop LOOKS TO address

Equality Goals

5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life 

5.C Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services

8.5 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status

10.3 Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard 

10.4 Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and achieve greater equality 

16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels



We all really enjoyed the toolkit and the conversations that came out of it... some really personal information came from the associations that we had with certain words.
— Workshop Participant

What is the time commitment?
These workshops can be designed to be short or long. Short workshops are 2.5hrs and long workshops are a full day. They can extend to 2 days for more advanced outcomes.

Who benefits from this workshop?
Everyone in your organization will benefit from this training, but the positive effects may be seen beyond that - to families of participants and future workplaces. By engaging in this type of work, we are all working together to disrupt the status quo and bust through emotional gender stereotyping.

Does this cover other forms of bias aside from gender?
Yes! We also address racial, ethnic, language and economic biases and hurdles within the context of the bias + diversity framework.

What will we get with this workshop?
A hands on workshop includes a trained Disrupt Design facilitator, pre-workshop consult, and post-workshop recommendations. We can also custom build a workshop manual and leadership training. 

How many participants can be in the workshop?
While there is no minimum, we recommend a even number of participants for partner work, as well as an equal distribution as possible of all hierarchies, genders and ethnicities in each session. If your organization has a lot of employees, we recommend putting them into groups of no more than 16-22 participants and planning for a maximum of 2 sessions a day. 

Will you sign an NDA?
While we encourage all our clients to be open about their efforts as leaders in the issue, we understand that is not always possible and are happy to sign an NDA and keep our engagement confidential. 

What kind of ongoing support can you offer post training?
We try to impart the knowledge and tools needed so you can continue on your own journey post-workshop.

However, we also offer ongoing digital learning platforms, leadership training and tool development. Many of our clients have us back for top-up training as their teams ask for it! 

It helped people be put in a situation they have been in, or have never been in before, and to give them a confident perspective on how to approach a question.
— Workshop Participant