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Disrupting Design: The JennAir Program for Inclusivity

The brand is working to foster a more diverse design industry by creating new opportunities for Black, Indigenous and racialized designers.

By Designlines in partnership with JennAir

A company’s values extend beyond its products. For JennAir, a commitment to progressive design is a holistic principle, encompassing both aesthetics and performance. And while its selection of innovative appliances already encompasses the JennAir brand value of progress, the company is taking the notion of progress one step further to expand beyond its product lineup and to disrupt the interior design sector, this time to advocate for equity and diversity in the space. Case in point: The JennAir Disrupting Design Program, which aims to drive progress by fostering a more inclusive sector that creates access and opportunities for Black, Indigenous and racialized designers.

As Canada faces a reckoning with its history of the treatment of Indigenous people, and anti-Black racism, the realities of systemic discrimination still limit opportunities for aspiring racialized design professionals. The Disrupting Design program is rooted in broadening the mandate for progressive change that forms the heart of JennAir brand’s ethos.

“The design industry has missed opportunities to embrace diversity holistically — in practice and education,” says Decantrophy founder and Disrupting Design Advisory Board member Ian Rolston. “Unfortunately, that means we haven’t benefited from the full richness of human experiences to drive much-needed change.”

It started with listening. Shaped by in-depth interviews with designers, thought leaders and industry figures, JennAir began by studying the inclusion and diversity issues impacting the design sector — beginning with the opportunity gap facing racialized youth.

As a first step, the JennAir Disrupting Design Program launches alongside a collaboration with Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU). To address the financial barriers disproportionately experienced by racialized Canadians, the newly launched JennAir Scholars Award offers a $375,000, five-year TMU scholarship to Black, Indigenous and students of colour aspiring to enter the interior design sector. In addition to financial support, the program will empower students through a job placement program as well as a mentorship program that will assist racialized students in making a smoother transition to a working designer.

For JennAir, the Disrupting Design initiative represents a step forward in advancing a longstanding commitment to equity and inclusion. Internally, Whirlpool Canada (which markets the JennAir brand) champions Inclusion and Diversity efforts via the Stronger Together Team, initiated to foster a culture where everyone feels comfortable and safe bringing their full self to work. Established in 2020, the program is the culmination of the company’s many diversity, wellness and social responsibility efforts (Whirlpool received its first 100 per cent rating on the Corporate Equality Index released by LGBT equal rights organization Human Rights Campaign in 2004, and has maintained a 22-year partnership to build affordable homes with Habitat for Humanity.)

Next up? As part of the Disrupting Design Program, JennAir is also engaging the broader design community and the public, with a panel discussion taking place on November 1. The discussion will be moderated by Tracy Moore, and will feature renowned design experts Ian Rolston, Brian K. Porter and Natalie Ramtahal. The discussion will focus on the gaps in the design space and what we can do as an industry to further drive progress together.

Alongside efforts to foster more accessible, diverse design education and improve workplace inclusion, Disrupting Design also seeks to drive broader conversations about the evolution of the sector. After all, a more diverse, progressive design industry is key to nourishing more diverse, progressive designs.

Register here to join the virtual Diversity in the Design Industry talk on November 1. This content was published by Designlines on behalf of JennAir.


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