Just the FACTS: A Crash Course on Structural Inequality in America

Sandra Santana

Last month, Emma Willard School welcomed Natalie Gillard, founder and facilitator of FACTUALITY, a crash course and interactive experience simulating structural inequality in the United States using data and statistics. 

We’ve all heard the expression “walk a mile in someone else's shoes,” but what if you really could? What if you could live life as a race, class, gender, sexual orientation, faith, or age other than your own? Natalie Gillard answers these questions with Factuality, a facilitated dialogue and crash course on structural inequality in America. 

Frustrated by the lack of engaging diversity trainings available to facilitators, Natalie Gillard created Factuality in 2015. Using an interactive board game format, Gillard set out to help others develop empathy, cultural competence, and self-awareness in a uniquely engaging manner. Factuality has become a sought-after learning tool for companies like Google and YouTube along with a number of top universities, colleges, and independent schools for its ability to unpack challenging equity issues such as incarceration disparities and environmental injustice in under 90-minutes.

To play Factuality, participants start by choosing one of the eight game characters who have an identity outside their own. As the character moves throughout the board of life, they encounter fact-based advantages and limitations based on the intersection of their characters’ race, gender, sexual orientation, faith, class, age, and ability. By creating a comfortable environment for participants to engage in meaningful experiential learning, Factuality participants reach the following learning outcomes:

  • Become acquainted with the intricacies of inequality’s intentionally structured foundation and its crippling cyclical nature. 
  • Be able to dismantle the various preconceived biases associated with various marginalized groups.
  • Leave more self-aware and can (begin to) contribute to inclusive rhetoric regarding the dissolution of structural inequality in UNDER 90 MINUTES.

Last month, Emma Willard school hosted Natalie and Factuality as an optional development offering for all students, faculty, and staff. In results from a feedback survey conducted by Interim Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Gemma Halfi, 100% of survey respondents said they would want to bring Factuality back to campus for more people to experience. Students shared the following about their experiences:

  • “Factuality gave me the chance to experience structural inequality in America, and I learned how incredibly valuable intersectionality* is when considering my own activism. Many, if not all, of the systems in America are built in a way that does not allow women, People of Color, LGBTQ+ people, and disabled people (and any intersection of identity) to succeed, no matter how hard they work. This experience left me feeling frustrated, because it opened my eyes to structural obstacles that people of different identities have to face, like redlining, healthcare disparities, and the gender and racial pay gap; however, it also empowered me because it made me realize just how much work there is to be done in order to dismantle these structures of inequality.” - Sam Y. ‘23
  • “It opened up a lot more about gender, racial, and other inequalities that I never heard before. I also LOVE the role-playing game because it really did help me feel the problems others are probably experiencing.” - Anonymous Survey Participant

We look forward to continuing our education on the real life experiences of our community members while taking action to dismantle these inequitable systems. Emma Willard School thanks Natalie Gillard for her wonderfully informative presentation and dedication to this important work.


To read more about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work at Emma Willard School, visit the Diversity page.

*Intersectionality: a social construct that recognizes the fluid diversity of identities that a person can hold such as gender, race, class, religion, professional status, marital status, socioeconomic status, etc.


Factuality is played with eight characters defined as belonging to the following racial groups: Asian, White, African American, and Hispanic. There are male and female characters, LGBTQ+ characters, Muslim, and Jewish characters.


Natalie Gillard featuring the Baltimore, MD adaptation of Factuality, the board game. (Photography by Frank Hamilton, Baltimore Magazine August 2019)