This is the first of a three-part article series around DEI. First, I'll break down DEI and the philosophy around it; then look at why so many DEI practitioners are burnt out and why DEI initiatives aren’t yielding fruit. Lastly, talk about what DEI is supposed to look like in order to be successful.
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DEI: The Genesis
Workplace diversity training first emerged in the mid-1960s following the introduction of equal employment laws and affirmative action.
Prior to this, many companies had known histories of different forms of discrimination.
New laws prompted companies to start diversity training programs that would help employees adjust to working in more integrated offices. Unfortunately, DEI training programs of the past have struggled to yield substantial improvement.
What is DEI?
DEI stands for:
Diversity; a range of different things
Equity; the quality of being fair and impartial.
Inclusion; the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.
DEI seems like three little letters.
To our brains, easy to say, remember and repeat. We like that.
However, similar to texting and driving which is not safe, our brains also make a logical exceptions and rational - we can text, we can drive, we can text and drive.
The problem is while we feel completely capable of texting and driving based on our brain's rationale, we haven’t accounted for the road conditions and the other variables such as other humans on the road. These components combined make it very dangerous - though most of us continue to do so.
DEI was set up to fail.
By nature every human we encounter is diverse - that is an absolute based on the definition of diversity.
Check it: Have you ever hired someone that wasn't diverse?
Equity is relative, depending on the lens you are looking at it from. What most companies are likely trying to accomplish or establish is equality which means the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
Equality establishes an absolute foundation vs. equity which relies on the person or people to be in the mindset that benefits ALL and not just some.
Another way I’ve viewed equity is in shares - everyone gets a different amount based on their role, title, salary, and relationship to the business. If we were to apply equality to the shares scenario, everyone would receive the same amount of shares when they join a company.
Next is inclusion - this is where the money is.
Inclusion is the core in the DEI equation. By focusing on inclusion, diversity is welcomed and has a chance to thrive. Equality paves the way for equity, and everything flows in the path of least resistance.
Over the next couple of articles, I’ll dive into this a bit more, but I want to leave it on the most important note around DEI.
DEI built on a broken company culture will not succeed.
The culture is the foundation from which everything within a company is built.
If the culture is shit, DEI is destined to fail. It’s a harsh truth that many companies overlook. Many reacted to the macro culture and the events happening around the world. Little did they know or prepare what they were getting into.
DEI is the marathon that many companies didn't prepare or stretch for.
To add to an unprepared culture, DEI trainings are geared towards a one track message - the message of anti-racism, which will make it even harder for transformation to happen. I share more of my thoughts on why anti-racism isn’t going to solve racism:
Why Being Anti Racist Won't End Racism (live podcast)
A lot of time, energy, and money is being given to DEI only to leave us in a state of anticlimactic results and burnt-out humans. In my next article, I’ll share why there is burnout in DEI and what can be done.
As an anthropologist and humanitarian, I speak on DEI from a different perspective and lens. History has a habit of repeating itself, so we must try a different approach. One that amplifies the unity within our humanity.
If you have any questions that I can answer, I will be more than happy to address them in the next article or bring in someone that can help.
Would love to hear your thoughts and anything you would add.
Light and Love,