DEI: Why It’s On Its Way Up, Not On The Way Out


During the 1980s, the importance of diversity in businesses gained prominence. However, it was the political and social unrest brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown that led to a significant evolution in approaching this subject. There was a shift from merely focusing on hiring individuals from diverse backgrounds to addressing the inclusivity and equity experienced by these individuals within organizations. Additionally, there was a growing concern about the access of underrepresented groups to influential positions that set the tone for the organizational culture and direction.

While efforts to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) received increased attention, there was also a noticeable backlash against these initiatives. Some leaders argued that DEI efforts exacerbated existing issues or created problems where there were none. For instance, Governor Greg Abbott rejected various DEI initiatives at Texas state institutions. However, the challenges in making DEI initiatives fruitful are less about their necessity and more about individuals seeking a quick fix for complex issues. When these efforts do not yield instantaneous improvements, the blame is often misplaced, instead of critically assessing our own contributions to the lack of positive impact.

Research from the Pew Research Center revealed that a majority of workers acknowledge the positive impact of DEI efforts in the workplace. Notably, individuals from underrepresented groups, who often face challenges in non-inclusive work environments, were found to value DEI efforts. According to a Gallup Report, employees who feel connected to the organizational culture are more engaged, less likely to experience burnout, and less inclined to seek work elsewhere. This indicates that effective DEI initiatives benefit everyone, including the overall business.

Rather than viewing DEI as a passing trend, it should be seen as an ongoing evolution. This perspective calls for a more strategic, intentional, and tangible approach. Dr. Poornima Luthra, an author, and expert in this field, emphasizes several shifts that are essential to honoring the complexity of DEI.

Firstly, it is crucial to integrate and align DEI efforts, treating them holistically instead of setting targets and quotas that create division. Also, acknowledging and addressing the emotional aspects surrounding DEI is vital in fostering a supportive environment. Classroom training, while beneficial, should be complemented with practical application and integration into daily work practices. Additionally, creating psychological safety within the team culture and using meetings to make inclusion actionable are pivotal steps in promoting an inclusive and diverse environment. Furthermore, efforts in DEI should extend beyond diverse hiring targets and be embedded throughout the organizational functions.

Lastly, using metrics to demonstrate the impact of DEI initiatives is essential in ensuring the continued prioritization of these efforts. Demonstrating how DEI efforts impact the business positively is crucial in substantiating its value, as highlighted by Culture Monkey's findings. This evidence not only solidifies the importance of DEI from a moral standpoint but also from a business perspective, underscoring its significance and impact.  

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