We saw a flood of DEI committees spring up in corporations after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. His death hit on a visceral level and caused conscious corporations and institutions to implement a myriad of methods to become more Diverse, then move beyond diversity to Inclusion and then onto Equity. So, a year later, are they working? Where expectations met? Here are a few reasons why you may have been disappointed.
1. You thought that serving as part of or implementing a DEI committee would function the same way as an anti-racism practice. Diversity Equity and Inclusion is not solely an anti-racism practice. DEI is a tool that is used by organizations for several purposes. Some use it to change their racial metrics, gender metrics, or age metrics. Others use it to create a culture of inclusion that can mean anything from bringing pets to work on bring your kid to work day, making sure all of the departmental presentations have captions for hearing impaired or promoting racial and ethnic cultural celebrations (such as Rosh Hashanah, Ash Wednesday and Diwali). Although racial equity is a component of every successful DEI practice, anti-racism training is more complex and specialized.
2. You thought that diverse representation in marketing and promotions would solve your bias without having to discuss the actual bias (especially at the management and C-suite level ) that created the need for DEI. Diverse optics is just using marginalized groups as mascots to promote your corporation. Diversity Equity and Inclusion processes should always include conversations around bias and narratives as uncomfortable for everyone as they may be, in order to transition into equitable practices.
3. You are trying to solve your DEI issues without outside expert consultation or collaboration. Every corporation has blind spots and blind spots lend to regression. In order to continue to move forward into becoming a Just, Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive organization, you are going to need to call in some field experts. Pixar is great for doing this with their films. They used story experts for the cultural specifics in the Pixar film SOUL and created “internal cultural trust” with Black employees and “external culture trust” by bringing in experts on Black representation in the arts. Vet consultants and then hire them. This will do wonders for bringing perspective to the decision-making table, which at the end of the day is what Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is about.
Remembering that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion doesn’t by itself solve the racism problem, needs to include conversations around bias and works wonders as a collaborative effort will help your company begin this journey to equity with the right expectations.