How do we move the needle on DEI?

Episode 2 of Equity Evolution:


All right, hello everyone. Welcome back for another episode. In this episode, we’re going to be discussing the question of how do you make progress on DEIB. I’m excited about this one because I think a lot of people have this question. I’ll probably say that about every single question, so let’s just preface that by saying I’m going to say that a lot. I’m excited about these questions in general. Yes, I totally agree.

So, one of the ways we’re going to start this conversation is by breaking down the meanings of each letter in DEIB. Let’s start with diversity. What does diversity mean to you?

For me, diversity means having a variety of genders, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational backgrounds, and world experiences. It’s important to note that diversity goes beyond just having a diverse leadership team based on Ivy League education and white men. That misses the point entirely.

I also believe that diversity means ensuring that everyone looks different and comes from different backgrounds. It’s important to understand that even people from the same race or ethnic background may not have the same experiences. This aspect of diversity is significant to me. It’s about how everyone interacts with each other and making sure it’s not all the same. Diversity is not uniformity.

I think it’s important to highlight that diversity also means recognizing that individuals from the same racial or ethnic background are not a monolith. They don’t represent the entire group. Just like a single woman doesn’t represent all women, a single trans or non-binary person doesn’t represent the entire LGBTQIA community. It’s essential to acknowledge the intersectionality of diversity.

Another aspect to consider is the location of your business. Are you meeting the diversity ratios for the community you’re in or serving? Does your company reflect the diversity of your community? This can be a good measure of how successfully you are embracing diversity within your company.

I also want to address the problematic areas in the United States that are highly homogeneous. I live in one of them, Denver, which is not racially diverse. In such places, it takes more effort and creativity to ensure diversity. It’s not enough to say, “Well, my company is diverse because we have men and women.” It goes beyond that. We live in a global society, and that needs to be recognized.

I live in San Diego, where there are a ton of different ethnic backgrounds and races. However, even here, you can see communities starting to group themselves in one space, which limits diversity.

know, although there are lots of diverse groups and communities out here, you see that some of those groups just start to stick together and they want to only be around one group. So, with being diverse, it’s important to get in there and try to mix that up. Let’s break this up. Let’s go talk to this person to see how their day is or have a conversation with all these different groups to get knowledge and have these different conversations. This way, you can gain cultural competence and also start meeting new people. It’s better to have diverse opinions than having just one specific thought on everything and the outlook on things. So, those thought echo chambers are a major pitfall in companies and we’ll definitely get into those and the harms of not investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion and belonging. Now, let’s move on to defining equity. What does equity mean to you? Equity, to me, is all about being equal in all fronts. I know a lot of companies start by talking about compensation and making sure they have equitable opportunities for employees in leadership roles. But for me, it’s about having a ground level of fairness and ethics for your employees, making sure that is at the forefront of all things. I would expand on that and say that there is a difference between equitable and equal. I actually think that we need to focus more on equity than equality. While equality is important, it doesn’t address the systemic and long-term harm that has been caused. We are in a place where equity is necessary because we’re fixing things. So, I would define equity as ensuring equal access to opportunities, trainings, and equal compensation for all, but also having measures in place to support historically marginalized groups in the way that they need to be supported. Historically, men have been in the workplace for much longer and have been supported, given trainings, mentorship, or approached in a different way. So, just putting a woman or a woman identifying person into that is not equitable. At the end of the day, it’s not equal because they’re not starting from the same place. So, what do you need to have in your organization to support people from historically marginalized groups and provide them with equal access? It’s not just about saying, “Everyone gets this,” but also considering if they have the ability to partake in what’s available. Do they have the amount of access to be able to participate? It’s about making sure it’s equal and equitable for everyone. I think the imagery that is really powerful and helpful for people to understand the difference between equality and equity is the infographic that has a group of four humans trying to watch a baseball game over a fence. It’s a privacy fence, and one person is really tall, all the way down to somebody who is much shorter. Equality would be they all get a box, but it’s the exact same height box. So, yes, they all got a box, but we didn’t take into account that somebody was six feet and somebody was five feet. The equality piece would be everybody gets the box they need to see over the fence. I think that’s very helpful, and I also agree that you have to take into account someone’s height. I can’t see the same amount that my husband can see because he’s six feet and I’m only 5’9 and some change. So, I completely agree. It’s a great way to explain the difference between the two. It’s about accessibility too. If a six-foot person has access to see because they have longer legs than I do, it’s not equal. It has to be equal and equitable for everyone. Now, let’s talk about inclusion. How do you define inclusion? Inclusion, to me, speaks about making sure that there are no things that are going to exclude any groups or individuals. This includes policies, benefits, and making sure everybody’s opinion is valued. For instance, when having a conversation, it’s about inviting people in rather than calling them out. Let’s all talk about it together. Inclusion also means having diverse groups mix and have conversations, fostering cultural competency. It’s about making it a collective rather than separate groups of like-minded opinions. I appreciate that you’re talking about calling people in and creating opportunities for conversations. For me, the difference between inclusion and belonging is that inclusion is more event or system-oriented. It’s about creating frameworks that invite people to participate and share ideas. It’s about increasing cultural competency through events like speakers for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Women’s Month. Belonging, on the other hand, is about creating a safe space where people can be their authentic selves. It’s about feeling comfortable with the people you’re working with and using inclusive language. It ties into the company culture and how the culture of the company already is. If the company already exudes a culture of making sure people feel included, it means they check those things as a problem already. So, we don’t tolerate these things and have systems in place. Belonging is about creating a sense of home and a safe space where people don’t have to hide parts of themselves. It’s about being able to bring your whole self to work and not having to overthink or hide who you are. It’s about being able to talk about personal life without fear of judgment or ostracization. It’s about being able to be authentic and not having to leave part of yourself outside of the workplace. I think that’s a great way to define belonging. It’s about feeling safe and comfortable, being able to be yourself without hesitation. It’s about creating a culture that supports and values everyone equally.

okay, but it’s just that “simple” is like something small, and bringing your authentic self to work to feel comfortable. For a long time, I wouldn’t even put color on my nails because I didn’t feel comfortable, and I really didn’t want to have that conversation with anyone about why I decided to get pink designs on my nails or why I decided to do Christmas nails or something like that. It took me a long time to get to a space where I can feel comfortable to just be like, you know what, it’s me, I’m living my life, I don’t care what anybody else has to say or think. Yeah, I love that you found that place and to do that, and yeah, being able to be that representation because representation is important, and sometimes it does take that first person to do the thing to push back against the normalization and make people go, “Oh, well, wait, why do I think that? Maybe I don’t need to.” And that’s where the changes happen. So, being able to make those choices and it being a safe enough environment to even have the choice in the first place, if you want to. Yeah, I agree. So let’s talk about some action steps in how to move the needle on diversity. How do we make changes in this? If we go back to diversity, what are a couple of things that you think would be actions that people could do within companies or companies could make changes to move diversity forward and get more diversity within the company? Yes, obviously the first one that companies always talk about is recruitment. Recruitment is important to make sure to have a diverse recruiting strategy, and that starts with whoever is doing your recruiting and wherever you’re looking for your folks that are going to join the company or team. It also goes with your programming. Whichever type of programming you’re looking to do, whether that is Employee Engagement programs or employee network groups, you have to make sure you’re including everyone in that group to make it a diverse space. If you’re recruiting diversely, then you can have diverse employee resource groups as well. Lastly, for me, it’s making sure that you have some sort of data that you’re collecting to be able to see how you’re doing and doing the research out there to see what’s around you and how they’re doing. Because one thing about diversity, equity, and inclusion or diversity, equity, and belonging is that there’s no one answer. You should definitely use what other companies are doing as a guideline or partner with these other businesses to see how you can better do it within your organization. Yeah, we are creating these things in a way that works for right now, and right now is always changing, so your approach can and should be changing too. I agree with everything that you just said. I think the only thing that I would want to add there is the hiring process as a whole. Do you have an equitable hiring process? What does your job description look like? Is it an inclusive job description that is gender-neutral? In a lot of companies, that is first and foremost the place to start because if you have a masculine-coded job description, women are less likely to apply for it, and people that are nonbinary or transgender are less likely to apply for it. So you’re cutting out diversity options just by how you’re presenting your job in the first place. So, what does your whole process look like, and have you revamped it in a way to make it accessible, inclusive, and equitable? That would be a big action. What is your hiring process from recruitment, from where you go find the people, all the way through to orientation? What does that whole process look like? Yep, 100% agree. So what about Equity? What are some actions people can take there? Equity, I would also go on and say that making sure that your company culture has an equity standpoint. That’s from every aspect, just talking about fair compensation, and that means everybody being fairly compensated. Also, making sure there is some sort of competency with different cultures and backgrounds, and making sure things are equal as well. So, I think for me, those are a couple of things that I would think of. Yeah, for sure. The compensation, I think, is a great place for companies to start. Doing a pay audit and is it equitable across your company is a great place to start. Also, looking at what the representation within the company looks like. Do you have equity already in different departments, in access to training, in access to benefits? Who’s participating in them? Looking at the data and the metrics for what is already available within the company and who’s partaking and who is it serving. So, the first action step that I would encourage is an audit in general. Doing a company-wide audit to know what does equity look like in our company? Does it exist at all? And where are our gaps in that? We have an assessment that people can take. It’s a pretty short overview to kind of highlight where your DEI gaps may be. But doing an in-depth audit of the company will get you even more answers for that. What about inclusion? What are some actions that companies can take for inclusion? Inclusion, for me, the one that I will mention is those inclusive programming software things that I’ve always come across is the social aspect of a company. I think that sometimes companies miss the mark by having all of these programs, but they should also create some sort of social engagement for their employees to make them feel included. This could be a town hall, a team meeting to discuss diversity initiatives, an employee social, or social events for programs that happen every year (such as Pride, International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month). These engagements will create inclusivity across the organization. I agree with all of these options and don’t have anything to add. Some more advanced steps could include listening circles and safe space dialogues, but those are not necessary when just starting out. To get started, you can create events that highlight cultural celebrations by using a cultural calendar to plan ahead. For example, if it’s May 30th and Pride month is in two days, you can plan ahead and choose events that align with your company’s mission, vision, and values. You don’t have to do all the events, just choose a few to get started. Belonging is another important aspect. Create a safe space for your employees by having trainings on inclusive language, conversations about microaggressions, and ensuring that new hires feel welcome from the moment they join the company. Assess the level of psychological safety within the organization and assume that there is room for improvement. If you don’t know what psychological safety is or how to create it, I recommend reading “The Fearless Organization” by Dr. Amy Edmondson. Accountability is crucial. Make sure your Chief Diversity Officer and Diversity Director are representative of your diversity and inclusion goals. Align your goals with the organization’s objectives and regularly evaluate and update them. Recognize and appreciate employees who contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, even if it’s beyond their job responsibilities. Feedback mechanisms are essential for continuous improvement. Use surveys, conversations, and engagement metrics to gather feedback and make informed decisions. Create a psychologically safe environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns. Remember, complaints can provide valuable information for improvement, so approach them as feedback and listen to what employees are saying. Good leaders know how to decipher information from complaints and use it to drive positive change. There is much more to discuss on these topics, so check out our newsletter and blog for more information. If you want to identify your diversity, equity, and inclusion gaps, visit our website and take the Gap assessment. Thank you for joining us, and we hope to see you next week for our next question. Have a good day!