Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is currently under attack by those who misunderstand its aims and objectives. DEI has seen some good progress to date, but there is more work to be done. This article will discuss the positive impact that DEI has had on our communities, organizations, and the world.
What is DEI?
DEI applies to everyone. It includes you and excludes not one person. We all have implicit biases, including a natural affinity toward those who are “like” us, such as in religion, race, ethnicity, shared interests, and experiences—which is understandable—but we live in a large, multicultural society. Our nation thrives on mobility and interconnectedness. Most of us do business nationally and internationally. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” Our nation is diverse and becoming more diverse every year. As we interact with a wide variety of people, we should strive to get to know them.
DEI in Action
Our companies are strengthened by our active and engaged DEI committees and initiatives. At Kopka Pinkus Dolin, for instance, we introduce ourselves to our coworkers through those DEI initiatives, learning about holidays such as Diwali, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas. During the pandemic, the company’s DEI committee engaged an Israeli tour guide who livestreamed a tutorial walking the steps that Jesus is believed to have walked in Jerusalem. This was a moving experience for their homebound employees of all religions and kept the employees engaged in DEI during a time when the world was virtual.
DEI committees host guest speakers on race, religion, historical events, and other accomplishments. They highlight, educate, and celebrate with all employees, creating good will and enthusiasm; and they highlight individuals, communities, ethnicities, and religions to enhance everybody’s understanding and acceptance. Facilitating a conversation around racism, for example, may improve attitudes by creating better understanding, and therefore a better work environment and higher productivity. Examples of DEI programs that enhance conversations and educate employees are anti-sexual harassment education, Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day programs, Holocaust Memorial Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Thanksgiving discussion programs. Effective DEI programs improve the organization by building trust and loyalty, developing shared values, and educating and strengthening the team.
The focus of DEI is involvement of all, including—but not limited to—white males, conservatives, religious sects, and every individual in your organization. Let’s gain understanding through sincere dialogue and have those uncomfortable conversations. You can start by developing or enhancing an active DEI committee.
Everybody must feel included by being involved in the movement. Commitment must come from the top of the organization. DEI leaders can hold candid conversations regarding racism, anti-Semitism, feminism, LGBTQ rights, and other potentially uncomfortable topics. In our experience, open conversation and active listening always lead to improved teamwork through empathy and mutual appreciation.
Active and visible DEI committees provide organizations with a competitive advantage, both in the struggle for talent and the competition for the best clients and customers. The values of DEI are the values of America: equal opportunity for all. DEI does not favor minorities as much as it recognizes the historical record of discrimination and the systems of oppression still in place today, especially as it relates to African American citizens. It seeks to replace misunderstanding with enlightenment, fear with understanding, and division with unity. DEI efforts will be noticed by clients and customers who are drawn to the company’s values and the diversity that the company displays. Having a diverse team to present to your clients can eventually lead to growing numbers of diverse partners.
Organizations must value diversity. Do not automatically exclude candidates, but place value on character and attitude as well as aptitude. We are in the service industry, and diversity allows us to serve more diverse clientele and customers with greater empathy, familiarity, and understanding. Employees are motivated when they feel represented, seen, and respected for being their true selves.
Attacks on DEI
As previously mentioned, DEI has been and currently is under attack. In state legislatures across the country, there are currently more than 500 bills pending that we view as anti-LGBTQ. Florida recently pulled all funding for DEI projects at its state universities. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a memorandum this year to state agency leaders cautioning that it is “inconsistent with the law” to use DEI initiatives in hiring. North Dakota passed a law banning mandatory DEI training and the use of diversity initiatives in hiring at public institutions. Arkansas, Tennessee, and Arizona have similar initiatives in the works. In addition, Target and Bud Light have come under fire for their efforts to appeal to the LGBTQ community. These are just a few of the issues that DEI is facing right now in the world.
These attacks on DEI are very concerning and should be resisted. Do not allow hyperbole and misinformation to dissuade you from recognizing the benefits of having a DEI committee or hosting DEI initiatives for your organization. Diversity in hiring shows that we are strengthened by a diverse workforce with a positive work environment that honors its people. We benefit individually by getting to know and working closely with people different than ourselves. DEI committees facilitate positive outreach, respect, learning, and mutual understanding. We believe that our organizations are strengthened by diversity, and that our nation is similarly strengthened when we use the right efforts to bring us together as a people. We address head-on the segregation and degradation of our collective past, and we invite dialogue and understanding to replace hatred and ignorance.
If you value diversity, equity, and inclusion, we encourage you to become active in your company’s DEI committee. If your company does not have one, start one. At the least, put forth some initiatives within your organization that recognize DEI and allow for engagement to happen naturally. We encourage you to join CLM’s DEI Community, which is filled with dedicated and energetic people—and a safe space to have those uncomfortable conversations.