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Young People at a Workshop

Boldly Speaking.

THE IMPORTANCE OF A DEI PHILOSOPHY

Updated: Apr 24


Welcome back, DEI change-makers!  It’s been some time since my last blog, and I’m so delighted to be back at it.  I’m looking forward to continuing this journey of learning and reflection with you.


Today, as Black History Month comes to a close, I’d like us to reflect on the importance of having a point of view – or better yet – a clear philosophy on diversity, equity and inclusion.  It’s been almost four years since the murder of George Floyd.  What followed was a groundswell of corporate commitments to anti-racism and addressing anti-Black racism in particular.  There have been signs of change: research published by KPMG, surveying 1000 Black self-identifying Canadians, suggests 83% believe their companies have made progress on their comments, citing increased representation and opportunities for advancement as evidence.  Yet, the numbers also suggest that 81% are not having the most positive experiences at work, reporting issues such as microaggressions and other forms of unconscious bias within the last year.


Notably, this research was conducted in Canada, so I was curious about what is happening elsewhere.  In 2023, at the 3rd anniversary of this tragic event, a number of reports began to surge, revealing troubling trends about the pace of change and concerns about continued commitment.  For example:


  • In the UK, organizations have been called to task for their lack of accountability, citing slow progress on commitments, co-option of language to focus on numbers and poor employee experiences.

  • In the US, a piece by Makeeba McCreary of the New Commonwealth Fund for Racial Equity & Social Justice notes that of the $200B in corporate commitments to further racial equity, the vast majority had not been fulfilled; the lion’s share came in the form of loans or investments, which suggests a profit motivation; most were one-time gifts and therefore not sustainable; and only a quarter went to organizations specifically supporting racialized communities.

  • Back in Canada, KPMG released an earlier report surveying the same population.  It suggested that although progress had been made, 76% of respondents said that to become more equitable and reduce workplace racism, “their company needs a major culture change to achieve this.


So this brings us back to the importance of a clear diversity, equity and inclusion philosophy.

I often encourage organizations to start their DEI journey by identifying and communicating a compelling “why.” (In fact, we cover this topic in depth at Boldly Inclusive University.) Being clear about why DEI is so critical for your organization and its people makes it easier to define what success looks like and determine the tactics that will help achieve it.


Just as important as the “why” is how you accomplish your goals.  For example, emphasizing outcomes rather than outputs, recognizing a community’s experiences are just as important as their numbers, being accountable to cultivate trust, or positioning DEI so it extends beyond People & Culture across the whole organization. Such considerations will help you form clear values and standards around this work.


Certainly, there is a solid business case for DEI, but establishing a mindset that underscores your approach, and a philosophy for how it can be done meaningfully makes efforts more relevant and sustainable.  If more organizations had taken the time to reflect on their “why” and how they achieve their goals, perhaps they would have avoided the challenges we’ve seen in creating lasting change for anti-Black racism in the workplace.

 

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