February 3, 2021

An A-Grade Guide to DEI in the Workplace

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion (DEI). This trio has been paired together frequently in the past several years as DEI has been a guiding compass in the dialogue surrounding race and discrimination towards Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). As the momentum of the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement begins to slow, it is critical to continuously implement DEI principles into our work environments.

There are many ways that DEI efforts can be employed in the workplace. It is important to keep in mind that each company is different and will require a unique set of principles and guidelines to create an optimal environment. This process will not be easy or seamless- it will require the constant effort of all employees, from new-hires to the CEO. Anti-racism often requires breaking the status quo, meaning it is crucial to have an open mind and take a critical lens in every situation.

Although each workplace will wear DEI in their own fashion, there are some evergreen principles that are helpful to ignite the process.

To begin, we must acknowledge the situation. Every worker, whether they are new or have worked at the company for 20 years, must receive the same comprehensive education on the history of racism and the need for social equality. Education is the first step for a successful DEI initiative.

The next critical piece for a successful initiative is compassion. Streamlining your attention and caring about the issue is the next step that will guide your workplace in the right direction. Of course we cannot force people to feel compassion, but we can approach the area with a sense of urgency so that the gravity of the issues of discrimination are emphasized, and we can better understand the root of the problem. 

Once these two are addressed, we can move into action. Blending our education and our compassion, we know what the issue is and how to make incremental improvements, and we care enough to be willing to do it. In combining these complementary efforts, we are able to move in the right direction towards workplace equity. 

This general guide of acknowledgement, attention, and action is just that: a guide. The steps are fluid and we must recognize that there will never be a point where we do not have to actively work with DEI. It is a lifelong process. As the currents of the status quo change direction, challenge yourself to continue to swim against them, keeping an open mind as various situations arise.