I’m so tired of messages downplaying the effort that takes to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace!
If all that it takes is minuscule steps, why aren’t we there yet?
- A couple of months ago, I received an email from an organisation specialised in recruiting for tech and sales jobs entitled “10 small (but mighty) tactics to reach your DEI goals”.
- Last week, on LinkedIn a Global Head of DEI posted “It is often in the seemingly small moments and tiny gestures that inclusive leadership shows up.”
- Even Entrepreneur let us off the hook for being DEI slackers and tells us that “starting with a bite-sized approach is the key to authentically weaving diversity, equity and inclusion into the culture of your business”.
Personally, it feels like they’ve borrowed Tesco’s motto “Every little helps”.
Can you imagine companies using the same approach for revenue, marketing, or customer support?
- To investors: “10 small (but mighty) tactics to reach your revenue goals“.
- To the board: “It is often the seemingly small marketing events and tiny social media campaigns that bring big business.”
- To dissatisfied customers: “Starting with a bite-sized approach is the key to delivering outstanding customer support”.
Is really so easy?
No, it’s not. But I understand why that language is used.
Those messages suggesting that tiny DEI steps can have a massive impact on the quality of the workplace culture or that “simple” steps can increase the diversity of your workforce are targeted to an audience of
- DEI sceptics.
- Those that benefit from the current status quo.
- Those that feel DEI is a zero-sum game.
- Leaders that want to believe that some cosmetic actions will make their Great Place to Work ratings soar.
- Organisations that feel the pressure to “show” DEI commitment without seeing the business case.
That is, the goal is to appease those that resist change telling them that they won’t need to do a lot, it won’t cost too much money, and business processes won’t have to be modified in the hope that those naysayers don’t block DEI initiatives.
What’s wrong with “tiny” DEI steps?
“When you make success look easy, you attract people who want easy success.”Kris Plachy
When we say that small changes are enough to create valuable DEI change
- We diminish the value of the work DEI professionals deliver.
- We demoralise DEI champions and employee resource groups that see their efforts minimised.
- We belittle the experience of those excluded.
- We justify the lack of investment.
- We assume no radical changes are needed in the organisation.
- We outsource the responsibility for the organisation DEI to individuals.
Finally, by downplaying the effort required to deliver change, we implicitly remove the systemic angle that is at the core of DEI practices.
What to do instead
DEI initiatives are not different than any other strategic programmes: What you get is proportional to the effort you put in.
Treat DEI as the serious matter that it is.
Rather than softening the effort required
- Lead with the benefits to have a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace.
- Caution against the risks of working in a homogenous, exclusionary, and unfair organisation.
- Highlight that DEI issues are systemic and there is no room for bystanders. If you abstain to work towards bringing the system to health, you are reinforcing the current status.
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