As a practitioner, I often find myself caught in the minutia of the daily DEI work. I think about the conversations I have, the programs I’m building or modifying, or analyzing data. But now and then, I think about DEI’s future. With everything happening in the world around us, what is the future of this work?
In Season 1 of DEI After 5, I spoke with my cousin, Lolita Chandler, about the history of DEI. In that conversation, we discuss how DEI has evolved – the focus, the language, and even the end goal. But I can’t help but think about one question that seems to linger in my mind –
As DEI has broadens to become more inclusive, is it becoming exclusionary to the very people it was created to support?
The Dismantling of DEI & Psychological Safety
Not too long ago, I read an article discussing the dismantling of DEI in academia. It spoke to how universities needed to be neutral on DEI topics, such as systemic inequities, microaggressions, and intersectionality. Though the entire piece was riveting, one part stood out for me. One of the authors of a bill to dismantle DEI in higher education stated that he would still be at the university if he had not experienced an investigation by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action. An investigation based on a comment he made after criticizing the nomination of now-US Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
I realize in reading the article and his argument that conservative thought is being pushed out of the conversation. Are conservative thoughts and racist ideology now considered one and the same? As we work to ensure all voices (centering the most marginalized) are valued, seen, and connected, are we including voices of dissent? This question often comes to me when I’m speaking about psychological safety in the workplace. If the ultimate goal is to have all people be able to challenge the status quo without fear of retribution or retaliation, have we swung the pendulum too far in one direction?
The Future of DEI – Sneaking in the Vegetables
I recently shared on a panel that with the ‘attack’ on DEI happening across the country, we will see a shift in how we do this work. I rarely use the word ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ with my clients. Unless I am educating them on the foundational elements of DEI, I find that they get lost in the terminology and don’t think about the practicality of the work. So I work with them on inclusive leadership skills and development.
I want them to master the behaviors of inclusion so that it becomes part of their leadership style. But in order to do that, there has to be an overarching plan. A strategy on how the company will function moving forward. What are the foundational aspects that will change, and what will shift over time?
In this episode, I chat with Benjamin McCall about what organizations need to do to shift moments into movements. They can do this by building the proper walls to support the DEI foundation and framework.
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