DEI is gaining a reputation these days. For some folks, DEI represents a positive movement that creates more fairness for everyone in the workplace and elsewhere. For others, it represents a dangerous ideology that threatens to reorient the focus of work from the nuts and bolts of business toward a form of performative political correctness.
Which is it?
Well, it’s both. Let’s start with the negatives.
Many of us have sat through myriad trainings, seminars, and meetings that we were “voluntold” to attend, in order to fulfil some sort of diversity mandate. Maybe it wasn’t called “diversity” training – maybe it was “global skills” or “multicultural” or “sensitivity” something-or-other. The idea behind all these required trainings was that, after being trained, we would automatically be sufficiently sensitive, or multiculturally minded, or more ready for the global workplace. And, sometimes, that was the case. Much of the time, however, as recent studies have indicated, those trainings didn’t make that much of a positive difference. Too often, standard diversity training comes off as self-righteous and preachy, or it happens as an ill-formed reaction to something ugly that happened in the workplace and everyone feels bad, mad, confused, and fearful. And then, when forced to sit through a training – often from consultants who haven’t taken the time, or don’t have the skills to learn the nature of your business and what’s really going on in your workplace – well, the results are not good, and DEI gets written off as a waste of time, at best, or an aggressive political agenda forced onto people who just want to come to work, do their jobs, and go home.
Does it have to be this way? No. DEI doesn’t have to be a political agenda at all. In fact, at its best, it’s simply a way of treating people better. How so? By being respectful and mindful of who they are in their complexity as humans – whether they are co-workers, employees, clients, or customers. To see people in their complex humanity means learning something about the ways in which given socio-cultural norms “define” people based on all sorts of things – race, gender, sexuality, veteran status, religion, and more – and also being aware of how those “norms” create blindspots for us in how we see people. Sometimes, such learning and awareness is hard because it means unlearning entrenched ideas and behaviors, and confronting ways in which we ourselves have benefited from the very same cultural norms that sideline others. This, however, doesn’t indicate anything sinister about DEI overall. It simply means, at its best, DEI is about learning, growing, and expanding – as individuals, groups, and companies – so that we can be better and treat people well.
Which is really good for the bottom line. When we treat people well, they want to work for our company. When we treat people well, they want to be our customers and clients, and they tell their friends. When we treat people well, we don’t have to call in the lawyers quite as much because there aren’t as many HR mishaps. This is why, here at Diversity Crew, our tagline is “treat people better” – a simple, actionable goal. And we provide organizational analysis, training and resources to help people do just that – treat people better in concrete, measurable, and meaningful ways – so that we can all thrive and prosper.
About The Author:
Jill Carroll is a scholar, writer, speaker and consultant who earned her Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from Rice University in 1994. She has published numerous books and articles in her field of specialty as well as in world religions, and religion and public life. She worked for many years as a lecturer and adjunct associate professor at Rice University and at several campuses of the University of Houston. She has taught continuing education classes in philosophy, world religions, and humanities at The Women’s Institute of Houston for over 25 years.
If you’re interested in hiring a DEI consultant and advancing your company’s DEI initiatives, you can reach out to Diversity Crew at LetsGo@DiversityCrew.com