The Rise of DEI Initiatives in Business and Education
The world has changed in ways many of us would never have imagined just a few short years ago. From the rise of remote work to a more global economy, what defines an effective workplace has forever shifted.
Along with that change comes a growing perspective on how we approach diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Understandably, there is still much work to be done around these concepts, but it’s important to know what they mean and how they can be integrated into your workplace culture or educational environment.
What is DEI?
The acronym stands for “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” which are broad topics that encompass many areas of society.
DEI is not just about race but also gender and sexual orientation. It’s about the inclusion of all people to provide the space and support where anyone can thrive. Each concept is designed to broaden the pool of people at your business, organization, or team.
Diversity is the variety of people, cultures, and backgrounds that exist in a workplace. It is the unique puzzle pieces that come together to form a kaleidoscope of imagery. A business grows because of so many perspectives and backgrounds working together towards a single goal.
Equity is the fair and just treatment of people, which is necessary for them to achieve their full potential. It is a human right, as well as one of the core values upon which our society is built.
The concept of equity has two main components: equality and fairness. Equality refers to how people are treated equally regardless of their differences (e.g., race). Fairness means that everyone has an equal chance at success regardless of race or other differences (e.g., gender).
Inclusion refers to the act of including people in the workplace, classroom, and community. It’s the opposite of exclusion — which is often unintentional and happens when we fail to recognize that differences exist between us all.
Why is DEI so Important Right Now?
All you have to do is turn on the nightly news or hop on social media to see numerous streamed videos of people from all races and gender backgrounds being mistreated.
From the international marches in support of Black Lives Matter to the current debates around women’s rights, there are social contracts we have placed extreme pressure on that require attention.
The arguments as to why these pain points exist in the first place can be debated until everyone is red in the face. The primary concern should be if your organization doing the best it can?
There are a lot of critical facts that play into a sense of greater injustice.
Unfortunately, the United States is a bit of a hotbed for these issues because we have such a rich mix of cultures and ideas, often living in extreme proximity. While this is a distinct reason we are so resilient, it also forces us to address ideals we may not consider otherwise.
We as a country frequently experience a greater need for DEI initiatives because of divisive topics like:
- Wage inequality between genders
- Barriers to education by low-income families
- Systematic racism in housing, benefits, and society
- Sexual discrimination
- LGBTQ rights and recognitions
- Career mobility for women and minorities
- And plenty more.
How Does DEI Change these Problems?
People need to feel heard. Compromise is not possible when certain groups are completely shut out of the conversation.
Often, the simplest solution can be reached that does not affect the outcome of a business or organization once cool heads are allowed to come to the table and have a transparent and honest conversation.
DEI initiatives and directors provide these spaces. They are not solely a human resources position but more of a sounding board that oversees the development and implementation of different programs promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
When new initiatives are integrated into an organization, numerous benefits are possible. They include:
- Greater profit achievement with higher retention rates. Companies that utilize DEI initiatives are more likely to achieve financial target goals by 120%
- Better customer relationships because you have a diversity of gender, race, nationality, creed, sexuality, and anything else that allows you to mirror the real world
- Higher rates of safety and feelings of respect. DEI initiatives promote the interconnectivity of workers and students so they feel heard and part of the community
- Excellent flexibility and response to the market due to more significant innovation because of a diverse group of people working together
The point is that DEI drives better results. It demonstrates to everyone in and out of an organization that the leadership is more willing to listen and adapt to the changing social norms.
More than 42% of consumers have shifted their business away from retailers that do not reflect DEI initiatives or core concepts.
An organization that does not move its focus will lose out on hiring better team members, achieving competitive financial success, and retaining quality students.
What is the Future of DEI Initiatives?
The future of DEI initiatives is bright, with many companies leading the way. As we’ve seen, the implementation of DEI initiatives will create a better business culture for everyone involved.
Not only that, but the execution of DEI initiatives leads to more diverse teams and more innovative ideas from employees at all levels.
In education, institutions such as Stanford University have made diversity one of their main focuses by hiring more professors who are underrepresented minorities.
Additionally, they offer increased funding to students who apply through this program. They also provide resources like workshops on unconscious bias and microaggressions so students can better understand how these issues impact others’ lives.
It’s important to remember that diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are not a one-size-fits-all solution, but with the right approach, they can be beneficial for companies and educational institutions.
Some organizations have created DEI teams and hired staff with expertise in this area, while others have integrated these policies into HR roles to ensure their success.
Whatever the avenue, it is clear that DEI is going to continue to change the environment of our society, and hopefully, for the better.
Having a quality representation of the greater populous offers so many benefits to organizations that it only makes sense to embrace this change and integrate it into the growth strategy moving forward.
Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota