As a DEI practitioner supporting nonprofit and for profit organizations seeking to improve workplace culture as well as enhance business practices, I’m often asked questions such as “What is the most challenging aspect of your work?” and “How do you deal with people who resist transformational change within their organizations?” or “How do you incentive organizational leadership and employees to support DEI ideals for the benefit of their workforce, business and brand?” Questions like these speak to the reality that aligning goals and business practices with DEI ideals remains new terrain for many organizations.
When I’m asked the aforementioned questions, it occurs to me that working as a DEI practitioner and advocate means getting comfortable with the fact that more times than I care to imagine, I am often perceived as a threat to some people whom believe supporting DEI ideals and taking proactive steps to achieve organizational goals in alignment with them translates into a loss of power or privilege. Others worry that their biases will be exposed as they engage in trainings meant to help them identify, understand and confront such biases so that they don’t adversely impact workplace culture. Still others – particularly organizational leadership – continue to question the value of investing in DEI strategies that will improve their workplace cultures and positively impact business practices, despite the mounting research that supports these outcomes across industries.
For those of us working as DEI practitioners and advocates, it is important to accept and even embrace the fact that what you’re trying to accomplish as such means disrupting the status quo; making people uncomfortable; challenging convention; and encouraging people to confront who they are. Being a DEI practitioner and advocate means inspiring processes and practices meant to benefit diverse workforce cultures, organizational leadership, communities and clients – all while elevating awareness about the realities of unconscious cultural bias; white fragility; and interlocking systems of power and privilege. Each of these factors challenges organizational efforts to recruit and retain diverse talent; foster supportive workplace environments for all identities and cultures; build relationships with diverse stakeholders and even serve the needs of our most vulnerable and disenfranchised communities, consumers and clients.
So, to my fellow DEI practitioners and advocates, also known as disruptors of the status quo, continue to challenge all that continues to inhibit our capacity to become increasingly diverse, equitable and inclusive in our organizational cultures and business practices across all industries. In a moment when we are experiencing such culturally divisive rhetoric, the case for prioritizing DEI ideals not only within our organizations but within our communities will become increasingly urgent. As cultural disruptors in 2019, the more we accept our roles as such, the more capable we will be of inspiring organizational and cultural change for the benefit of all.