Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): Worth a Conversation

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Diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and policies.

DEI programs and policies have recently been challenged at both the state and federal levels. For example, this past June, the nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court, issued a ruling that significantly limits how colleges consider race as a factor in the admissions process. In Missouri, legislation was introduced last session that would have prohibited state government spending on staff, vendors, consultants, and programs associated with diversity, equity, and inclusion. The bill ultimately did not pass.

These moves seem puzzling to me given that the world we live in grows more complex every day. They also seem to be at odds with the findings of a new Pew Research Center survey that found most employed U.S. adults – 56% – say they think it’s a good thing to focus on increasing DEI at work. It probably comes as no surprise, however, that opinions about DEI vary considerably along demographic and political lines. The survey findings (included at the end of this post) are very eye-opening and worth the time for those interested in a more in-depth look at what respondents had to say.

What is DEI?

Any real discussion on DEI first requires a look at what these terms mean. I liked this succinct, spot-on explanation from staffing company InsightGlobal: Diversity refers to a wide and varying range of groups within a community or population — think ethnicity, religion, abilities, sexual orientation, and other dimensions of diversity. Inclusion is the active engagement of all members of that community or population. Equity is the fair and just treatment of those members regardless of how they identify.

Benefits

DEI is not only the appropriate course of action for today’s industries, but it also makes sense from a business standpoint. Studies show investing in DEI programs, policies, and initiatives can potentially attract customers, increase sales revenue, and positively influence the bottom line. Organizations that make DEI a priority are also often viewed as industry leaders, a fact that can help attract and retain the best talent. These types of initiatives can also help entities ensure legal compliance with laws and regulations that might apply to them.

Other benefits of a robust DEI culture include:

  • Increased creativity, innovation, and flow of ideas
  • Better decision making
  • A higher level of employee engagement and productivity
  • A more positive work environment
  • A broader range of opportunities for advancement
  • A workforce that reflects the population it serves — allows a better understanding of customer needs and services.
  • Greater equity in hiring and firing practices, promotional advancement, and compensation.

Final Thoughts

Data suggest that DE&I programs and policies contribute to enhanced performance, increased employee satisfaction, and a stronger business reputation. They also help to create fair, positive, and successful workplaces that reflect the values of a diverse society. To me, those are factors to be embraced, not squelched.

 

SURVEY
DEI survey
PEW Research Center Survey (Source: Survey of U.S. workers conducted Feb. 6-12, 2023.
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