Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement: Deciphering Between Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

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This is the eighth post in a 12-part series on how companies can show support for the Black Lives Matter movement by changing company policies and practices. This post focuses on educating senior leadership about the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion.

If someone were to ask how your organization defines diversity, equity, and inclusion do you have a good answer? Has your organization sat down and considered this question and identified the steps that it plans to institute in order to achieve goals related to each concept? Can you easily verbalize to managers the difference between the three concepts as well as the steps that the organization is taking to independently undertake the creation of a more equitable, diverse and inclusive environment?

Let’s start generally with a few simple definitions:

Diversity: Differences within a certain setting. This can be differences in thought, in beliefs, in life choices, as well as aspects of live that are not choices such at ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexual identification, and gender.

Inclusion: Making different people feel valued and included.

Equity: Equal access to the same opportunities.

In each organization, how these concepts are instituted and what changes in policies and practices are made is going to be dependent on the workforce, culture, industry and a variety of other factors. There are a few things, however, that are true without regard for the industry in question.

Diversity without inclusion does not further your organization’s goals or mission. Often times employers will look at these concepts independently, thinking if they can bring in diverse applicants and hire diverse employees, then they will then turn their attention to creation of an inclusive environment. The concepts, however, do not work that way; instead they are interwoven. If the organization is not inclusive and providing employees with equal access to the same opportunities, the organization will find itself struggling to attract diverse candidates. Similarly, if only the same people who hold the majority opinion or whose past experiences are similar to the majority of employees in the organization are provided with opportunities, while diverse employees are not asked to participate or provide thoughts, opinions, or participate in projects, your organization is not inclusive and likely not providing an equitable work environment.

One blog post will never do these concepts complete justice, but what employers should consider analyzing is the difference between these three concepts, including what the organization’s goals are with regard to these concepts, and what specific actions the organization is taking to accomplish those goals. If your organization is throwing around DEI, but not critically evaluating why past goals have not been met, or why the organization’s senior leadership appears to be a replica of your organization’s leader, or why you are hemorrhaging your diverse talent, it is important to sit down and re-evaluate (at a fundamental level) these three concepts and make sure your leadership team understands these terms and the goals associated with them.

In addition to educating managers on the differences in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the roles they play in creating an inclusive work environment, other ways companies can create policies and practices that lead to actual change include:

  • If you don’t already have one, make sure that you have an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy that is easily accessible to employees and applicants (this is the bare minimum of what all employers should be doing, but is also the foundation of the process). Read more about this here.
  • Train employees on anti-discrimination laws, duties, and policies. If you already perform training, great, but consider ways you can make the training more impactful. Read more about this here.
  • Provide implicit bias training to employees. While in the past, there has been concern that acknowledging implicit bias will be detrimental in any future discrimination lawsuit, this is not likely the case. Implicit bias is present in us all and we all need to be aware of the devastating impact it has on the choices we make on a daily basis. Read more about this here.
  • Provide third-party intervention training to employees and managers so that they have the tools and resources to assist them should they witness racist behavior or microagressions in the workplace. Read more about this here.
  • Update your grooming/personal appearance policy to include language that forbids discrimination based on hair style and hair texture. Read more about this here.
  • Educate your managers about the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Review past EEO-1 and Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) information to identify places in which the company could be doing better (even if not required by law).
  • Stop referral-based hiring programs as these continue to perpetuate the hiring of non-diverse candidates.
  • Listen to the experiences of black employees and employees of color.
  • Educate your managers and decision-makers about the BLM movement and the injustices experienced by black employees and employees of color.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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