December 6, 2023

Many DEI initiatives drive attention and social approval but do little to empower the marginalized.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has become a culture cornerstone for many companies as they increasingly recognize its value. But the path to creating a genuinely inclusive culture can be challenging. Efforts are often complicated by performative activism – actions that appear to promote inclusion but lack substance and genuine commitment.

Performative activism often manifests as superficial gestures or token efforts that fail to address the root causes of systemic inequities. Think companies changing social media profile pictures without addressing real internal issues. Or it could be setting vague DEI goals that have little measurable progress or outcomes. These actions may drive attention and social approval, but they do little to empower the marginalized.

Every Letter Matters

To move past performative activism, it is important to understand each factor of DEI:

Diversity reflects the wide range of human experiences, characteristics, and perspectives. It is about recognizing and valuing the unique contributions of each person, regardless of their background, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or any other distinguishing factor.

Equity goes beyond simply acknowledging diversity; it is about creating an environment that empowers everyone to succeed. This requires identifying and addressing systemic barriers that prevent marginalized groups from accessing resources, opportunities and power.

Inclusion is the active process of creating an environment where everyone feels welcomed, valued and respected. It is about ensuring that diverse voices are heard, perspectives are considered, and everyone feels a sense of belonging.

Genuine DEI initiatives are rooted in authenticity and a commitment to dismantling systemic inequities. They are not about superficial gestures or seeking external validation.

Six key principles to guide authentic DEI efforts:

  1. Self-reflection and education: Individuals must engage in self-reflection and education to understand our own biases, privileges and assumptions.
  2. Active listening and empathy: Engage in active listening and empathy to understand the experiences of those from different backgrounds.
  3. Authentic engagement: Engage with diverse communities in a meaningful way, seeking their perspectives and collaborating on solutions.
  4. Sustainable action: Commit to long-term, sustainable actions that address systemic inequities, not just short-term initiatives. Make sure that improvement over time is measurable.
  5. Courageous conversations: Conversations around DEI can be uncomfortable. Each of us must be willing to engage in tough conversations to grow.
  6. Continuous learning: Recognize that DEI is a continuous learning process and commit to ongoing growth and development.

Building an inclusive organization requires a collective commitment to dismantling systemic inequities, fostering inclusive environments and empowering marginalized voices. While organizational leaders set the tone, each of us play a part in engaging with company DEI initiatives and moving them beyond performative action.

Weekly Recipe

Peach Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce