Diversity is more than just a superficial numbers game targeted at meeting quotas, writing policies, and being in compliance with federal regulations.
Even though the landscape around the journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion has dramatically evolved, too often, misconceptions about this work’s true meaning leave individuals, business leaders, and organizations at large with a false or incomplete understanding of why diversity, equity, and inclusion matter.
Defining Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
At the core of our society, there are still dominant misconceptions and false narratives around what the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion mean. It is vital to advance these elements from each business, learning, and moral perspective.
It is crucial to define and understand each element. Diversity encompasses all aspects of human identity, including our beliefs, values, and world views. These characteristics influence our communication styles, behaviors, and interactions with others.
Diversity includes identity characteristics such as race, ethnicity, skin color, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, physical or mental ability or disability, socioeconomic background, educational attainment, profession, language, habits, and even personality traits. It is also important to remember that we all can encompass multiple elements of diversity, which creates overlapping interconnected identities known as the concept of intersectionality. No one individual can be put in” a box, “ so to speak, as we can have multiple components of diversity, adding to the uniqueness of each of us.
In businesses and institutions, Organizational Equity refers to the relative distribution of power and resources among internal organizational stakeholders. This includes senior-level executives, middle-level managers, and all other employees. Equity means promoting fairness by developing or redesigning systems that create a level playing field for everyone. This means creating opportunities to learn and grow and providing input into decisions that influence the work, compensation, and credit.
Inclusion creates environments where everyone feels equally valued and respected for their individuality and uniqueness. Inclusive environments allow everyone to participate fully in the varying elements of organizational life and have equal opportunities to leverage their talents and skill sets.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Philosophies
It is also imperative for everyone to understand that foundational philosophies underpin the evolving work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Six key interconnected philosophies encompass the framework of DEI work, including Social Justice, Advocacy and Allyship, Openness and Unity, Business Results, Compliance, and Valuing Differences.
Social Justice Philosophy in the context of DEI focuses on advancing equity. Social justice is grounded in promoting equal rights, equal access, and equal treatment. This philosophy focuses on intentionally working to correct the wrongs of this country’s past. This includes the acknowledgment of the people and groups that, throughout history and to the current date, are being systematically mistreated, marginalized, and oppressed. This is one of the most potent DEI philosophies because it sets the framework for focusing on deeply rooted institutionalized barriers that have prevented many people from accessing opportunities that they deserve for too long.
Business Result Philosophy in the context of DEI focuses on the impact of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion on financial profits and overall productivity. Over the past decade, emerging pieces of research have proven the positive financial gains organizations have realized due to advancing DEI at all levels of the organization. Specifically, organizations with a culture that embraces, values, and promotes DEI:
- Realize between 20% – 40% increases in profits related to more diverse leadership teams and staff at all levels of an organization.
- Are 40% more likely to outperform national financial averages.
- Are 87% more likely to effectively solve problems and make more sound and sustainable business decisions.
- Are more likely to be able to hire and retain strong talent within their organization.
- Have more engaged employees, as three out of every four employees would prefer to work for a diverse organization.
These are just a few of many research-supported statistics that illustrate the fact that advancing DEI foundational for societal change is vital for societal change and makes sound business sense regarding growth, profitability, and gaining a competitive advantage within a given market.
Compliance Philosophy is the philosophy that is grounded in focusing on regulations, practices, and policies concerning fair and equitable treatment for all individuals. Specifically, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the regulatory body that enforces the federal laws associated with fair and equitable treatment. It is this framework that prohibits organizations in some form from engaging in discriminatory activity based on race, skin color, age, religion, sex, national origin, or disability. This philosophy is fundamental, as it outlines what is allowed and legally prohibited in organizations. This philosophy is often understood as what DEI means, even though the work entails much more.
Advocacy and Allyship Philosophy is the philosophy that focuses on advancing that individuals have a responsibility to be vocal and active proponents for DEI. We must be willing to challenge and change the existing systems that are barriers to the progress of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all. The term “ally” is widely used in today’s narratives related to DEI. It is a role that both individuals who belong to dominant or non-dominant groups advocate for their individual needs as well as for the needs of others.
Valuing Differences Philosophy is grounded in the notion that each of our individual differences makes us stronger and that there is a wealth of value in exploring different perspectives, life experiences, and beliefs. This philosophy focuses explicitly on celebrating everyone’s uniqueness and intentionally creating an environment where everyone feels their unique talents, stories, and perspectives are important. This philosophy is about seeing how we are different as elements that unite us, not divide us.
Openness and Unity Philosophy drives home the most critical tenet across all philosophies. We are all human, and it is humanity that connects. While we all have divergent experiences, we all have common goals and basic human desires. These elements effectively understand our commonality and break down the “us versus them” mentality that still permeates our lives.
All in all, embracing, leveraging, and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion matters. It matters from a business perspective, a learning perspective, and a moral perspective.
We are all recipients of the world as it is today. However, we all have a powerful opportunity and a moral responsibility to make our world a better place for ourselves, others, our children, and the generations of humanity that will follow us.
Below are more excellent sources related to DEI
Ruchika Tulshyan. (2022). Inclusion on Purpose : An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work. The MIT Press
Morukian, M, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Trainers: Fostering DEI in the Workplace, 2022
Stacey A. Gordon. (2021). UNBIAS : Addressing Unconscious Bias at Work. Wiley.
Donald Sull, Charles Sull, and Andrew Chamberlain, “Measuring Culture in Leading Companies,” MIT Sloan Management Review, June 2019.
By Julian Lee, the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Process Improvement at the Siouxland Community Health Center, in Sioux City, Iowa. His primary role includes helping lead the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and organizational performance transformation. He teaches and coordinates all organizational DEI and health equity-related strategies. He also focuses on facilitating and coaching improvement teams across the organization to analyze and improve processes for enhancing the overall patient healthcare experience. The fundamental goal in his role is to help advance the organizational mission of health equity for all.
Julian, a Briar Cliff University Alum, graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration (BA) in May 2012. He also completed his Master of Arts in Management (MAM) Degree in May 2015. In December 2017, Julian completed his Master of Healthcare Administration Degree. (MHA) In addition, Julian is certified in Lean Healthcare and Organization Performance through The University of Michigan’s School of Integrative Systems and Design. Currently, Julian is working on his Doctor of Business Administration with an emphasis in healthcare (DBA) through Northcentral University.
Currently, Julian is working on doctoral research focused on reducing racial inequality in healthcare. He is passionate about becoming a change agent within the area of health disparities and improving the quality of care for all.
In addition, Julian is also certified and specialized in diversity, equity, and inclusive leadership. Through professional certifications from Purdue University, The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and management experience, Julian excels in teaching leaders and organizations about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive leadership.