While many people may agree that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is important to the workplace (backed by data as well), people often struggle with how to actually promote DEI topics and behaviors in the workplace, especially if they’re not in a position of power or in a human resources (HR)/DEI related role.
Even though tackling DEI issues in the workplace may seem like a daunting task, here are 3 steps that you can take to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace, even if you don’t work in a specific DEI-related job.
It helps to first think about where topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion pop up the most in your day-to-day functions. Perhaps it’s noticing that there are no people of color on your team or thinking about whether Patrice’s pay is equal to her male counterpart’s or even just tuning into conversations and recognizing your own biased thoughts.
The first step in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is tuning into the spaces around you and recognizing how the lack of DEI has impacted you or those around you.
Whatever the situation is, take it as an opportunity for you to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in that specific space. For example, if you realize that there are no people of color on your team, the next time your company is hiring within your team you could ask the recruiter/recruiting team to consider members from underrepresented groups. You could go so far as suggesting they utilize different job boards or visiting more diverse colleges to recruit graduating students. Or maybe it’s asking to be on the interview panels so that you can help in the decision making process of selecting the best candidate for the job rather than the candidate that best fits the team’s appearance.
Another way to promote DEI is to create or join an employee resource group (ERG)! Employee resource groups are a great way for organizations to build a support system for employees that typically belong to underrepresented demographics (i.e. gender, neurodivergence, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity), but it is recommended to allow allies to be members as well. By helping create an ERG, you are actually creating a support system for employees, increasing career development opportunities and even building out a rich resource pool full of information and talent that is capable of having a positive impact on business processes and procedures.
Next, recognize your own biases. While we don’t always like to admit it, we all have our own unconscious biases. I challenge you to observe and rethink your own implicit, or maybe even explicit, biases as they reveal themselves in your day-to-day life. The more you practice being mindful of your biases, the more you will be able to control them and create a sustainable behavior change. From there, it becomes a matter of politely correcting others when they, for example, address someone by the wrong pronouns, or perhaps makes a comment about the style/texture of a co-workers hair.
After you begin to look inward at your own biases, you will be able to begin to set boundaries and call out unacceptable words/actions around you, this is a great step to becoming an ally. There are many different facets included in being an effective ally, but these can also be as simple as speaking up when someone makes a racially insensitive joke and making it known that you don’t agree with their view or you don’t find that joke appropriate because of the racial component. In these simple moments, you can step up as an ally and call out innapropriate behaviors as they happen. Don’t sit silently by, call out the actions that are happening and while it might make the room uncomfortable, it is those uncomfortable moments that act as a catalyst for real change and growth within people and in turn, the organization.
While promoting DEI in your workplace might seem like a task for managers, executives and those in DEI roles, there are steps you can take to promote it in YOUR life that can still have a positive impact on the organization as a whole.
Julie Chen, M.A. is an IO & DEI consulting assistant at Mattingly Solutions and also a PhD candidate at the University of Akron. Learn more about and connect with her here.