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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Importance of Leadership Buy-In

Published August 31, 2020

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not a new concept in business. For years, companies have implemented DEI departments to focus on making workplaces diverse and safe for people of all backgrounds.

However, with the pleas for change heard around the country, stemming from the May 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, leaders across the nation are now truly recognizing the inequities minority populations face daily. 

Rather than simply focusing on reaching the minimum number of diverse hires, companies now recognize that job seekers desire workplaces that foster an inclusive culture and embrace people of all backgrounds. Companies that hire diverse employees offer space to create more innovative and efficient workplaces. Businesses with diverse management teams report higher innovation revenues, according to the World Economic Forum. 

Defining DEI and Its Importance in Business

Diversity, equity, and inclusion no longer mean meeting hiring goals but creating an environment that breeds success, strength, and safety for all people within an organization.

The National Institutes of Health defines diversity as “The range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical value system, national origin, and political beliefs.”

Equity means acknowledging the historical and systematic barriers minorities face and actively eliminating those barriers within their organization. 

Inclusion is the act of hiring groups traditionally excluded and marginalized without doing so for monetary benefit. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion with definitions for each

To cascade change, having a DEI department should be standard practice so that those in leadership roles can educate themselves and their staff on the issues faced by minorities both in and out of the workplace. It also means actively avoiding stereotypes and seeing potential employees for both their background and capabilities.

Nicole Isom, former head of Hueman’s DEI department, highlights the vitality of focusing on DEI and the impact these efforts have on minority populations, “If you can't see my most obvious characteristics, you're not seeing me at all. I love being a woman. I love being Black. I love being a Millennial. But there are still so many other attributes that I have, which can't be seen by the eye. That's why having a DEI focus at work is so moving. We [at Hueman] are taking actionable steps to see and celebrate everyone, just for who they are. A place where everybody is somebody.”

Why Is It Important for Company Leaders To Be Strong Advocates for Their DEI Department?

Isom sums it up best, “In order for DEI to become part of our DNA, leadership buy-in and advocacy is a must. We look to our leaders for guidance in every area of the business and this is no different. They will be the ones to align DEI into our business and people goals.”

When business leaders take the initiative to make DEI a priority in their business, they are setting their company up for social and economic success. The Center for American Progress found that workplace discrimination costs organizations $64 billion annually.

Businesses that buy into their diverse talent pools are stronger and more efficient. Tiffany Collins, Resident/Diversity Recruiter for our one of partners, stresses the importance of an established DEI department, saying, “Having a DEI department helps all employees feel included and ensures that all employees are able to bring their full selves to work and expect to be treated the same.”

When companies invest in diversity, they also invest in new ideas, goals, and ways to grow talent. Andra Picincu of the Houston Chronicle writes, “The benefits of a diverse workforce go beyond political correctness. Bringing in people with different backgrounds and perspectives can lead to better decision-making, greater innovation, and higher engagement in the workplace. It may also improve a company's reputation and make it easier to attract top talent.”

What Steps Does a Company Need To Take To Ensure Success in Its DEI Department?

Measuring success with DEI will be unique for every company, but if you’re just getting started, the most critical component is having full support from leadership. Here are some things to consider:  

  • Establish a team of diverse representatives from your company—people of different races, religions, and perspectives—whose voices carry weight.
  • Evaluate the workplace environment—are there any areas to focus on that lack inclusivity and diversity?
  • Make DEI a priority within the company, not a side project. Put it at the forefront of all initiatives and continue to expand it.
  • Educate employees on the role and importance DEI plays within the company and its importance. Involve all employees in DEI initiatives. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion will always play a crucial role in developing the workforce and growth of companies. When we consider the evolution of DEI and the general process of embracing change, Felicia Jadzack puts it best, There’s never going to be an end-stage of perfection where you’ve checked off all the boxes on a list or you’ve achieved gold star status. There will always be something to work on. Part of this is because our understanding and our definitions are nuanced and they’re ever-evolving. The language that we’re using, and how we’re thinking about these topics, these terms, and concepts, are really different today than they were [in the past] — it’s constantly changing.”

Want to make sure you're avoiding bias and promoting diversity in your interview process? Check out our blog for "3 Tips to Avoid Bias and Promote Diversity in the Interview Process."

  • Topics: 
  • Company Culture,
  • Recruitment Strategy