Ask SGO: Why Do We Say DEI?

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
About The Episode Transcript

Ever wondered why we use the acronym DEI and what it truly signifies? Join Felicia Jadzak and Fatima Dainkeh, as we dive into a conversation about the words Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, what they mean, and why we use them in our work. As we navigate the often complicated language of DEI, we challenge ourselves to continually revisit our language, ensuring it accurately mirrors our objectives. From examining the significance of challenging our language to the evolution of DEI terms, we focus on creating a space where everyone feels valued and experiences belonging.

00:06 - Felicia Jadczak (Co-host) Hello and welcome to the she Geeks Out podcast, where we geek out about workplace inclusion and talk with brilliant humans doing great work, making the world a better and brighter place.

00:16 - Rachel Murray (Co-host) I'm Felicia and I'm Rachel and I'm so excited to have everyone here. This special episode is actually an Ask SGO episode, with our very own Felicia Jadzak, who you just met, and Fatima Dainkeh, one of our wonderful employees. She's Director of Training with us, and sometimes we're asked why do we say DEI and there are so many acronyms, and so we ask why are we focusing specifically on diversity, equity and inclusion? So this is a nice short and sweet episode that we wanted to share with you all, so have a listen. I hope you enjoy.

00:53 - Fatima Dainkeh (Guest) Fatima hey.

00:54 - Felicia Jadczak (Guest) Felicia, yeah, so I'm excited to chat with you today because we haven't done this in a while. We talk all the time, but today is a special day because it's our Ask SGO series.

01:06 - Fatima Dainkeh (Guest) Yeah, it has been a while. I don't even remember the last time we answered a question.

01:12 - Felicia Jadczak (Guest) Yeah. So for anyone who's not familiar with our Ask SGO series, it's something we started a couple years ago. As Fatima said, it's been a little bit quiet for the last year or two, but we're excited to bring it back and the basic premise is that we are answering some questions. So, as DEI practitioners, as folks who are part of SGO, we get questions all the time that are related to the work that we do, and while we usually answer these questions in our blog posts or in private client sessions or some of our public workshops, this is another way for us to get the info out there. So today, what we're excited to chat about is why DEI and not necessarily DEI as a practice or concepts or learning, but literally the acronym DE and I and why those three letters and not other letters. So we were just chatting before we hit record, but do you want to kick us off, fatima, with kind of why are we even talking about this question and the word soup jumble that we could be getting into here?

02:16 - Fatima Dainkeh (Guest) Yeah for sure. So a couple of years ago we published a blog post around like revisiting the acronym DEI Diversity, equity and Inclusion and we know a lot of folks use that acronym. But we've also found that with some of our clients or community members they might also use other acronyms, such as DEIB, where the B stands for belonging, or DEIJ, where the J stands for justice, a for accessibility, and so on. And so people would always ask like, hey, why do you all just use DEI? Is there a reason why you aren't using B the belonging or the justice piece? And something that's interesting for us I think you know, since joining SGO and being here for years now is thinking about how we approach the work, so recognizing that accessibility is important, justice is important, belonging is important and all of those letters and I'm sure there's probably more or other acronyms that people use that is sort of already baked in to DEI work.

03:18 It kind of reminds me of allyship, right, like whenever we do the workshop allyship. We've seen articles in the past few years that came out that was like, you know, allyship isn't enough, we need to be using words like co-conspirator or accomplice, and for us at SGO it's like yes, we agree, because we recognize that allyship sometimes is used in a way where we're not necessarily talking about practices or action, but sometimes people just use it as like a title or a noun, and so those other words I just mentioned are important for people because they want to emphasize the point of action. And so I think about DEI in that way where sometimes we're doing DEI work but we forget about justice-based work or we forget that some of the tenants within DEI are based within social justice and belonging and accessibility right, and so sometimes people have to emphasize those other words because we can get lost or forget that there are other parts of DEI that should be core to DEI work in general.

04:21 - Felicia Jadczak (Guest) I like that, use those other letters as a way to highlight so we don't forget about those other letters in the mix, or I mean, I'm calling them, letters are obviously much cheaper than that.

04:33 But I think it's also important to get a little bit of context around this too, because at the heart of what we're discussing right now is really language and our understanding of the world around us and ourselves and language changes over time and it shifts, and so I do think that it's an important question and it's an important discussion for us to continually be having, because next year or even six months from now, we might change our mind around some of this and it really will shift and morph over time.

05:01 But even a couple of years ago at SGO and for me personally as a practitioner, I wasn't saying DEI, I was saying D and I, so Divert and Inclusion. And I still remember the first time that I heard someone say DEI and I was like what's this E? That's all up in the mix and because I don't always hear things right away, I thought it was just someone saying D and I and that they were pronouncing it in a different way. And of course, the E is equity and it's a really important piece of the puzzle. But it's something where I could totally see that this term can be shifting and change over time, because we want it to serve us and if it's not really encompassing what we're working towards, then we should use something that is more representative of that.

05:46 - Fatima Dainkeh (Guest) Yeah, that's a really great point. And so do you feel like at some point we would revisit DEI and be like, okay, I think it's time to add the J or the A, like, what are your thoughts around that evolution, especially since you said at first it was D and I and even I remember, I think when I was in undergrad, it was like to straight up multicultural?

06:07 - Felicia Jadczak (Guest) I was about to say multicultural. I was definitely part of some multicultural clubs from back in the day.

06:13 Yeah, and I have a very fond recollection of that language because for me that was the first introduction, really, to some of what we were talking about as a young child. But yeah, I think absolutely we could revisit it, and I think there's a lot of people who have really valid reasoning for why these terms should be included. I think the other aspect of it is that we don't want to fall into the trap of having basically like an alphabet soup where it's just a bunch of different letters that don't really have a lot of meaning or are confusing, and I think that's something that we have seen happen in other spaces and so it's not out of the realm of possibility.

06:59 So I wouldn't want it to turn into something that detracts from the underlying meaning, but at the same time, it is a balancing act because you do want to recognize I mean, you and I talk a lot about the end purpose for a lot of this work that we're doing is justice. So it is a huge part of why we're doing this work and it's really important to talk about it. Accessibility is a really big concern for me personally, so I think it's great to have that, but I also just then you get to this stage where you're like, well, what kind of snazzy acronym that sounds good Can we come up with? And the more letters you have, the harder it is to do that. Do you remember I know we've had some clients and some folks in our community use Jedi? Do you remember the article that we have shared to pass around sort of the nuances of using that word?

07:49 - Fatima Dainkeh (Guest) I briefly remember that, but I feel like I specifically remember you, like in one of our workshops, telling folks like hey, here's why this has become problematic. So I feel like I would like to summarize what you said, but in true facilitation fashion. I'm like can you expand more about that one time?

08:10 - Felicia Jadczak (Guest) I don't think this is an ask us. Yeah, this is a little insight into how to facilitate. I love it. Yeah, what we'll do is I'll share the link in whatever platform we end up sharing this on, so that people can read.

08:20 But there is an article that encompasses a little bit around sort of the nuances around using terms, and so, specifically, jedi is a way for people to bring in the J, so it's justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, and a lot of people, especially in the tech world, really like Jedi because it has that sort of connection to the Star Wars universe and Jedi's and fighting for justice and all that comes along with it. But it can also be problematic because, again, that's something that's been created, it's in media. It's not perfect. There's a lot of downsides to it, there's violence that's incorporated in the term. So I'm just scratching the surface of the whole argument for and against.

09:06 But again, this is part of what makes it complicated to come up with terminology, but also, I think, what's beautiful about the fact that language does have a lot of nuance and depth to it, and so it's not always as easy as we might think to just come up with the new term or the perfect way of talking about it. And again we'll probably look back at this years from now and think to ourselves why were we talking about diversity? We should have been saying whatever the word is and that's OK. That's the way that things evolve.

09:40 - Fatima Dainkeh (Guest) Yeah, thanks. Thank you so much for sharing that and I remember when you shared that and we were having a conversation, I thought it was really interesting and the reason why I asked Felicia to explain is because I don't remember watching Star Wars y'all. So there's a piece of me that's like I think it was about Star Wars, but I don't want to say the wrong thing. But ultimately, when I think about labels, felicia, I'm also like language and labels only do but so much to really explain what it is that anybody is trying to do that's interested in a DEI space, whether you're an advocate or a practitioner, and I've met people who use DEI, just like we do, as like an umbrella acronym to talk about their services or the work that they do within their organizations, but they might define those words differently. Or if they're talking about diversity, maybe there's a limited definition where sometimes people are only focusing on race and gender, for example, and that comes from like hit the history of DEI and thinking about civil rights movements and how some of the social justice work started entering the workplaces and then affinity groups became ERGs, right, and so it's like a lot of times we're using jargon or language to fit businesses and organizations and companies, and so if we remember where it's coming from, I think, then we don't lose the justice piece. And then if we think about what does diversity mean? Expanding on that allows us to think about OK, with all of the identities that we all have and the differences that we have, we know that that's a fact. So how do we create inclusive spaces or organizations where we're honoring those differences?

11:21 And I think every day I learn about a different identity.

11:25 Right, I'm like, oh okay, I didn't know that someone identified in this way, and even me, like being a practitioner, trying to understand, like, what does this umbrella term mean for me as a person?

11:38 It's like when do we start having the deeper conversations that sometimes we forget about? Which is the reason why we're doing this work is because folks who have either been historically marginalized or have experienced oppression through their lineage are saying hey, for a very, very, very long time, people who look like me, talk like me, whatever the case may be, haven't been given the same opportunities, the same resources, just the same rights to live, and so I think, if that's always at the forefront, regardless of what acronym folks use, that will at least guide us right and whenever we find ourselves being like, oh, we're forgetting about this certain group or, oh, we're not really assessing this or doing this work in a more embodied way, then we'll come back around, even if we have slightly different definitions. But I'm curious, like for you. I know we're talking about DEI as like in the space and field, but like, what does it mean for you as like someone who's head of DEI, like doing this work on a day-to-day basis?

12:43 - Felicia Jadczak (Guest) Yeah, I mean, I think that just from a basic standpoint, I am defining DEI and you'll probably laugh because this is how SGU defines it and this is what we talk about a lot but I think diversity is representation, it's the presence of difference. It really gets at each of us as human beings and what we're bringing to the table, so to speak, and really encompassing all of those identities, whatever they might be. Inclusion is about how do we feel in spaces and do we feel like we can show up fully? Do we feel like we belong? Do we feel like we're valued? And, from an organizational standpoint, have we put in place structures to allow people to feel all those things? Or are we prioritizing one group's needs over another?

13:31 And inclusion is, of course, I think, very closely tied to belonging. So there's a lot of for me when I think about should we include the be or not. I kind of think it's already included implicitly in inclusion anyway. And then, finally, equity is really about are we making sure that everyone is able to succeed if they want to? Do they have the resources that they need?

13:54 And I know a lot of people talk about well, is it equality?

13:56 Is it equity which one's better or worse or whatever, and I think that all of what we've just talked about is how we get to an end goal of equality.

14:05 And, you know, as practitioners and as people who are just doing this work, we talk about how perfectionism is not something we wanna lean into, and I don't really believe in the idea of being perfect.

14:17 So if I think about equality, I don't know if we'll ever get there, but it's the goal that we're striving towards and everything else is trying to get us towards that. So, in terms of how all this plays out at an organizational level, I think that, just like finance or accounting or engineering or whatever other function of the companies or organizations that make up your organizations, dei really isn't a separate department per se, but it's more a way of how we want to not just work together but be together, and so it's really more about the bedrock that should be underneath everything in the structure and how we as people wanna interact with each other and how we want to work together, and helps us understand and think about what our end goals are. So that's how I think about it. It's very high level. Of course, there's a lot of ways to break that, but yeah, what about you?

15:15 - Fatima Dainkeh (Guest) I love that Plus once. Everything you said I often think about sort of what does it mean in practice for me? Because defining it is one thing, but then it's like on a day-to-day how am I honoring diversity, how am I being inclusive and where am I falling short? Because, even though I've been doing this work for some time, my biases can come up, or whatever I've been socialized to believe about various identities, even if I'm like I don't consciously believe that, or like the neck up thing, like oh no, of course, in theory this is wrong, but in practice, when those biases come up, like recognizing that even if I'm doing this work, it doesn't mean that I'm also going to be perfect. I love that you brought up this perfectionism piece in this, because I think recognizing that you're not going to be perfect in this space, whether you're an advocate or practitioner, is really important.

16:18 And then the equity piece is still is still something in process for me, because equity is very much linked to justice work, where it's like are we giving folks what they need to be successful or whatever they need or whatever they want to state that they need, if they even know what opportunities are out there? So there's that and that's connected to justice in a way where, if we're talking about injustices or inequities, we're saying that there are systems and structures in place, whether we are consciously aware of them or not, but historically they've been in place for a while and we are still experiencing the remnants of that. And so part of me also recognize that there's a limitation in being a D I practitioner, because in many ways the work that I'm doing with organizations and workplaces can only go, but so far, this, ultimately, what we're trying to do is change, like society and workplaces were built to do that, and so whenever we're doing this work with our clients or communities we're we're often thinking about like one, recognizing that we're not going to fix everything.

17:24 Let's start off there and then being okay with that, but recognizing that it doesn't mean that we don't do work. It just means that it takes practice and sometimes we're going to do a really great job and other times we're going to suck and like how do we hold ourselves accountable? And so that's how D I has been feeling for me recently in like how do you, how do I give myself the practice and the tools? But then how do we get folks practice and tools to like, how do we move beyond knowledge and theory and be like okay, if you were to do this every single day for 30 days, for example, you would build this muscle or this habit. That'll really help you understand what it might look like to to embody each of those letters, whether it's D, I, the J, the A and so forth.

18:14 - Felicia Jadczak (Guest) Beautifully said. Well, that's our not so sure answer to why D I any final thoughts or anything else that you'd like to add before we close out the team?

18:25 - Fatima Dainkeh (Guest) No, I feel really good about where we stop, but I do hope that we get to do more of these in the near future.

18:31 - Felicia Jadczak (Guest) We'll definitely be doing more. So if you made it all the way to the end, thank you so much. We really appreciate it, and please let us know if you have a question that you would like us to answer for our next ask. As Gio, you can send us an email at hello at she geeks outcom, and we will be sure to answer it. Thank you so much. Bye.

18:53 - Rachel Murray (Co-host) Bye. Well, as always, that was so enlightening.

18:58 - Felicia Jadczak (Co-host) And I hope you enjoyed that. Thank you so much for listening and please don't forget to rate, share and subscribe. It makes a huge difference in the reach of this podcast and, by extension, our work. Also visit us on YouTube, instagram, linkedin, our website, and make sure you stay up to date on all things SGO.

19:16 - Rachel Murray (Co-host) Thanks everybody, bye.