Ask SGO: What does DEI mean in 2022?

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This video was taken from our January 18, 2022, Ask SGO on LinkedIn Live. Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our newsletter to find out more about upcoming LinkedIn …

This video was taken from our January 18, 2022, Ask SGO on LinkedIn Live. Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our newsletter to find out more about upcoming LinkedIn Lives and other events. Learn more about the SGO team here!

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Vienna DeGiacomo
What is DEI? What is it not? Why is it important today? What does it look like in 2022? Is that different from what it looked like in 2021? Just tell us everything.

Fatima Dainkeh
I literally listened to the questions, saying where do we start? So I’m happy to kick us off, and I’ll pass the mic over to Rachel. But, you know, a lot of times when we think about DEI or diversity, equity, and inclusion, a lot of us might have different definitions, but we want to just take a moment to define how we think about DEI. And I know some of you might have seen that acronym as JEDI, where the “J” stands for justice or you might see a “B” in that acronym where the b stands for belonging and so forth. 

But really, how we think about it at SGO is diversity is really thinking about representation; who’s represented and who’s not, as we think about our social identities, recognizing that all of our social identities aren’t visible. A lot of times we talk about race and gender, but also disability, ability, age, and all these various things that make us who we are when we get to this next part of inclusion. When we work with companies, they’ll often say “we want diversity,” and we always say what kind of diversity? Be as specific as possible. But also, if we’re working toward diversity, such as gender diversity, race diversity, the next question is, do you have an inclusive space where folks will feel that in honor of all of their identities, they feel good, they feel welcomed there. So that’s the inclusion part: do I feel valued? Do I feel like I’m part of this team, or part of this company, or outside of the workplace, do I feel good about being in my space?

The last letter in the acronym is equity, as we recognize that everyone isn’t starting from the same playing field. How do we create and also provide support and resources so people have and get what they need to be successful.

That’s an introduction to how we think about those terms. 

Rachel Sadler:
That’s a great overview of how we define DEI. But thinking about it is not just a one and done. You don’t get a workshop. You don’t honor the work one time, and then it’s just over with it. It’s something that’s ongoing, almost into perpetuity.

If we think about it as more of an opportunity to empower ourselves and our organizations, as opposed to something we have to do, that really can change the way that you approach DEI work. Does everybody feel like this is a great place to work where they’re included? Do they feel like they belong, that they are represented? And if not, how do we fix that? Are we doing pulse checks along the way to make sure that we are remaining in alignment with the values that we have put into place? And are we doing that continuously and making sure that we’re still on the right track?

So that does bring us to 2022. What do things look like right now? Has it changed over the last couple of years? Life as a whole has changed so much, I can’t imagine that we’re still in the same place with how we approach DEI work. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

It’s been a journey, right? We were talking about this earlier, Rachel and I, about, even those of us who started in the DEI field before it was even called DEI work. I remember it just being called social justice work, then we labeled it DEI when we moved into the corporate space, and now over time, it’s really hard to disassociate or negate what’s happening in the real world. Generally speaking, that’s always been the organic matter of DEI work, but there have been moments where we’ve separated the two: the personal and professional. As we all know, those things are intricately linked. 

As we think about DEI for 2022, for me, I can’t help but to continue thinking about what’s happening now. We’re thinking about the pandemic. Folks are still doing hybrid workplaces or virtual workplaces. We’re thinking about who’s being negatively impacted and how we’re showing up for our colleagues. How are we showing up for employees by using that DEI lens that we just explained and defined? Another thing I’m thinking about is how do we prioritize DEI within our workplace, but also in our personal lives? As time moves on, we know that we can’t say, “Okay. Let’s just go ahead and have a workshop and do nothing else, right?” Or “let’s just go ahead and check off the box,” because if we’re not baking DEI into our day-to-day practice, into our check-ins, like Rachel mentioned earlier, into our performance reviews, into our strategic planning, then we’re going to miss the mark.

And so we’re past due in terms of embedding DEI work into our workplaces, but I think if we’re not doing it, especially in 2022, then we’re in for some horror stories. We know that what makes employees excited and engaged and wanting to be in the space is that they feel included  and that they can come with their full selves.

It’s also important to look at all levels of your organization. Sometimes we think on a corporate level-  did we do the workshops? Did we do all the things? But we also need to look at, how is the pandemic in particular impacting all of our employees? We understand that marginalized groups have suffered the most during the pandemic. Those are the people that tend to work on the front lines, in your grocery stores, at your gas stations and so forth. That may not have the opportunities to take time off or have sick time. How are you looking through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion? You might find yourself saying we need to re-evaluate some of these things to support everybody at all levels, so that the entire company as a whole is being valued and is benefiting from the practices that we’re putting in place at the upper levels of the organization.

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