Ask SGO: Why Do We Say DEI?

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In our latest AskSGO, we explain why we say Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion when talking about this work, and how this language has evolved and continues to evolve over time.

In our latest AskSGO, we explain why we say Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion when talking about this work, and how this language has evolved and continues to evolve over time.

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Felicia Jadczak (00:07):
Hi Fatima.

Fatima Dainkeh (00:08):
Hey Felicia.

Felicia Jadczak (00:10):
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 s G series.

Fatima Dainkeh (00:20):
Yay. It has been a while. I don’t even remember the last time we answered a question, but like Felicia said, we are always answering questions, whether it’s like during a workshop or in our Mighty Networks platform, this is awesome. We just put in the plugin to be like, join the platform. But yeah, this is really nice to be on video to share our thoughts.

Felicia Jadczak (00:41):
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 d, e and I and why those three letters and not other letters. So we were just chatting before we hit record, but do you wanna kick us off Fatima, with kind of why are we even talking about this question and, and you know, the word soup jumble that we could be getting into here?

Fatima Dainkeh (01:44):
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 DEI B, 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 into DEI work, 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 wanna 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.

Felicia Jadczak (03:50):
I like that to sort of use, 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 deeper than that. But I think it’s also important to give 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 will shift and morph over time. But even a couple years ago at SGO and for me personally as a practitioner, I wasn’t saying DEI I was saying de and I, so diversity 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 wanted 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.

Fatima Dainkeh (05:15):
Yeah, that’s a, 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, you know, at first it was D N I and even I remember, I think when I was in undergrad it was like just straight up multicultural

Felicia Jadczak (05:35):
Culture. Yeah, I was about to say multiculturalism, , I was definitely part of some multicultural clubs from back in the day. Yeah, . And you know, like 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, you know, I, 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, 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, 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 outta the realm of possibility.

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 wanna recognize, I mean, you and I talk a lot right 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, is a really big, you know, concern for me personally. So I think it’s great to have that, but I also just then you get into 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 in the past around sort of the nuances of using that word?

Fatima Dainkeh (07:17):
I briefly remember that, but I, 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 ?

Felicia Jadczak (07:38):
And only is this an ask us g this is a little insight into how to facilitate Love it. Yeah. what we’ll do is I’ll share the link in whatever platform we’re, we end up sharing this on so that people can read. But there’s an article that encompasses a little bit around, you know, 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, you know, 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 you know, 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. 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 and depth to it. And so it’s not always as easy as we might think to just come up with the new term. Yeah. Or the perfect way of talking about, and you know, again, like 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, . Yeah. You know, and, and that’s okay. That’s the way that things evolve.

Fatima Dainkeh (09:08):
So yeah. Thanks. Thank you so much for sharing that. And, 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 like, there’s a piece of me that’s like, I think it was about Star Wars, but I don’t wanna 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 like if they’re talking about diversity, you know, maybe there’s a limited definition where sometimes, you know, people are only focusing on race and gender, for example. And that comes from like his hi, the history of DEI and thinking about civil rights movements and how, you know, 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 like, what does diversity mean, expanding on that allows us to think about, okay, 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? And I think every day I learn about a different identity , right? I am 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? It’s like, when, 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, if that’s always at the forefront, regardless of what acronym folks use, that will at least guide us, right? 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, 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, what does it mean for you as like someone who’s head of DEI and like doing this work on a day-to-day basis

Felicia Jadczak (12:10):
Is? Mm-Hmm. Yeah, I mean I think that just from a basic standpoint, I am defining DEI and you’ll probably laugh cuz this is how SGO defines it and this is what we talked 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? 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 like 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? Do they need that they need? And I know a lot of people talk about, well, is it equality? 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. 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. 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 down, but yeah. What about you? I

Fatima Dainkeh (14:43):
Love that. 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, and, and where, 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 perf 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.

And then the equity piece is, 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 wanna state that they need if they even know what, what, what opportunities are out there? So there, there’s that. And that’s connected to justice in the 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 DEI practitioner because in many ways the work that I’m doing with organizations and workplaces can only go.

But so far, because ultimately what we’re trying to do is change, like society and workplaces weren’t built to do that. And so whenever we’re doing this work with our clients or, or communities we’re, I’m off, we’re often thinking about like one, recognizing that we’re not gonna fix everything. Like 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 gonna do a really great job and other times we’re gonna suck and like, how do we hold ourselves accountable? And so that’s how DEI 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 give folks practice and tools too? 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 DEI, the J, the A and so forth.

Felicia Jadczak (17:43):
Beautifully said. Well that’s our not s-so-o short answer to why DEI. Any final thoughts or anything else that you’d like to add before we close out Fatima?

Fatima Dainkeh (17:54):
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.

Felicia Jadczak (17:59):
We will 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 SGO, you can send us an email at hello she geeks and we’ll be sure to answer it. Thank you so much. Bye. Thanks,

Fatima Dainkeh (18:19):