How are we thinking and talking about the issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion in this new reality- in this new age of coronavirus that we find ourselves living through? I’ve seen an interesting shift in a lot of the partners and companies and clients that we’ve been chatting and working with. Some companies are really doubling down and putting DEI as a focus, really highlighting it and working on it more than ever in these times. Other companies, and I’m not saying this is good or bad, are placing less of an emphasis on DEI issues now, where they’re putting it on the side and looking at it more as a “nice to have,” as opposed to an essential part of the business.
I’m not suggesting there’s any one right or wrong way to be acting in this new reality, and certainly as a small business owner myself, I know there that it’s hard and there are some tough decisions that we all are faced with having to make in these weird times.
I want to talk a little bit about why focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion is more important than ever.
First of all, the issues that we’re addressing with this work are not going to go away on their own. They’re only going to become more highlighted and more intense in this new working world. For example, when we’re talking about with each other, those interactions whether they’re in person or shift to virtual, are still going to be highlighted. As anyone who has ever been attacked by a troll on Twitter or had someone that you don’t know post a mean Facebook comment on a post knows, it’s really easy to hide behind a physical screen and say terrible things or act in different ways than you might if you were faced with somebody right in front of you.
In this new reality, we’re faced with these systemic, structural inequities being highlighted. For example, this whole dialogue around who is considered essential, and how that translates back to things like education, class, race. Who are the people who are out there on the front lines? There are the janitors who are not receiving certain care and equipment, but are out there doing work that a lot of us who are more privileged are removing ourselves from.
These issues and these understandings and learnings about these deep-seated structural, systemic issues that our society is built on is actually finally coming to light in this age, and that is going to translate into the reality that we cannot go back to the way that we were working or living or thinking before.
My final point in thinking about these issues is that we have a real opportunity in front of us to move forward, and like I just said, not go back to the way we were. We don’t have to just look at this as a brief blip of time where a lot of us were staying home and watching Netflix and eating a lot of junk food. This could be a chance for us to make and implement real change.
Do we go forward and just go back to the way that we’re used to working or do we look at this as an opportunity where we can build in policies? We can create practices that will actually lift us up and highlight diversity, equity, and inclusion from the ground up and from the core within as opposed to tacking it on as a nice to have.