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DEI Reimagined: Lessons for 2024 and beyond

In recent years, there has been a significant focus on creating awareness, particularly surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This heightened awareness has left many people well-informed and open to learning, while it has also left some feeling fatigued. It's important to recognize that delving into our history and acknowledging past and present wrongdoings is a challenging process. Therefore, it's time for us to shift not only our perspective on DEI but also our innate understanding of how to be more empathetic and humane.

Today, I'd like to share some valuable insights I recently gained from industry experts and academics deeply involved in DEI research. These insights aim to reshape our approach to these topics, fostering curiosity, openness, and empathy.

Here are four key takeaways that will likely have a more lasting impact than traditional workplace training programs:

1. Tap into Your Innate Inclusive Leadership Skills

Many of us already possess the fundamental skills needed to be inclusive leaders in our workplaces, communities, and the broader world. With the foundation laid by awareness training, it's time to transition from theory to action by applying and honing these skills, both those already developed and those we're continuously cultivating to become stronger leaders. These essential skills include:

  • Empathy: Understanding the feelings of others without reliving their experiences.

  • Conflict Management: Effectively resolving disputes and prioritizing issues.

  • Lifelong Learning: Continuously educating ourselves about the world through formal, informal, or experiential learning.

By embracing and implementing these skills, we can actively participate in creating inclusive and empathetic spaces, fostering positive change in our workplaces, communities, and beyond.

2. Introduce Allyship into Workplace Training

Conventional sexual harassment training often frames situations with a clear division between a harasser and someone being harassed. This dichotomy polarizes individuals and places them in the position of having to pick a side, rather than taking a neutral stance. This polarizing approach can inadvertently exacerbate tensions and lead to inappropriate reactions from individuals who may not see themselves as harassers but feel threatened or compelled to ease the situation through inappropriate means, such as making jokes to lighten up any tension around the topic.

Instead of perpetuating this division, consider introducing a third persona into these training programs: that of an ally. In a world where division and taking sides have become prevalent, this approach encourages individuals to use their relative privilege to support others who may be less privileged. For instance, a man can actively employ his relative privilege to support a female colleague in a positive and supportive relationship.

By adopting the allyship model, we shift the focus from picking sides to fostering unity and collaboration, ultimately creating a more inclusive and harmonious workplace.

3. Embed DEI into Your Organization's DNA

Creating a socially responsible organization is not a fleeting trend. In today's world, the public is acutely aware of how businesses operate and whether they exhibit discriminatory or exclusive practices. Organizations are being scrutinized for their lack of diversity and inhumane business practices. To ensure long-term success, organizations must integrate DEI principles into their core values and practices, guided by knowledgeable individuals who can drive meaningful change, rather than superficial diversity measures.

4. Stop "Othering" Others

In a world that has witnessed increasing polarization, the practice of 'othering' persists. 'Othering' occurs when we label individuals as belonging to subordinate groups or communities. We've observed this in historical tragedies like the Holocaust, ongoing issues in our Indigenous Peoples communities today, and even in workplace settings where individuals from various backgrounds interact. The essence of inclusivity speaks for itself, as 'othering' stands in stark contrast to it.

A subtle shift in perspective can yield significant benefits. Those who differ from us possess unique and valuable perspectives that contribute to a rich tapestry of ideas and experiences. Embracing inclusivity doesn't diminish us; instead, it empowers us to appreciate and learn from the diversity that surrounds us.

As we move forward, let's not merely focus on awareness but also on developing our intrinsic qualities of empathy, inclusivity, and understanding. These values are crucial in making meaningful progress in the realm of DEI, ensuring a more equitable and harmonious future.


Source: Inclusive Leadership: Skills for an Evolving Workforce| Ivey Business School | Western University | Kim Messer, Barnini Bhattacharya, Shannon Rawski, Erin Huner and Martha Maznevski


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