As I take a step back and reflect on the evolution of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) of yesteryear in contrast to where we are today, I remain optimistic in terms of the approaches to the work across industries. The work has gone from what I have previously described as “a reaction to a moment” to “a movement with real strategic and proactive intent”. I continue to be impressed – and more importantly – inspired by the unwavering leadership and steadfast commitment that I have seen in recent years.

I have seen action with a sense of urgency around issues pertaining to the workforce and culture – all key performance
indicators of success in DEI; and I have been most impressed by the relentless focus to ensure that DEI is not simply about “doing the right thing” or relegated to just the optics of representation numbers versus what it feels like to those who have been historically underrepresented or marginalized in the workforce. Although advances are being made across industries, there is a lot more work to be done.

Many organizations have been on a positive trajectory, which has resulted in material progress year-over-year on DEI efforts. With the convergence of societal injustices like the George Floyd murder and a global pandemic, the discourse and engagement on racial and social justice both inside and outside the workplace has increased exponentially.

In recent years, there has been an increased level of consciousness around inequities that plague underrepresented communities – there has been the rise of the MeToo Movement, Black Lives Matter, Asian hate crimes, Antisemitism, attacks on the LGBTQ & Transgender communities – the list goes on. In some cases, these inequities have made their way into our workplaces heightening the expectations of employees, prospective candidates, clients and regulators. These incidents across the global business landscape have resulted in a call to action like I have never seen before. The commitment to DEI of most companies and industries has increased, leading to more focused efforts around recruiting, retention, transparency, accountability, products, services, charitable giving and social impact initiatives. There have also been public declarations and pledges made by corporations, billions of dollars disseminated, DEI and racial equity audits conducted, company policies adjusted, increased transparency on DEI goals and associated statistics which are now being tied to performance management systems and compensation. But the question still remains: “Are we doing enough?” “What else should we do to enhance impact?”

The business case for DEI is crystal clear (although some might disagree) and the stakes have gone up both internally and externally for most organizations. The societal incidents that have occurred over the past two years were an inflection point for a lot of organizations and the commitment to DEI has become even more essential. Many firms have risen to the occasion to ensure that DEI is a key business enabler that will propel their success forward. Commitments have turned into action, and we are now starting to see the constructive disruption that is required to accelerate progress. I am encouraged.

DEI still matters! Societal events oftentimes dictate how the work evolves in our workplaces. Like most strategies, there will be ups and downs. Change is hard for most people. But, if you are up for the challenge, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

DEI has been my life’s work. I have spent well over 25 years as a diversity practitioner. My intention has always been clear – and that is to leave workplaces in better condition than when I arrived. As Chief Diversity Officers, we have the power to transform systems, processes and policies. Change happens over time, not overnight.

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