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Keep At It: Pushing Through the Struggles of DE&I Work

Keep At It: Pushing Through the Struggles of DE&I Work

Every person I know who is involved in diversity, inclusion, and equity work is exhausted. Down to their bones tired. And so worried that they're not doing enough.

DE&I is hard work. If it's not hard right now, that is probably an indication you're not digging deep enough, because we're getting to core systemic issues that have been in place for generations. Even in new (or new-ish) companies, those systemic issues enter the workplace with each of us whether we like it or not, whether the workplace is virtual or in-person. They're just too much a part of every other system in our lives for that not to happen.

This is an amazing opportunity for companies to demonstrate how they will show up for all of their stakeholders on issues - employees, board members, stockholders, and the public at large. Not just talk, but take action internally, with customers, and in the community.

[Related: Six Reasons Why Talent Development is More Important Than Ever]

Is this the catalyst that makes you dig in and re-evaluate your hiring and promotion processes? Or jointly participate in an industry task force with clients? Or engage in nonprofit work that directly impacts your community? What else can you do?

This work is not easy, and is not for those who demand quick results. Checking the box will get you nowhere. It is critical, strategic work vital to the future of every organization. Sticking your head in the sand guarantees your demise.

With the shift to working from home, and the windows into our personal lives that have come with it, it is impossible to draw a line between social justice matters and the workplace. We cannot pretend we're not all interconnected anymore.

Social media has created a multitude of venues that show the extent to which the community at large expects companies and their leaders to take a stand. It's not just Gen Z or Millennials - this is a cross-generational expectation. It probably always was - we just didn't have the same means to hear it.

[Related: When DE&I is an "Initiative," It's at High Risk for Being Cut]

Done right, DE&I work moves an organization as a collective along a change curve. We're all on our own place on the curve, and need to move others with us, making it at least twice as hard. Add to this the fact that this change is highly emotional, just like all the new challenges brought to the forefront by COVID-19.

Across your leadership team, there is a good chance everyone is not aligned on exactly when, where, and how to engage in social justice matters. It is vital that you gauge the extent of the spectrum, raise awareness of assumptions and roadblocks, and start to bring people along. That is where change management work can deliver exceptional results.

So keep at it. Keep pushing forward. Be sure to take stock in what you've achieved so far, and certainly slow down enough to listen to your stakeholders as you work through these issues. Give them a little grace - assume the best and don't push an agenda. Humility goes a long way, and you will get that grace back in multitudes.

No one has a playbook for how to operate today or going forward. The best we can do is take advantage of this opportunity to improve, learn, and improve some more.

[Related: Expansion: The Missing Link to Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion]

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Michelle Bogan's mission is to help companies create equitable workplaces. She is the Founder and CEO of Equity for Women, where she uses an analytics-based approach to identify where inequities exist, what they cost, and how to fix them. She previously worked at Accenture, Kurt Salmon, Macy’s Inc., and The Walt Disney Company. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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