Blog Post

What Is “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”?

Published November 1, 2022 | by Groundswell | 7 mins read
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Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. The concepts aren’t new but they’re more important than ever. Most companies have some sort of DEI initiative. But diversity, equity and inclusion in today’s workplace go beyond the concept of equality. Whether you’re looking to optimize the framework you already have or are starting from the beginning, it’s good to understand DEI in greater detail. As the world becomes increasingly diverse, DEI is a business imperative. 

The Components of DEI

So, if DEI is not equality, what is it? It’s perhaps best to address that question by first understanding each of the components of DEI and how they look in action.

What Is Diversity?

Workplace diversity starts with hiring people from different backgrounds and life experiences. Although early definitions centered around race and gender, diversity also applies to ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, background, education, personality traits and more. And it’s not just about bringing in diverse people, it’s also about ensuring that these valuable employees can participate and contribute in ways that benefit the individual, the company and society at large. 

What Is Equity?

Equity is a term frequently conflated with equality. The terms are similar but when companies pursue equality over equity the outcomes will be strikingly different. Equality is about treating everyone the same regardless of what they need to succeed and despite the systemic inequities that have existed for generations. Equity, on the other hand, recognizes that historically unequal access is inherent in economic, educational and social structures. So what’s required is the application of different methods so that everyone has an opportunity to succeed. That’s how equity differs.

What Is Inclusion?

When the workplace is inclusive, employees feel valued and accepted as part of the larger organization. It happens without them having to become something they are not. Inclusive companies celebrate and encourage diverse ideas and approaches, giving everyone the same opportunities for advancement.

What Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Looks Like

As useful as it is to understand what DEI is, it’s equally important to understand what DEI is not. Superficial treatments of DEI initiatives predictably lead to less-than-stellar outcomes. Here are a few examples.

This is DEI:

  • A visually impaired worker is given a large, high-quality monitor and other low-vision accommodations.

This is not:

  • The weekly staff meeting is always held in the late afternoon even though the single parent who must attend has a childcare issue. 

This is DEI:

  • Resume screening during the hiring process is blind, eliminating names and addresses.

This is not:

  • Job candidate information on the resume helps decision makers identify candidates by gender, race, ethnicity or neighborhood. 

This is DEI:

  • The company conducts a regular pay gap analysis to ensure gender pay e quality.

This is not: 

  • Salaries are never included in job postings despite suspected discrepancies between men and women. 

This is DEI:

  • Religious and cultural holidays are acknowledged and employees are automatically given the time off to observe these occasions.

This is not:

  • The company holds a yearly Christmas party and other holidays, like Rosh Hashana, pass by without mention.

It’s not unusual for management to feel overwhelmed by the number of small details that impact their DEI efforts. It can seem impossible to do everything. It’s important to remember, however, that small gestures go a long way toward ensuring that DEI is ingrained in the culture and is a responsibility assumed by all, not just a yearly check-box initiative. Once DEI becomes business as usual, it will be as natural as taking a breath. When that happens, you’ll reap the benefits that accrue to a truly diverse organization.

How To Set Up DEI Strategy That Actually Works

Diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t new, but it’s more important now than ever before. That’s because the world is changing and so is the marketplace. Companies need diversity to innovate and grow to meet evolving needs. Diversity is important in the upper ranks, as well. In fact, when it comes to gender, companies in the top quartile of diversity are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile. 

Companies that currently have a DEI initiative can optimize it to ensure that it accomplishes their objectives. Those with no DEI framework can ensure that they build in certain components from the beginning. 

Here’s how to set up a strategy that works:

Start From the Top

A committed DEI program must have committed leaders. You don’t just need a sponsor; you need a top-down commitment to make change a priority. Your DEI effort goes beyond lip service. It changes the way employees work together. Tie DEI goals into your company objectives and values. That means that in addition to organizational data and metrics that really matter, you’ll need someone to hold managers accountable for meeting the objectives of the program.

Hire Good Resources 

Ensure that you put the right people in place. You may have the people internally to lead the effort but it never hurts to bring in outside consultants to facilitate the setup. DEI conversations can be tricky and the last thing you want is a ham-fisted approach that puts the people you need most on the defensive. DEI is going to be everyone’s job. 

Find Mechanisms to Expand the Dialogue 

Every good DEI initiative begins with a conversation. You’ll need to keep the conversation uplifting and productive. Affinity groups can help. They can give a voice to those who are underrepresented, provide input into critical decision-making processes, and help companies decide how and when to weigh in on important social issues. 

Recognize the Culture Change

DEI is a cultural change in most companies. You’ll need to examine your systems and policies, your language and even your values. Diversity doesn’t just happen. Companies that are diverse and inclusive get there through a series of deliberate and proactive decisions. There are reasons why there may not be qualified people from every community and identity in your workplace and why, when they do come, the outcomes may not be as expected. Culture change will require aligned systems to support the beliefs and behaviors you want to instill.

Find a Common Cause

Companies that truly believe in diversity reflect those values by showing up in the communities they serve. One of the best ways to participate in the many underserved world communities is through philanthropic activities. Such efforts are good for humanity, good for the planet and a great way to engage employees. It can be a challenge to find something the company can do together to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion values. Groundswell is one way to make giving an employee benefit as well as to embrace diversity as a corporate value.

Groundswell can get your corporate giving program up and running effortlessly. No more tracking of donation receipts or vetting nonprofits. Each employee is set up with a personal giving account established just for them. It works just similar to a 401(k), only it’s for charitable giving. Now your company can easily support diverse perspectives with a giving program that is equitable and inclusive.

Diversity Is Increasing. Are You Ready?

In the years to come, the people you hire will be increasingly diverse, coming from different backgrounds and life experiences. This diverse perspective will help shape both your culture and your destiny. Your company will need to invest time and energy to yield the benefits promised. 

In the ever-changing business landscape, companies must be able to adapt and evolve. The concepts of diversity and inclusion are not new, but are becoming more important than ever before. With a diverse group of employees, companies can gain new perspectives, learn from one another and become stronger as a result. Start today with Groundswell.

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