Is DEI dead?

By: Cat Cuevas, Senior Director of People & Culture

This headline is catching the attention of many, especially in this polarized social-political landscape. As federal and state DEI legislation and funding come into question, are you wondering what the impact will be on your business and leadership? This kind of uncomfortable, complex, high-stakes, and often heated conversation should be held in community. So, let’s explore it together. Good news, not everything is dead.

In fact, here is what is alive and well:

Diversity. We are all unique individuals who belong to and contribute to our organizations and communities in different ways. That beauty can’t be erased. Full stop. And, any business that can’t accurately meet the needs of its diverse customers is going to lose its competitive advantage to those that can. The business case for diversity hasn’t changed.

Inclusion. At Unify we say, “To unite is to come together, to unify is to make whole.” Inclusion is a fundamental human drive to feel connected, welcomed and have a sense of belonging. It’s when humans lack inclusion and connection that we face severe impacts on our health and well-being. If you want your team’s cross-functional work to fail, get rid of inclusion. Inclusion is necessary for collaboration, problem-solving, innovation and overcoming obstacles. Any systems thinker will tell you that for an organization to work, it requires strong connections and relationships that are built on a foundation of inclusion.

Equity. Humans are unique. We each require different resources and support to feel our best, be our best and do our best. If a business wants to encourage poor performance, a sure way to create it is to prevent people from getting what they need to be their best. A big part of every people leader’s job is to help remove barriers for their team members. This isn’t new, nor is it changing.

DEI always has and likely always will be challenged. Here are five reflections you can think about as you navigate this new world of DEI and some actions you can take as well.

01/ Leaders, you aren’t on the sidelines. Whether you want it or are ready for it, or not, you are on the playing field. Every decision you make creates our shared reality and answers the question, “Is DEI dead?” Stop asking the question and start showing the world your answer.

02 / Participate consciously. Let’s think more critically together. Who is in the conversation and what stake do they have in DEI work? Who benefits from and who is harmed by the debate over whether DEI is dead? What dialogue have you participated in, and what have you learned about yourself through the conversation?

03 / Focus on the work. What action have you taken with your leadership team and employees to ensure a more diverse, inclusive, accessible and equitable environment regardless of the debate?

04 / Actions speak louder than words. What DEI beliefs and practices are fundamentally aligned to your company’s values, operations and legacy? What DEI beliefs and practices are at the core of your personal and leadership values and behaviors? What are you keeping alive through your actions? How are you mentoring up, down and across your organization in ways that model an appreciation for diversity, a stance on inclusion and a commitment to equity?

05 / What are your outputs, results and impact? DEI and business share common ground regarding a focus on measuring impact (not good intention). Who are the customers of not only your products and services, but your leadership and what impact are you having on them? Do your results show that DEI is alive and well?

DEI is not dead because it is alive within each of us, every day, through our thoughts, beliefs, actions and results.

What actions will you take today to keep it alive?