By: Jordan Stosic
The term ‘general market’ in marketing/advertising is no longer applicable, as a new diverse multi-cultured market emerges. In fact, researchers project that by 2045 non-Hispanic white people will no longer represent the majority in the United States, and in less than a decade, the population under the age of 30 will be a majority non-white. This shift in demographics will impact our national identity, politics and generational gaps according to sociologists and demographers.
So, how can a person or business anticipate this change and use it to become successful? In today’s blog I’m going to share what I learned about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at the Plank Centers Annual DEI Summit, as well as some useful insights to answer this very question.
The Plank Center, an organization whose mission is to develop and recognize the outstanding diverse leaders in the public relations industry, held their third DEI summit this month. I was one of ten scholarship recipients awarded to attend this summit and gala where I furthered my professional development. I achieved this growth by learning how to develop what is called a ‘DEI Mindset,’ one I hope you develop after reading!
What is DEI?
According to speaker Teneshia Jackson Warner, founder and CEO of EGAMI Group, DEI can be described as a ‘Dance Party.’ As she stated at the Plank Center Summit, “Diversity is giving everyone an invitation to the party, equity is everyone choosing a song to play, and inclusion is everyone dancing to the music.” DEI protects employers and employees by focusing on the creation of diverse teams with an inclusive workspace and equal opportunity. By focusing on the unique perspectives each individual has, a team gains a wider range of talent with improved productivity and problem-solving skills. DEI is more than just diverse people; it is diverse thought and protection.
What are the Benefits of DEI?
Employees are more likely to support DEI if they understand the many potential advantages it offers. This is probably why countless organizations, institutes and associations have recently come out with lists of DEI benefits. Below I’ll synthesize a few key take-aways that resonate with me as an emerging professional.
For starters, according to Forbes, DEI impacts the bottom-line with inclusive companies being 120 percent more likely to hit financial goals. Further, DEI can improve work life for employees and that success can be seen in their performance. For example:
DEI offers employees a way to feel safe, respected, and connected. Diverse teams are more creative, innovative, and generate more business opportunity. Employees have higher morale and are more likely to stay within a company with DEI efforts. These teams provide those unique perspectives that can deconstruct an old and outdated method of business and turn it into something new and fresh.
Even though the benefits of DEI have clear and quantifiable success, there are still some factors to consider that might make one weary. The implications of DEI are important to understand to advance forward from them.
What are the implications of DEI?
The ongoing debate of diversity and unconscious bias in business and media can have negative effects on DEI. However, doing something is better than doing nothing in the eyes of the consumer. With this in mind, here are a few points from a recent blog written by Michelle MiJung Kim from Awaken.
- DEI fatigue is real, the constant exposure to tragedy and injustice leads people to feel less hopeful and care less over time.
- There is often a lack of data, meaning there is no way to quantify inclusion and equity which has made benchmarking success and progress difficult to analyze.
- Executive leaders are oblivious, scared or frustrated with DEI conversations.
- The definition of diversity is up in the air with many debating what aspects of identity beyond race, sexuality, and gender are important to consider as well.
- Investing in employee resources can be costly.
Despite the implications, DEI is still worth exploring as the benefits outweigh any negative aspect. After knowing what hurdles DEI is faced with, you should be able to start having open conversation to jump past them.
What are the strategies to advance DEI?
During a workshop with Teneshia Jackson Warner and Andréa Richardson, the executive vice president of DEI at Zeno Group, at the Plank Center DEI Summit, we learned how to push ourselves, businesses and organizations to be more and do more. The tips I learned are as follows:
- Lead with cultural competency: being competent means having the skills, knowledge, and attitude to create authentic relationships.
- Tackle bias relentlessly: bias works its way into every company, so you must be aware of how speak up.
- Identify, understand, and tackle personal barriers: everyone has personal bias and opinions, but they should not interfere with business.
- Embrace conscious inclusion: homogeneous teams lose diversity of thought, impacting the bottom line.
- Master the art of empathy: a necessary component of creating meaningful relationships.
- Value the lived experience of others: someone who has seen another side of the table can provide a perspective you lack.
- Seek and solicit diverse perspectives: cultural fit is not as important as skill qualifications—cultural fit hires lead to homogeneous teams, with similar experiences and viewpoints.
- Creating safe spaces for others: team members need to feel safe to share parts of themselves to be acknowledged and heard. Not only after tragedy—created throughout the work cycle, regardless of timing.
- Manage up, down, and across: consult every opinion, regardless of experience level.
- Recognize the D, the E and the I: consider how diversity, equity, and inclusion are independently important, but mutually beneficial.
- Our goal as professionals is to inspire and be inspired with success, not forging alone but bringing along. As we enter a new year and a new era, we need to think about the people entering this time with us as well. The world as we know it is becoming more diverse and there is no way to stop it, only diversify with it. By developing that DEI mindset, you are already one step into the future of change. We are never too old to learn something new or be reminded of past lessons that can guide us to the right step. It is our responsibility to right wrongs and uncover biases to progress forward on an individual and brand level. By doing so, your business and the employees working for it will thrive.
The day DEI loses its importance is the day we are diverse and inclusive; DEI is the future. We must inspire diversification in not only our industries, but in the world.
If you want to be the best in the world, you must have the world on your side.
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