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August 18, 2019

The Letter “D”…Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

by Lisa Koenecke

How interesting! When I typed “DEI” into a search engine, what do you think was the first thing that popped up? If you said, DEI, a Greek national electric company, I say, “OPA!” to you. Next, I found Dale Ehrnhardt, Inc. Go cars! Finally, I found what I was hoping for: Diversity Equity & Inclusion. This term is being used in workplaces to raise awareness of individual needs as well as to highlight the benefits of greater diversity in our workplaces. It’s pretty common to hire people who look and think like us — how about where you live/work? I have to say that is my truth. As a lesbian, I often feel like I am THE diversity in the room, so I have used that as an opportunity to educate those around me with lots & LOTS of rainbows!

What is the meaning of diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Thanks for asking! And thanks to our friends at SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) for their definition. Inclusion, while closely related, is a separate concept from diversity. SHRM defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success. Mar 6, 2014.” If you want to learn more about building a business case for diversity and inclusion, please go to SHRM’s website for a great resource.

As a school counselor, diversity training was always a part of back-to-school pre-service work. We might have used the terms “Celebrate Diversity” or made bulletin boards to reflect our student body. I bring up the school examples because I am now working at a university and I want to bring my message to the business world.

One of the first steps in raising DEI in your organization is to raise awareness through a company- or school-wide definition of what DEI means to you. A great example to get you started on this path comes from the University of Michigan.

Erica McCool, this one goes out to you!

Defining diversity, equity and inclusion

At the University of Michigan, our dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. It is central to our mission as an educational institution to ensure that each member of our community has full opportunity to thrive in our environment, for we believe that diversity is key to individual flourishing, educational excellence and the advancement of knowledge.

Diversity: We commit to increasing diversity, which is expressed in myriad forms, including race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, (dis)ability status and political perspective.

Equity: We commit to working actively to challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination. We are committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status.

Inclusion: We commit to pursuing deliberate efforts to ensure that our campus is a place where differences are welcomed, different perspectives are respectfully heard and where every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. We know that by building a critical mass of diverse groups on campus and creating a vibrant climate of inclusiveness, we can more effectively leverage the resources of diversity to advance our collective capabilities.

Chief Diversity Officer Robert Sellers often has emphasized the importance of considering all three topics – diversity, equity and inclusion – which he likened to various aspects of attending a dance:

“Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party.

“Equity means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist.

“And inclusion means that everyone has the opportunity to dance.”

https://diversity.umich.edu/about/defining-dei/ (2019)

Your call to action on Diversity Equity and Inclusion is to make sure your registration forms, artwork on the walls, and actions are in alignment with a positive atmostphere for all. Ask your human resources person/people if they have the DEI certification! And while it would be amazing for you all to adopt a DEI definition and policy, you know you can always start with a rainbow on your lanyard or desk! Let’s all dance together!

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

Read more from LGBT Resources A to Z

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