This is Becoming Inclusive from The Kaleidoscope Group, where we’re thinking differently about diversity, equity, and inclusion. For more empowered people at work. We’re committed to real change and that begins with real conversations. Welcome in.
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The concept of workplace diversity isn’t new. It’s been around since the 1960s, growing out of the Civil Rights movements—which included the Women’s movement and Gay Rights movement. In a large part, these complimentary movements focused on fairness and social justice, not smart business per se. But since the early 2000s, etymology has evolved significantly. Now rather than simply referring to diversity, we see widespread adoption of the term DEI (sometimes DE&I), which represents diversity, equity, and inclusion, at least in the U.S. In Europe and Latin America, the “E” will often represent “Equality” as opposed to “Equity.” But let’s not get hung up on that for now.
The evolving nomenclature around DEI is mirrored in the way we now talk about gender and orientation. It’s almost “criminal” in some instances to refer to the less inclusive “Gay and Lesbian” community. It’s still used of course but mostly by older generations. Right or wrong younger people globally are approaching orientation in a more “inclusive” way by using the LGBTQ+ language. However, critics have a valid argument when they worry about too many “pluses” potentially diluting the focus on the primary populations within the community. While those concerns carry some weight, realistically we’re going to be using the more inclusive language moving forward whether we approve or not. The same applies to DEI—so rather than resist it might be best to accept it as an important business consideration and not just a social justice concern.
Why We Need Equity and Inclusion
When we first began the conversation of workplace diversity some decades ago most people interpreted that to be about representation only. Diversity for most of us back then meant people of different racial, ethnic, gender, and orientations were “represented” within an organization or even system. But that wouldn’t truly paint a complete picture. Representation is certainly a good thing, but it is, or was, compromised by concerns about “tokenism” and “quotas.”
Tokenism is defined in Wikipedia as “the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or gender equality within a workplace or educational context.” Of course, the same applies to quotas. Tokenism is rightfully considered little more than smoke and mirrors. A company or organization may have a very diverse workforce—but very little diversity or representation in management or leadership capacities. As a result, under-represented groups have few career paths or opportunities within those types of organizations. They may also not be equitably compensated for the same or similar work, or even receive equitable benefits.
This is why adding equity (or equality) and inclusion to the equation are so important today. True diversity in the workplace or beyond has to address equity and inclusion to be effective.
Looking Beyond Diversity
The Kaleidoscope Group’s weekly podcast Becoming Inclusive, hosted by Reggie Ponder and Kat Potts, dug into this topic in an episode featuring Kevin Strader, the firm’s manager of client services. Strader, Potts, and Ponder don’t hold back in honestly discussing how the evolving language around DEI is impacting businesses, organizations, and society at large. It’s real talk from a diverse and inclusive group of professionals—all coming from different backgrounds, offering different perspectives based on those backgrounds. Watch the episode here.
And subscribe to Becoming Inclusive with Kat Potts and Reggie Ponder for even more timely content and real talk about issues surrounding DEI.
Thanks for joining us, and a special thanks to our subscribers. Consider becoming one today. Becoming Inclusive is presented by The Kaleidoscope Group, your full-service Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion partner serving clients worldwide. Learn more and continue the conversation and kgdiversity.com