Why some companies say "diversity and inclusion" instead of "diversity and inclusion" (2023)


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The changing terminology reflects the new thinking of some consultants who claim that the traditional D.E.I. The strategies did not work as planned.

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Why some companies say "diversity and inclusion" instead of "diversity and inclusion" (1)

Conjennifer miller

jennifer milleris a freelance reporter covering America's cultural divides.

Woodward is a 153-year-old airline that required its employees to wear bow ties until the 1990s.

So Paul Benson, the company's director of human resources, knew that creating a company-wide diversity, equity and inclusion program would require a breakthrough. "Look at our organizational chart online and we're a purple and white senior leadership team," he said. But the staff was eager for a more open culture.

"People want to feel like they belong," Benson said. "They want to come to work and not feel like they have to sign in at the door."

Last summer, Mr. Benson began searching for a diversity consultant to do the job. He hoped to find a suitable former executive "to see the light of day."

Instead, a Google search led him to a black comedian and former media personality named Karith Foster. he is the CEOinvestment solutions, a consulting firm rethinking traditional diversity programming.

Ms. Foster said that companies must address racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism in the workplace. However, she believes that an overemphasis on identity groups and a tendency to relegate people to the role of "victim or villain" can weaken and alienate everyone, including workers of color. She says that her approach allows anyone to "make mistakes, say the wrong things sometimes and be able to correct them."

Mr. Benson was convinced. He recruited Ms. Foster to speak at the Woodward Summit last October.

Shortly after taking the stage, he asked everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands in response to a series of provocative questions: Have you ever locked the car when a black man drove by? Did you think that yes, Jews are really good with money? Did they question the intelligence of someone with a thick southern accent?


People raised their hands hesitantly, even in fear. When Mrs. Foster finished, almost all of her hands, including hers, were up.

"Congratulations. You are certified human beings," he said. "It's not about being right or wrong, it's about understanding when bias comes into play."

Mr. Benson was relieved. "He was sitting at a table with someone who started it all by hand," he recalls. “His body language from him says that this guy is not loyal. Some laughs and applause."

He said Ms Foster was helping people "feel good about yourself, like you're not an activist or you haven't been on this journey before, but let's see how we can move forward."

In other words, it helped them feel like they belonged in the conversation.

The topic of belonging has become a recent topic in the growing world of corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion programming.

Interest in creating more inclusive workplacesburstAfter the murder of George Floyd in 2020, many companies focused on addressing systemic racism and power imbalances, things that made boardrooms white and workers of color felt left out of office life.

Now, nearly three years later, some companies are shifting their focus to DEI, even renaming their divisions to include "affiliation." It is the era of the D.E.I.-B.

Some critics worry that it is about putting people at ease rather than systemic inequality or simply allowing companies to prioritize agreement over needed change.

"Belonging is a way for people who aren't marginalized to feel like they're part of the conversation," said Stephanie Creary, an assistant professor of management at the Wharton School of Business who studies corporate strategies for diversity and inclusion.

He believes that an abstract focus on ownership allows companies to avoid difficult conversations about power and the resistance that those conversations often generate. “The concern is that we are just creating new conditions, like integration, as a way to deal with that resistance,” Cray said.

Ms Foster argues that there will be no equality in practice if the people in power, "straight white men", feel left out of the conversation. Traditional village D.E.I. Practitioners "who want to sign up the most are the people who isolate themselves and outright reject them," she said.

Nonprofit Nonpartisan Business for Americarecent interviewover twenty managers in 18 companies and it turned out to be a common theme. "The way they introduced the D.E.I. has exacerbated divisions while addressing valuable issues," said Sarah Bonk, founder and CEO of the BFA. "It created a certain animosity, resentment."

That's why companies like Woodward are now hiring consultants who specialize in 'ownership' and 'bridge building'. They come to the aid of managers who fear that national divisions are seeping into the workplace, threatening to drive a wedge between colleagues and making everyone anxious and defensive.

Professor Creary agrees that these are real problems. "I see companies wanting to have a structured conversation about how it will help all of us together to allow us all to grow," he said. But he worries that "ownership" protects people who prefer to maintain the status quo. "There's still a large percentage of people who have a zero-sum mentality," he said. "If I support you, I will lose."

Bring your whole being to work.


The obsession with belonging is the result of a now widespread corporate standard: Put your whole self into work. If you have the freedom to work where you want and the freedom to discuss social and political issues that are important to you, ideally you will feel like you belong to your company.

Put Your Whole Self into Work arose before the pandemic, but it became something of a mandate at its height as companies tried to stem the wave of resignations. They also responded to concerns that many people feel left out in the workplace. According to a 2022 think tank report,Kokwal, about half of black and Asian professionals with a bachelor's degree or higher have no sense of belonging at work.

Last year, the Society for Human Resource Management conducted its first partnership study. Seventy-six percent of respondents said their organization prioritized participation in the D.E.I. strategy and 64 percent said they plan to invest more in collaborative initiatives this year. Respondents said that identity-based communities, such as employee resource groups, helped build rapport, while mandatory diversity training did not.

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, wishes we could have this conversation about identity and belonging. “In an era of increasing political polarization, many people's personalities don't match those of their colleagues,” said Hyde, who describes himself as a centrist. “I have heard from so many managers. They can't take it anymore: the constant conflict over people's identities."

In 2017, together with her colleague Caroline Mehl, they foundedInstitute for Constructive Dialogue, whose main product is the educational platform Perspectives. The tool uses online modules and workshops to help users discover where their values ​​come from and why people from different backgrounds may have contrasting values.

In 2019, CDI began licensing Perspectives to companies. Annual fees range from $50 to $150 for an employee license. Businesses can also book a menu of live training options ranging from $3,500 to $15,000 per day.

Allegis Global Solutions, a workforce solutions company with 3,500 employees, was an early adopter.

The platform has already helped the company navigate complex political situations. Last June, 26-year-old human resources coordinator Shakara Worrell was in a meeting when she learned that the Supreme Courtpitted Rowe against Wade. "The whole meeting was adjourned," Worrell said. "That's when I realized he wasn't the only one who just had his heart broken."

Ms. Worrell, who is mixed race, said she came to Allegis in part because belonging was a priority at the company. She remembers reading news about police brutality at her previous job and feeling that she had to suppress her emotions.

"I just remember sitting on my ankle and not being able to express my opinion," Worrell said. He recalled thinking, "I really don't belong."

Not so with Alec. There, Ms. Worrell is co-chair of the Elevate Task Force, a women's empowerment organization. After the Supreme Court decision, she and other members decided to hold a series of events to help workers digest the decision. When they informed Human Resources and the D.E.I. the groups were directed to Perspectives.

"Whether it's for or against, we wanted our people to feel good and be good," Worrell said.

And were they? Allegis said about 200 people attended the first meeting, which was held virtually. Ms. Worrell then went on to follow the only participant who sided with the court's decision.

"Although I was the only one going against the grain," recalled Ms Worrell, telling a friend, "I still felt like I had to share."


"Offensive Emphasis on Group Labels"

Irshad Manji, founder of a consulting firmCollege of Moral Courage, says the "almost offensive focus on group labels" is a big problem for leading diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. “All this almost forces people to form stereotypes. It turns out that I am a Muslim and a devout Muslim,” she said. "But that doesn't mean that I interpret Islam like any other Muslim."

Ms. Manji believes that today people use 'ownership' as a 'tacit acknowledgment that the traditional D.E.I. It didn't work out well."

What approach works? In 2018, Autodesk, a software company with 13,700 employees, began planning for a cultural shift.

Some employees were afraid of being offended, so they acted "falsely nice" and "passively aggressive," said Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk president and CEO. Others felt unsupported and did not speak up at meetings.

Autodesk has changed its name Diversity and Inclusion Team Diversity and Inclusion Team. Managers learned strategies to recognize and then deal with their defensive thinking.

They were given poker chips to "play" each time they spoke to avoid dominating the conversation.

The company paid bonuses to employee resource team leaders to signal their value. And Mr. Anagnost introduced himself as an executive sponsor of the Autodesk Black Network.

But the company also looked at equity. He moved the new office center from Denver to Atlanta, knowing it would be more likely to attract black engineering graduates there.

Autodesk regularly surveys its employees about their work experiences. After the culture shift, Anagnost said insurance scores increased for women and workers of color and decreased for white men.

"Then it calmed down," he said. “Yeah sure, okay, there will be some restrictions in some areas while you try to increase representation in others. But the threat level drops when you create the feeling that "we can all be together."

Audio production by Tally Abecassis.

A version of this article appears in print., Unit


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