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Advancing DEI: Why has it taken so long?

Amid the demands for equality, some corporations have taken the obvious initial steps such as penning letters of support or pledging financial assistance to align themselves with marginalized groups and those on the ground doing social justice work. However, the more challenging steps require organizations to take deliberate inventory and thoughtful introspection into their practices and processes that fall short and ultimately fail their stated desire for a greater meritocracy. This is work that must be purposeful, requires courage, and can be painful. As few organizations have historically made this work a priority, corporate America is still in the early stage of this much longer journey.

Barriers to Diversity

There are several reasons that change has not swept through the corridors of this nation’s corporations, including some of the following challenges:

  • Lack of prioritization – Not making this work a priority means many organizations are not on board with the level of investment required for systemic change to occur. Increasing diversity in the workplace is more than hiring a diversity officer or mandating that employees attend an annual training session. It is a total, all-encompassing commitment by the entire organization to do things differently and to create a new, improved workplace culture.
  • Not realizing your corporate culture is tied to the culture of broader society – Making systemic change is definitely not easy. One aspect that can make it impossible is if corporations fail to recognize that culture doesn’t stop and start at the door of the corporate lobby. Other cultures enter the building. They go up the elevators. They occupy the offices and meeting rooms. Corporate cultures are not immune to the broader cultural behaviors taking place beyond the lobby.
  • No proximity to diversity – Many corporate leaders have no proximity to diversity. This disconnect invariably lends itself to a lack of understanding of the problem, much less the solution.  Almost as importantly, the lack of proximity can lead to a lack of energy and passion to drive change, which is the critical fuel for every “hard” thing you do.
  • Ego is your enemy – This is the title for one of my favorite leadership books by Ryan Holiday. For some, ego and the corresponding inability to see your success as being a byproduct of more than your own hard work and personal intellect is a major obstacle.  When it comes to one’s successes, it is easier on one’s ego to dismiss luck or dismiss that privilege plays a significant role. Failure to acknowledge that there are systems that exist to benefit some groups while marginalizing other groups halts the conversation and ultimately inhibits any potential inclusion efforts.

Stay tuned for the upcoming piece where I’ll discuss how we best help organizations move forward.  In the meantime, if you are serious about improving your DEI, contact us to learn how Eskalera can support you – helping to develop skills across your entire organization, and driving systemic and sustainable change. Let’s move culture forward, together.