Your DEI Priorities Slipped

Making commitments to DEI while anti-racism protests are in the news is one thing – but what about after the news cycle?

It’s been 3+ years since George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officers, and protests reminding the United States that Black Lives Matter filled streets across the country. These protests inspired many tech companies to put out anti-racist statements and commit to implementing real change to their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programming.

And, yet, this tweet from September 2022 says it all.

screenshot of a tweet by Anthony Perillo, Ph.D. (@ADPerillo) that says, "Hon, is everything ok? You've barely touched your 2020 DEI initiative." The tweet is dated 9:39am on September 1, 2022.

The statements these companies made in June 2020 were reactive, and it turns out reactive DEI initiatives aren’t sustainable.

But DEI must be sustained.

Is this where I shift to explaining all of the benefits of having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace? Probably, but McKinsey has been publishing data to prove it for years. And even more importantly, our colleagues and friends who are people of color, LGBTQ+, living with disabilities, and more have been telling us!

So, let’s assume you are absolutely convinced that DEI work matters, and yet it continually slips to the bottom of your to-do list. Let’s change that together – starting right now.

You can do more.

We’ve got to start with some Real Talk: if DEI consistently falls to the bottom of your to-do list, you’re probably white, white-passing, or have other dominant identities (in contrast with: marginalized identities). It’s also possible that your priorities are defined by someone else who has a dominant identity.

Whatever your situation is, it is an unearned privilege to deprioritize DEI efforts in lieu of other projects. Folks with marginalized identities don’t have that luxury. It’s crucial to acknowledge this for many reasons, but the one I want us to lean into is that you have the capacity to do more. Our colleagues carry this burden all the time because they don’t have the privilege to put it down. As a white person, I do have that unearned privilege; nonetheless, I will continue to prioritize DEI. I hope after this reminder, you’ll be ready to do the same.

Allowing DEI to be pushed to “next quarter” or “not something we need to worry about right now” is an example of white supremacy. “I’m safe and that’s all that matters” is what you’re communicating to your workplace when you deprioritize DEI. If you’re reading this blog, promulgating white supremacy likely wasn’t your intention — but that’s no longer good enough. It’s time to show what you DO mean, and show it with your actions.

So… what do we do instead?

We need nuanced goals.

I’m not a huge fan of “DEI Goals”. These goals tend to look like:

  • 50% of hires in 2023 must identify as not cis-men
  • 33% of hires in 2023 must be BIPOC
  • 50% of all candidates at the recruiter screen stage must have marginalized identities

They look so right, don’t they?! They have everything goals are supposed to have: clear objectives, timelines, and are specific! But regardless of intention, just stating these goals won’t actually fix anything.

These goals are describing humans like they are simply statistics. And when we do DEI work (and generally, when we exist in this world!), we must see humans as nuanced individuals.

And on top of that, I’m not particularly motivated by these goals – are you? No wonder they fall to the bottom of our to do lists!

So, let’s zoom out and think about our goals overall.

Rather than having DEI goals as a separate objective, I want DEI to be embedded into ALL our goals. Every. Single. One. You’ll be amazed at how much harder it is to avoid the commitment to DEI then!

There isn’t one way to do this. In fact, I’m sure you can find many articles that tell you how. (I like this one!) Choose what works best for you. Here are some questions I ask myself when I’m writing goals:

  • Does this goal explicitly state an objective related to diversity, equity, or inclusion? If not, how could I rephrase it to add that?
  • Does this goal center the needs of marginalized individuals? If not, what would it need to do so?
  • Could this goal uphold white supremacy or other dominant systems unintentionally? If so, how can I adjust it to be sure it does not?
  • Who has reviewed these goals other than me? If only I, or only people similar to me, have reviewed it, that means I need to get some additional perspectives.
Your goals should include the what – but also the how.

Let’s say you want to increase product awareness. That, in itself, could be the goal. However, to make DEI unambiguously as part of that goal, you should include how you want to achieve it.

We will increase product awareness by…

  • publishing 3 user stories this quarter that center the experiences of marginalized people.
  • conducting focus groups for feedback on our marketing language and making inclusive adjustments.
  • increasing social media engagement with campaigns that prioritize marginalized communities.

As you read these goals, you might wonder, “If we’re explicitly prioritizing marginalized folks, does that mean we’re explicitly deprioritizing everyone else?” Luckily, the answer is no. Research, in addition to life experience, shows again and again that when we center the needs of people at the margins, we build better products and processes for everyone.

Now it’s your turn.

Remember: the goals in June 2020 came from the right place – a place of empathy, critical thinking, and awareness. But if you haven’t met those goals and if you haven’t really moved the needle on DEI, then it’s time to try something new.

Many of you may be drafting your Q3 goals right now. For one quarter, commit to using this lens to build DEI into each and every goal. I suspect you’ll find DEI creeping up to the top of your to-do list – where it absolutely belongs. And hopefully, you’ll find yourself using this process again and again!

Learn more about our Author:

AnnE Diemer (she/her/hers) is an HR Consultant who prioritizes the human in HR. With eight years of recruiting, DEI, and HR generalist experience across tech startups and non-profits, AnnE is dedicated to supporting organizations who are ready to take a people-centered approach to HR. At Stripe, AnnE led initiatives focused on improving candidate experience, diversifying application pipelines, building university recruiting programs, and developing leaders within the company’s employee resource groups. In 2020, she brought these skills to political non-profits where she designed programs that improved equity in hiring, promoted self-care and sustainable work, led internship programs, designed performance reviews, and facilitated connections amongst staff as they worked remotely for the first time.

In her consulting practice, aedHR, AnnE approaches her work through a lens that holds contradictions: ​​How do we build great workplaces while also questioning capitalist systems? How can we work efficiently and move quickly while also prioritizing ourselves and each other as humans? When she’s not trying to answer these difficult questions, you can find her crocheting or riding her new bike around Washington, DC.

*Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.