There has been a big push for diversity and equality in the workplace over the last decade or so. Many businesses make a show of committing to these policies, but who is there to make sure they actually follow up?
A DEI board can help hold businesses accountable, while also creating a positive company culture.
What is a DEI board?
A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion board serves to help ensure that a company’s values are reflected in its hiring and leadership-related decisions. Basically, it’s a set of people that helps to make sure businesses do what they say they are going to do when it comes to diversity and equality.
It’s easy for a company to say that they care about diversity and equality. But without concrete action, it’s all just talk. A DEI board makes it concrete, both for the consuming public, and the people working for the company.
A Clear Statement of Intent
Company culture is, as a concept, somewhat vague and mealy. Who really understands what it takes to make a culture in the outside world, let alone within the context of a workplace? Companies make their statements of intent, and brand on the strength of their stated values, but if these ideas aren’t lived and breathed every day within the workplace, they can begin to feel like a publicity stunt pretty quickly.
A DEI board establishes diversity and equity as a fundamental concern and objective of the business in question. It’s a clear, tangible investment in time and money that employees can look to any time they are unsure of what their company believes in and prioritizes.
Ok, but how different is a DEI board from your standard statement of intent?
And that’s true enough. Just having a board isn’t going to produce the results that employees that care about diversity and equity will be looking for. It does, however, lay the groundwork for progress.
If employees see that and can recognize that concrete steps are being taken to further the goals of diversity and equity in the workplace, it will go a long way towards not just improving the company culture, but also making sure that people from every background feel comfortable and appreciated in their place of work
Meet Andrew. Andy, if you’re his friend. Andy is a pretty sharp guy. Valedictorian in high school. Graduated from a state school with honors on the strength of a full-ride scholarship. Then, on to a graduate school with quite a bit of pedigree, over on the east coast. Yeah, you’ve heard of the school but Andy doesn’t mention it much. He’s modest.
He knows what he wants. A respectable starting salary that will help absorb the cost of his loans, and a position with upward mobility potential that will allow him to pursue the lifestyle he’s always dreamed of with his signature vigor.
Andy is an African American. He doesn’t assume that he will encounter prejudice everywhere he goes, but when he looks at the leadership of a particular company and sees nothing but old, pale faces, he also doesn’t assume he will be the one to break the mold.
Businesses with a DEI board or other similar initiatives hold tremendous appeal to Andy, and people like him. It creates an aspirational environment. People from all walks of life know that if they work hard and make a splash they will be rewarded regardless of anything else.
That’s good for the company culture, of course, but it’s also good for the company. Businesses want to establish an environment in which all of their employees can be confident in the value of hard work. With a DEI board, talented individuals know that their effort can take them places. Consequently, they will be more eager and willing to work hard and pursue new opportunities.
Reduces the Risk of Accidental Offense
“Offense,” is very nearly a political phrase these days. Some people think that everyone is offended all the time. Other people think that there are too many who aren’t sensitive enough. In the middle of this conversation, there is a large majority of people who don’t want to cause offense to anyone, regardless of the social context.
And yet, despite most people’s best intentions, it sometimes happens that offense occurs anyway. A natural consequence, perhaps, of interacting with people from backgrounds that you don’t understand or haven’t experienced before.
A DEI board can help establish standards that ensure no one needs to feel culturally minimized or dismissed within the workplace. It’s not a question of policing language or accusing people of bigotry. It’s all about making sure that everyone at work has the tools and understanding they need to treat their peers with respect.
Inclusive language is a simple, easy, and free way to improve company culture, and simply make sure everyone feels like they are getting the respect they deserve.
Provides a Diversity of Opinion
Finally, a DEI board, particularly when it is diverse in its own right, helps infuse more voices and perspectives into the workplace. It’s too easy for a company to assume a monolithic hum as its perspective. Often this happens accidentally. The company founder or founders are from a specific cultural group. They hire more people out of that group, and so on until there is next to no diversity.
It’s an accident, yes, but one that can be difficult to correct without deliberate action. A DEI board is a strong step in the right direction, pumping different perspectives into the company immediately.
We talked about how this makes things a little more comfortable for people from backgrounds not often reflected in the corporate setting. It also just improves overall operations within the company. Diversity isn’t just valuable for its own sake. It’s valuable because it provides businesses with a unique set of opinions and voices.
Your business probably doesn’t just cater to one group of people. So why would you want everyone who makes the decisions to be from the same background? With a DEI board, you help ensure that your company leadership is as diverse as your clientele base.