Let’s face it, DEI work can consist of a lot of talking, a lot of thinking, and not much real action. For years, we’ve been focused on awareness and education. So what has it gotten us? In 2021, we still have just 3% of executives or senior leaders in companies with at least 100 employees who are black.
We have companies who consider writing a statement on the wall and forming a committee as a successful DEI initiative. However, we can and should do better.
Doing better requires a commitment around DEI that goes deeper, does more, and can change our world. In the end, all DEI initiatives should focus on reducing the disparity gap between white and non-white communities. So what is your DEI initiative doing to narrow that gap? Pssst… your committee is not the answer.
First Get Real
Ok, so this work is hard. To do it well, you must be honest with yourself and what you want to accomplish. How will your actions contribute to the greater movement? Do you focus on increasing opportunities for people of color? Clear the advancement path within your company? Open up possibilities for non-traditional partners and add WMBEs to your supply chain? All of these practices will improve the lives of minorities. Will you establish a scholarship fund or an internship program for women and minority students as a part of your pipeline?
Look at the numbers
Every strategy requires you to commit to creating a baseline of data that is relevant to your organization. For example, we are working with a youth mentoring program that wants to encourage Title 1 students to attend college. However, they didn’t have the resources to collect the data to know what percentage of students (white and non-white) who went through their program actually attended college (and even graduated). Their new commitment to the DEI space requires them to shift resources to find out their success in this area. Imagine if they found that they could increase the percentage of non-white students who went on to college and achieved a degree. They could change the future for those communities.
NO, REALLY LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
This is one of the un-sexy and super challenging parts of this work. Data collection is time-consuming, pricy, and boring. Companies and organizations that want to have a deep impact must commit to data collection regularly. This means creating systems and processes that allow data to be collected, reviewed, and used easily and regularly. One company we work with took the time and commitment to figure out how to collect their data across several states and locations in order to impact their DEI work. They did this amidst a pandemic, staffing challenges, and a growing industry. The benefit is that they can now make strategic adjustments to their DEI strategies and measure their impact in real-time.
Use the numbers to make change
Let the fun begin. Reviewing baseline data leads to making adjustments and again watching the data. For example, the mentoring program could impact their success by working with traditionally black universities or colleges with a robust international program. Exposing minority youth to people who look like them, come from similar backgrounds, and attend college could have a lasting impact. By looking at the data over time, they will be able to adjust their efforts toward working strategies.
In the end, celebrate and share your successes and struggles. Although data collection is hard, tell others how you collected yours and how you leveraged that knowledge. Celebrate your milestones. Talk about your failures. The more we collectively commit to dig deeper and make a measurable impact, the more others will join us.
Write Connections | strategy + design, LLC. works with companies and nonprofits in all of their DEI efforts. Make the write connection with us.
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