Article: DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Initiatives

DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Initiatives

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About DEI Initiatives in Our Community

Overview of Issue Impacts

DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) initiatives are usually conceptualized as an official strategy of an organization, institution, etc. to actively recruit employees and conduct business in ways that are equitable, inclusive and reflect the diversity of the general population. This kind of mission usually includes things like diversity trainings and seminars to educate workplaces on topics related to DEI (1).

To understand how each facet of DEI contributes to a healthy and safe workplace environment, it’s first important to understand why these initiatives are needed, delving into the history of such efforts. Diversity and bias trainings actually date back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s. The egregious violence and backlash many activists faced during this time for their attempts to directly challenge structural racism and discrimination in U.S. institutions lead to said institutions including diversity education into their training curricula. This diversity education mostly involved training and interactions across racial difference, then expanded to gender difference in the 1970s and later included difference in sexual orientation and ability in the 80s and 90s (2). Generally, diversity education and training as it stands today focuses on understanding different identities, how to interact across those identities and how one’s identity can provide privileges and/or disadvantages in their day-to-day lives.

Given the history of diversity training and its roots as a direct result of visible violence and terror inflicted against minority communities, the importance of DEI initiatives is evident. As a result, groups and organizations are taking deliberate steps to 1) ensure their workforce reflects the demographic realities of the United States, 2) distribute resources and services in a fair and impartial way, taking into consideration past injustices and 3) making sure all individuals who either a) are employed with them or b) work with them feel like their identities are affirmed & validated.

Populations Affected by Issue

This issue affects all individuals, but primarily focuses on educating white individuals (more specifically white, cisgender, heterosexual men) concerning historically marginalized communities (racial/ethnic minorities, women, disabled individuals, LGBTQ+ individuals, religious minorities, etc.)

Global data indicates that previous diversity training has had some effects on attitudes towards individuals from marginalized groups, but no real effects on the behavior and actions of those targeted in interventions. One particular study found that, after completing a gender bias training, those who were previously least likely to acknowledge gender discrimination were now more likely to acknowledge that discrimination against women existed. However, no substantial change was observed in the behavior of the men and/or white employees involved in the intervention (3).

This disconnect has prompted a significant investment into developing strategies and direct interventions more like the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives we see today. In this way, more emphasis is placed on what actionable items can take place to ensure environments are safe for those with marginalized identities, as well as making sure that those strategies included are sustainable over time.

Fast Facts

Additional Resources

Interested in learning more about this issue? Check out some of these books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, and more.

Page Contributors

Thank you to the following contributors:

  • Spring 2021:
     Olivia Morales

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Last updated April 2021

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