DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Initiatives
This page is part of Activate Good’s Triangle Cause Wiki, a collaborative online knowledge base about Triangle area issues that can be tackled by locals through volunteer action.
Table of Contents
How You Can Help
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.
Meta-analysis on diversity trainings
After analyzing multiple studies regarding diversity training outcomes, researchers found that trainings which included active exercises and face-to-face instruction were particularly efficacious in changing attitudes concerning diversity (4)
The trainings are more effective for those who already hold diversity, equity and inclusion as important values. As we continue with promoting DEI initiatives, more research needs to be done to understand prior motivation of participants and how evidence-based practices can be implemented to influence these motivations (4).
Connected Community Issues
- Diversity And Inclusion: A Complete Guide For HR Professionals, Ideal (2021)
- The History of Diversity Training and Its Pioneers, Diversity Magazine (2007)
- Does Diversity Training Work the Way It’s Supposed To?, Harvard Business Review (2019)
- What Research Tells Us About Diversity Training, All Together (2019)
Interested in learning more about this issue? Check out some of these books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, and more.
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo (2018)
- 5 Ways to Improve Diversity Training, According to a New Study, Northwestern University
- The Principles Behind Successful Anti-Bias and Diversity Training, 360 Learning
- Diversity Training: What Works and What Doesn’t, Culture Amp
- Civil Rights Movement: Timeline, Key Events & Leaders, History
Documentaries and Videos
Podcasts and Other Resources
Thank you to the following contributors:
- Spring 2021:
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Last updated April 2021
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