The DEI Journey is Messy: 8 Things to Consider Asking
To me, privilege means I get to choose my career path – how I move along that journey, when I get to the “pinnacle,” if that destination even exists (shout out to my #ImposterSyndrome in the back!), and who I get to bring along with me. Helping Brian lead the Hummingbird Humanity team as the VP of Consulting is the epitome of privilege in my book, particularly on the heels of joining The Great Resignation and a mental health reckoning that brought me to my knees and pushed me beyond my comfort zone.*
In addition to supporting a diverse myriad of clients on their DEI journeys alongside a magnificent team, I have the honor of collaborating with thought partners like Brian – and in this instance, I’m taking my shot at adding my perspective to his eight-prong DEI approach to promote another level of curiosity and learning:
1) Make It Visible: In my experience, humility is the defining characteristic of great leaders. As we navigate the ongoing pandemic and racial reckoning that has propelled many organizations to begin their DEI journey, we must remember that this work is messy; it requires us to acknowledge our humanity. And being transparent in the messiness of the DEI journey can feel counterintuitive when Corporate America has taught us that presenting the perfect image is the goal. So I propose we each ask ourselves, “Who are my key stakeholders? “How would they define transparency and authenticity?”
2) Invite Conversation: At Hummingbird, we discuss our role as culture-change practitioners for our clients and how we are often the architects of trust. Building bridges that allow for conversations to occur is pivotal to the work of developing a human-centered workplace. Consider these questions for self-reflection: “Do I build or tear down bridges? Do I create spaces for meaningful discussion or debate?”
3) Analyze Data: Having spent over 20 years in corporate settings, I believe that what gets measured gets done. Period. Leverage those mechanisms – stats, reports, charts, year over year change – to drive change. Objective data is hard to refute. Leverage these questions on your DEI journey: “Who holds the data? How is it being measured (or not measured) today? What story needs to be told with this data to drive change?”
4) Build Partnerships: My mentor once described DEI as a 1,000-step journey. Some of us are at step one, crawling to step two. While some people are at step 500, sprinting to step 501. As long as we’re moving forward, slowly or quickly, missteps or pauses or jump-starts ahead, forward momentum and the realization that none of us run this marathon alone is crucial and what matters most. So ask yourself: “Who is running alongside me? Who should I invite to join me, and who should I leave behind? What are the lived experiences of those I’m running with?”
5) Try New Things: As an Asian-American woman, breaking out of the mold feels uncomfortable. I’ve been taught to assimilate and honor family unity or the “whole” rather than myself as an individual. Trying new things doesn’t quite fit into this equation that I’m daily unlearning. Unfortunately, systems that weren’t built by me or for people like me hundreds of years ago may need to be challenged. So put on your life jacket – rocking the boat is part of making progress on the DEI journey. I invite you to start small and consider: “What tiny change can I make today? How can I paint a picture of the quick wins and learnings to expand, accelerate, scale with the next new thing?”
6) Understand Your Business Case: Brian stole my thunder when it comes to questions to ponder when considering your business case–“Why are you doing this work? Is it because it’s the right thing to do? Is there an issue that sparked the conversation? Is there a business imperative?” I agree with Brian that it might be all of the above.
7) Design Your Strategic Roadmap. I’ve often heard that DEI needs to be “built-in, not bolted on” at any organization to have a sustainable impact. This visual has stuck with me because it’s powerful and accurate. Suppose folks aren’t aligned on the destination, the map, the duration of the trip, the role of the drivers versus the passengers, and a myriad of other travel factors. How can we expect to get anywhere together (and with the right mix of snacks!)? In addition, ask: “What are the building blocks to consider as I lay the foundation? What pace can my organization move (again, remember the 1,000-step journey), and how do I factor that in as I identify my priorities?”
8) Set Measurable Goals. I 100% agree with Brian on this one – and of course, it goes nicely with #3 (Analyze Data). Whether you’re driving DEI at a for-profit business, non-profit, church, government, etc., demonstrating incremental progress will help you keep the momentum going. So I’ll leave you with these considerations: “How do I bring my stakeholders along on the DEI journey via charts, infographics, employee stories, etc.? Are my goals S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based)? How do I share the learnings along the way, even when we fall short of some of our goals?”
By the way, stubbing your toe is part of the process. So how can your goals help you pivot, so you hopefully avoid the same toe injury in the future?
*Note: if you’re a woman of color and feel alone in your mental health journey, I’m always here to listen. We need each other. Reach out anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VP of Consulting
she / her
Bianca Chow is a diversity & inclusion consultant, facilitator, and storyteller with over 17 years of experience in D&I, brand management, marketing, global operations, communications, project management and employee engagement. Before joining Hummingbird Humanity, Bianca launched Fossil Group’s inaugural D&I efforts and led community-driven D&I initiatives at Ericsson.
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