Having diversity in the ranks and working on making the organization more inclusive is a commendable first step. However, diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts do not automatically lead to an equitable organization. Creating pathways to make an organization equitable require different approaches and processes.
Take a look at the guidelines below to see what changes might need to occur in your organization:
- Start by acknowledging historical colonial realities. Organizations do not exist in a vacuum. They are intricately connected to the land, to the communities and to the contexts they operate in.
- Communicate your mission, vision and values to dismantle structures of discrimination and prejudice. A statement articulating the above is a good beginning.
- Set expectations. Recognize that this is hard work and involves long-term efforts. Short bursts of momentum are naturally limited in scope and cannot achieve long-term results. Focus on the long-term work to address the root of the problem.
- There is a problem. And it requires a change in mindset. The business case for D&I is often the primary driver for organizational inclusion. However, centering equity requires the recognition of the importance of the ethical case for D&I. Ask the question: At the end of the day, if there were no financial benefits, would we cease to do the ‘right’ thing? While it is nice to have a business case, it is incredibly important to create an organizational culture that values equity simply because it is ethical.
- Identify the pioneers. Who are the Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour in your organization who have been at the heart of the wider struggle through their lived experiences? What are their needs and perspectives? Center the pioneers. D&I work tends to showcase D&I champions and allies who support the cause and deservedly so. But equity cannot be solely built around the voices, motivations, needs and designs of allies.
- Ask the following questions across the different levels in the organization:
- Is there diversity? Who belongs in the organization?
- Is there inclusion? Who experiences a sense of belonging in the organization?
- Is there equity? To whom does the organization belong? Who benefits?
- Walk the talk. Consult pioneers and stakeholders, draw up and implement an organizational ‘equity plan’ to make changes across policies and processes.
- Fund tangible efforts to move the needle. Invest in education and training, in raising awareness and create real growth opportunities for pioneers within the organizations.
- Foster a sense of collective accountability. Set measurable goals and equity centered evaluative measures in place to ensure the goals are met.
- Share the power and the liberation that comes with humanizing and co-creating equitable spaces within the organization and by extension within communities.
Joenita Paulrajan PhD. leads the Equity and Inclusion program at UBC Extended Learning (The University of British Columbia). She develops and facilitates interactive and engaging online learning experiences that support individuals and groups as they try to effectively center equity and inclusion in their workplaces and communities. Learn more about the Equity and Inclusion and Anti-Racism programs at UBC Extended Learning.