DEI: Moving Beyond Words to Tangible Impact

Friday, January 29, 2021

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By Rhyan Zweifler, Noetic Search

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. ~ James Baldwin

Building and sustaining a diverse team and board has always been important but with the increased visibility and public conversations about DEI, social justice, and being an anti-racist, organization requires explicit, intentional proactive measures to achieve sustainable change.

Clear metrics are needed so that the entire organization understands how each person plays a role in ensuring an inclusive culture. The metrics should go beyond racial, gender and sexual orientation composition of the team and board. Where are individuals placed? Are they in leadership positions? How openly is social justice discussed in the organization? What forums have been created to allow team members to share experiences? How is implicit bias identified and addressed?

Some metrics that can be put in place to move toward an anti-racist organization might include:

  • Evaluate vendor contracts to ensure that there are contracts with women or minority owned businesses. Are the contracts with businesses owned by people of color involved in senior level efforts such as visioning, strategic planning, auditing or are contracts more focused on lower level maintenance type services?
  • Create teams that engage staff at all levels of the organization to give support team members an opportunity to develop their professional skills. Who might you cultivate to move into leadership roles and be on a task force? How might you more deeply engage them?
  • Write job descriptions that focus on competencies rather than specific qualifications to help attract more candidates of color and/or non-traditional candidates. A major discussion centers around requirements for an undergraduate degree or higher. Are years of experience an acceptable alternative to higher education? If so, might this allow greater access?

In the world of executive search, building diverse candidates is a primary focus. However, working with a board that does not reflect diversity, makes it challenging to recruit individuals of color to leadership roles. Having a person of color at the helm of an organization will only be successful if there is an ongoing effort to build diversity throughout the organization. While words are easy to say, implementation is hard to do. Truly embracing racial equity is an ongoing practice that needs to be cultivated every day at all levels of the organization from the board to the support team and everyone in between.

An organizational culture that makes an authentic long-term commitment to transparent and courageous conversations will not only be a great place to work for everyone, it also has the potential to increase productivity and inspire creativity.

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