Making DEI Sticky Within Your Organization – Part 2

This post is a continuation of our previous post in which we asked two of our Technology Inclusivity Initiative (TI2) Steering Committee members, LaToya Staten (Strategic Projects Specialist at Fearless) and Dr. Charles Lu (Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion at The Johns Hopkins University) to provide insights on how Maryland organizations can make their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusivity sustainable for the long term. You can read the previous blog post here. And here is more of what they had to say on this subject.

The Journey to DEI Requires More Than Talk

Yes, it is important to talk about DEI in leadership meetings. But we all know the expression, “All talk and no action.” It’s important that the talk be backed up with a plan, action on that plan and policies. Otherwise, you risk frustrating, alienating or even losing team members, especially if you’ve engaged them in surveys, focus groups or meetings to get their thoughts and ideas and then do nothing with them.

The plan should be a comprehensive organization-wide plan. However, to improve outcomes, consider breaking the plan into roadmaps (goals, strategies and action items) for different individuals and/or departments. This makes the plan more do-able, helps ensure that everyone is considered, involved and invested in the plan and eliminates the tendency to designate and rely on one individual within the company to carry the DEI torch for the entire organization, especially if it is someone with no experience doing so. It is also critical to remember that elements of the plan may need to be shared with individuals from outside of your organization. For example, if you use recruiters for your hiring needs, they need to know of your desire for a more diverse pool of candidates and may need to be educated on your definition of diversity and given tips for expanding the eligible candidate criteria.  The recruiters you hire should also be adept with where diverse talent pipelines exist and how to strategically market to those candidates.

A Few Tips for Developing Your DEI Plan

  1. Look to community resources for idea sharing, mentoring, partnering, learning. Example: Maryland Tech Council and its Technology Inclusivity Initiative programs and participants. Take MTC’s DEI in Action Pledge and join the community of organizations who are committed to improving their DEI and embarking on the journey together.
  2. Do an organizational DEI audit to identify areas in need of improvement and areas of strength. In fact, areas of strength would be ideal to bring to discussions among those you connect with in item #1 above.
  3. Rely on outside consultants for the assessment, plan development and execution, employee training, etc. if you don’t have the expertise within your organization to do so. If creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive company is important enough to you, invest in the experts to help make it happen. But remember, just like every organization is not the same and is not in the same place in its DEI journey, all DEI consultants are different as well. Do your due diligence to find one that meets your organization’s specific needs.
  4. It’s okay to be uncomfortable throughout the process. Talking about diversity, equity and inclusion and an organization’s shortcomings in those areas can be very uncomfortable. When you pledge to make DEI a priority across your organization and start taking actionable steps towards your DEI goals, you are already further ahead than others who may not even be thinking about this for their own organizations. Grant yourself and your team the freedom to be uncomfortable and know that you aren’t alone in this journey.

As our conversation wrapped up, we asked Dr. Lu to answer this question: why should DEI matter to a company? His reply, “At its very core, it’s just good business. Demographics are changing. Consumers are changing, becoming more diverse than ever and becoming even more socially conscious. If you aren’t thinking about it and doing something about it, it’s bad business. You are going to miss the mark with consumers.” LaToya went on to share that a goal of MTC’s TI2 program is to be a conduit for discussions, resource and idea sharing, learning and connections to help Maryland’s tech and life sciences companies realize a competitive advantage through diversity, equity and inclusivity.  Hence the reason the TI2 mantra is “Inclusivity Is Our Competitive Advantage.”

For more information on the MD Tech Council’s Technology Inclusivity Initiative and how to get involved, click here.