Making DEI “Sticky” Within Your Organization

Earlier this year, the Maryland Tech Council invited members to take the DEI In Action Pledge, a commitment by Maryland organizations to choose actionable steps they can take over the next year to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. The pledge is a centerpiece of our Technology Inclusivity Initiative (TI2),  and we’ve been excited to see organizations across Maryland take the pledge and make meaningful changes in their workplaces. We have also noticed that pledges tend to include three common commitments. They are:

  • Discuss DEI topics regularly in leadership meetings
  • Ensure that all employees are given equitable access to professional development opportunities
  • Review our job descriptions and hiring processes to ensure we’re creating equal access to the job opportunities in our company and ensuring lack of bias

We asked two of our 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 these commitments more than a one-and-done program. How can we “bake it into” our culture, make it sustainable for the long term and ensure a positive impact in our talent attraction and retention efforts and ultimately, the organization’s bottom line? It’s what we refer to as “making DEI sticky”. Here’s some of what they shared with us.

Remember: Diversity is More Than Race & Gender

Race and gender are often the only two types of diversity organizations focus on and measure. Yet, there are other types that should or could be considered including: age, religion, disability (inclusive of physical, neuro, and hidden disabilities), sexual orientation, nationality, etc. Broadening your definition of diversity can impact the success of your DEI strategy and plan. Furthermore, diversity analysis and focus should include both internal and external groups (e.g., employees as well as vendors, suppliers, and contractors).

Don’t Stop at Diversity

Organizations may boast about making strides toward diversity by pointing out the diverse representations within the organization (e.g., 50% minority employees), but it’s equally important to consider whether these diverse individuals are in leadership and decision-making positions. And whether they are being given the opportunity and the tools (e.g., training, mentoring, time and financial support to attend to expand their network, learn and advance skills) to succeed in their current role, grow into senior level positions within the organization, develop an innovative product or solution, become an owner, etc. A DEI assessment and plan should address issues like these.

How You Talk About DEI Matters

Borrowing from the work of Dr. Shaun Harper, racial equity expert and Provost Professor in the USC Rossier School of Education and the USC Marshall School of Business and his Anti-Deficit Achievement Framework, how your organization’s diversity and equity goals and activities are identified and named is just as important as the efforts to address them. Be vigilant in attempting to use equity-oriented language. Are you looking for individuals from “under-represented areas or groups” or are you seeking “untapped talent”? Be specific about identities you are seeking rather than generalizing. For example, are you seeking “more minorities” or specifically seeking “more Asian, Hispanic and Black men and women”?

Consider Taking the Pledge

These are just a few of the insights Ms. Staten and Dr. Lu offer for Maryland organizations committed to making real change in the workplace. In our next blog post, we’ll explore some actionable tips to develop your workplace DEI plan. Until then, we encourage Maryland companies to check out our TI2 Initiative and consider taking our DEI in Action Pledge.

Click Here to Read Part 2