For as long as I can recall, our nation has been confronted with the topic of racial and social justice. However, over the last 18 months, it has moved to the forefront of our conversation. As a result, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have become a hot topic, and headlines in local and national news outlets have chronicled our nation’s challenges with DEI.

Unfortunately, as a result, there has been a tremendous amount of misinformation and misconception about DEI. As families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues have discussed and debated the topic, their understanding of DEI often reflects the radio or television station they frequently listen to or watch.

Now, I’m not bashing television, radio, or news outlets. In fact, following the news is one of my favorite activities. As a result, there are times I’ve been called a news junkie by people in my family.

As I read, watch, and listen to my favorite news outlets, I have noticed that they skip over explaining the definition of DEI in their reporting. So, as a scientist, I wondered if it was just my news outlets or a trend. Well, after some research guess what I found out?

That’s right; it is a trend! But, unfortunately, regardless of where you get your news, the conversation typically does not include a definition of DEI. As an educator and scientist, I struggle with the lack of clarity around this topic.

Why? Because we must have a common understanding of any topic before we can address an issue. Without common knowledge, we end up talking “at” each other instead of “to” each other. Therefore, if we want to address a concern, we must start with a clear understanding of the issue.

So what does DEI mean? Let me break the terms down into three simple questions:

  1. Diversity asks: Who is in the room?
  2. Equity asks: Who is trying to get into the room but can’t?
  3. Inclusion asks: Have everyone’s ideas been heard?

Now, I know you think it can’t be that simple, right? Well, it is!

Let’s review the standard definition of each term according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

  • Diversity: the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization
  • Equity: fairness or justice in the way people are treated
  • Inclusion: the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability)

I hope you see the alignment between the three questions and the definitions.

As the leader of your organization, it’s your responsibility to position your organization for success. So, before you jump into a discussion embracing DEI, ensure everyone is on the same page.

“Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.”

– Doris Kearns Goodwin

Starting with a shared understanding will help to avoid misunderstanding and confusion. While it might sound a bit silly and like a waste of time, the rewards you and your organization will reap are well worth your time and effort.

Are you embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion?


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    About the author

    Hi, I'm Kim, Your Leadership Guide. I equip aspiring leaders to lead with confidence, emerging leaders to expand their influence, and accomplished leaders to achieve significance!