Your Company Needs a DEI Committee, Here's Why and How to Manage One
At Boundless Awareness, we’re well aware that anti-oppression work can’t end after a single training session or workshop. Anti-oppression work is everyday work and that means that companies and organizations need to have systems in place to make sure Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) remain top of mind. This is why we recommend forming a DEI committee. A successful DEI committee begins with a solid understanding of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
Diversity - the “presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective.”
Equity - the “promoting [of] justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems.”
Inclusion - the “outcome to ensure those that are diverse actually feel and/or are welcomed.”
A DEI-informed and motivated company welcomes all employees into the space, encouraging ideas and suggestions from various backgrounds and experiences, while bettering the quality and quantity of work products. Further, creating an environment where all employees feel comfortable and welcomed signals to potential clients that your organization will consider all angles of a project with unmitigated understanding.
At this point, you’re likely thinking one of two different things: 1) “I don’t know a lot about DEI, will I really be able to make the whole office aware of it?” or 2) “I’m already aware of DEI but how do I advocate for it in the workplace?”
To which we at Boundless Awareness answer, “Yes, you can!” and “You’ve actually already begun your DEI advocacy!” Every organization has the ability to further DEI in their company culture, the first step of which you took when you started to educate yourself about DEI and visited our website. DEI work can, and ought, to take many forms, but we recommend establishing a DEI Committee—a group of employees that explain and encourage DEI initiatives within a company—as soon as possible.
The creation and maintenance of a DEI Committee should involve the whole organization:
Research and Employee Feedback - as with all new initiatives, it’s important to do adequate research as to what makes a DEI committee effective and how you might build it to best fit your organization’s culture. It is also important that research include the demographics of your company and the success/failure of current and past DEI initiatives. And research doesn’t have to be completely internal! Take a look at what your competitors and peers are doing, or, consider hiring an outside consultant (like Boundless Awareness) to assist in focusing the conversation around specific talking points from which to grow your DEI committee.
Creation of Committee - invite employees from all levels, departments, and backgrounds to sit as committee chairs. The committee should respond to the company demographics; where there is a majority, the committee should raise the voices of the minority. Employee engagement is critical in forming an efficient and effective DEI initiative so consider incentivizing engagement with bonuses, certification, leadership opportunities, and mentorship.
Outline Goals or Address Concerns - look at the current/past policies and initiatives—which of them had lasting impacts? Which of them lost traction? What were the goals of both and how might these goals be better translated to promote DEI? Look at employee feedback—are there recurring concerns? Are there any concerns that haven’t been addressed by past initiatives? How might these concerns be more adequately considered under DEI? The committee should work with employees to analyze office culture and amend or introduce new policies and practices.
Maintain Constant Employee Feedback, Encourage Critiquing the Committee - once the committee is created and has outlined goals and concerns (with the feedback of the greater office), and implementation is underway, it is pertinent that open communication between the committee and employees be maintained to ensure DEI is upheld and evolves to fit the evolving company culture. Committee members promote transparency of committee procedures/goals/concerns and should encourage critique from employees.
Ultimately, DEI committees should make an organization more welcoming to its employees and clients, empowering them to voice their ideas, ask questions, and report concerns. The advocacy and promotion of DEI is a life-long pledge that relies on your continued and conscious efforts to live and work with anti-oppression in mind.