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DEI and quick fixes

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

by Tahitia Timmons

I am just going to say it - there is no quick fix or quick journey or even journey that ends when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, acceptance, awareness, and justice work.

This work is ongoing and requires dedication to embracing the idea that your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) person or team are permanent positions. Repeat - PERMANENT should have the funds, power and voice to accomplish the heavy lift of changing behaviors and social norms.

It is the awareness that this work should not be a popular trend engaged in by those with white guilt, savior complexes, nor one that should vanish once we (society) see something else dominating our social media feeds.

Acknowledging this matters is because currently, the turnover rate for Chief Diversity officers is about three years according to an article at Diversity Inc titled CDOs on the Run. Obviously, we need to do more to create a supportive environment because this is necessary not a trend work.

This brings me to feng shui and why there's a picture of a door. Back in the nineties, feng shui was everywhere, so much so that my 80-something-year-old neighbor had me help her feng shui her entrance. This meant moving things as she read from a Reader's Digest article and painting the door red. It was while I was hanging up her flag-inspired, feng shui in quotes mirror, that I knew it had been hijacked, compartmentalized, and monetized for results versus incorporated into a new way of thinking. My neighbor had been sold quick fixes, versus the hard work change and incorporating feng shui principles throughout her life might entail.

What does this have to do with DEI work?

Western Culture and its approach to feng shui in some ways are similar to how DEI work has been approached by companies. Companies post rampant media imagery of violence and oppression against marginalized people, along with employee demands that they do more, AND a changing workforce entering the workplace spurred a "quick fix" mentality. Organizations wanted to be seen as doing something and aware of the issue but often failed to create initiatives that were not just performative but examined fully the health and viability of the programs they were starting. Often they failed to see DEI as not a separate topic but a foundational one that could support the health, well-being, and access of their employees. They often were left later wondering the following:

  • At the core are our efforts performative?

  • Are we still asking how to move the needle?

  • Are we still not fully embracing DEI into the organizational structure?

  • Are we still not sure what the goal is?

  • Are we fully supporting those in the role or still arguing about the "business case" without knowing what outcomes we can show?

  • Are we still viewing employee health as a separate engagement versus a part of the inclusion umbrella?

  • Are we still calling this a "journey" versus what this is - a way of being professionally and personally accountable for creating safe inclusive spaces for all?

My final thoughts are that as we look to create meaningful DEI change that authentically reflects the people we serve we need to be moving away from the idea of quick fixes, siloed work and not talking about the health impact DEI work has. The impact that doing the work and being beneficiaries of working in inclusive, equitable, and diverse spaces has on both our physical and mental health. We need to be having more inquisitive discussions around this in spaces we feel safe to question what we currently have done. Which is always a good space to be doing this type of hard work.

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