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The DEI Retrograde, a Threat to Sustainability

The current state of DEI is retrograding in a perceived urgency for self-preservation. With over 20 states introducing almost 40 pieces of legislation to either halt mandatory DEI training, shut down DEI offices, prohibit diversity statements, or ban certain targets for employment and college admissions, it’s clear that the DEI alarms are ringing loudly. The question at hand is whether these are false alarms triggered by a fear of something that does not exist.

One such fear is a fear that DEI strategies are being designed to replace targeted populations based on race (and oftentimes with lesser fear about gender when there’s no intersectionality with race). DEI advocates, on the other hand, see DEI as a strategy to protect targeted populations, much like the intent of long-standing laws like Title VI, Title VII, Title IX, the ADA, VEVRAA, the ADEA, the EPA and others. Yet, DEI has been cast as counter to these laws. It’s like we can’t see the forest for the trees. And with the focus of DEI being on the wrong thing, with that “thing” being race, we’re missing the threat to cultivating sustainable organizations.

When designed properly, a DEI strategy demonstrates a common interest for all stakeholders. I’m so doing, the focus is on creating a safe environment where differences are respected and removing barriers to opportunity so that everyone has access to those opportunities and everyone’s unique attributes are welcomed and valued. With this approach, the DEI strategy is designed, implemented and measured in that way so that the narrative is clear - self-preservation for one is not to the detriment of others because universal differences are in scope.

So let’s power forward humanity to foster opportunities that open spaces and value the placements of everyone. The consequences of the ongoing DEI retrograde can be costly. Particularly, there are lost opportunity costs when a DEI strategy is absent or ineffective. For example, DEI programs and initiatives drive increased innovation, higher revenue, greater productivity, and more cash flow per employee. Much like the beauty of the forest is created from many trees being uniquely situated, the power of DEI depends on the many differences of individuals to optimize the impact of programs and initiatives. Therefore, lingering in a DEI retrograde based on an unwarranted need for self-preservation not only threatens organizational sustainability but also threatens a sustainable future for all of us.

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