The Problem with DEI “Quick Wins”

1.) View DEI As An Indefinite Marathon, Not A Series Of Sprints.

It is imperative that we firmly place our entire DEI program within the framework of sustained organizational culture change — respective projects and goals within that framework — rather than viewing DEI as a project itself. DEI is beyond long-term. Your organization’s DEI goals should be so magnanimous in the pursuit of justice that they seem unachievable at this very moment in time. Furthermore, your organization is a deeply embedded part of greater society and as a result, is burdened with all of the societal constructs, paradigms and issues associated with living in a white supremacist, misogynist, transphobic, ableist, etc. society. So long as the world conditions its inhabitants to adopt problematic behaviors and beliefs, and so long as your employees are not isolated from the world, there will always be a need for DEI.

2.) Replace Use Of The Term “Quick Win” With “Short-Term Goal.”

This is a testament to the power of language in how it shapes our reality. It’s also a short-term (see what I did there?) solution to help normalize the view that it’s just a small part of a larger set of actions we’re taking to achieve equity and justice. The phrase “quick win” carries with it a particular connotation, one that doesn’t encompass the full weight of the importance of the field of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “Quick win” implies that it’s an item on a checklist, not a serious effort to correct legacies of systemic oppression and injustice. We must be very intentional about our efforts and mindful of the gravity of our current situation, especially as of this writing, which is amid both a pandemic and the aftermath of a white supremacist insurrection.

3.) Assess The True Impact Of Your Short-Term Goals.

It may be easy for us to tackle items that we consider low-hanging fruit. However, we should be cautious not to focus energy on any initiatives if they don’t really contribute to the broader goals of equity and justice. We may often pursue certain quick wins that give the perception that our organization is on the right path, but in reality, we have diverted resources to items that have no real effect (or even a negative effect) on organizational culture. Additionally, our organizations are being held to accountability standards like never before. We, as a society, are much more vocal about assessing the true impacts and outcomes of these initiatives. We want to see results and are becoming inoculated against celebrating vanity projects or programs developed solely for optics. If you are focusing on “quick wins” but your culture surveys year after year show that your employees are coming to the realization that your DEI program is “all talk,” it may be time to abandon the quick win verbiage.

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Farzin Farzad

Farzin Farzad

Farzin is the founder of Critical Equity Consulting, LLC, an Organizational Justice consulting firm that helps organizations rebuild with equity in mind.