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D, E, & I - Defining Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Why Each Matters

Veleisa Burrell


Mind your Ps and Qs. Dot you Is and cross your Ts. How many phrases do we often hear and use, especially those with single letters or acronyms to represent an idea or word in business, so often that they become commonplace knowledge? We feel like we all know what is meant, that it’s an understood language.


Two of the acronyms that matter to Kanarys include D&I and DEI, or Diversity & Inclusion and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Diversity has been talked in corporate, organizational and research worlds about for many decades, but inclusion and equity are two newer concepts whose meaning and impact on teams may not be obvious to leaders. So let’s talk through all three, identifying the differences and how each term impacts a company’s culture.


Diversity - More Than Just Numbers

Most companies, especially those just beginning to focus on DEI, center their DEI efforts on the numbers: how many women are being hired, the percentages of Black, Latino and Asian employees, surveying to learn about religion, age and LGBTQIA+ representation. This is a basic start but it is only an entry point to a larger culture shift. ADP’s chief diversity and social responsibility officer Rita Mitjans described diversity as the what or the “makeup of your workforce.”


Inclusion - Giving People a Reason to Stay

Diversity without inclusion, or the principles, policies and environment that enables employees to thrive within a company, is often what hamstrings companies in their efforts to move beyond statistics to sea change. Inclusion requires a cultural shift, beginning with C-suite executives setting priorities and a clear direction for management and other workers to follow.


There is even an “inclusion gap” that exists within companies whose lack of diversity directly impact their business decision making. This gap can exist even within companies where gender diversity is even, as Cloverpop found in their data. Considering that companies with high inclusion tend to perform better and make better decisions, a workforce that lacks inclusion is setting itself up for long-term failure and insufficient growth as compared to a competitor.


Equity - Instilling Fairness as a Practice

Equality and equity are often used interchangeably. However, the major difference between the two, as beautifully outlined by Premier Talent Partners, is that equality involves the “state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities, whereas equity involves impartiality and fairness. If you’re drawing a line between the two, it can be said that equality is the end goal and equity is the means by which you reach equality.


Equity, in a business setting, aligns with giving current and potential employees the same access and opportunity, and can look like diverse interview panels, accessible workplaces, and spousal benefits for same sex marriages.


DEI - Each Letter Has an Impact

After focusing each letter, both for what it means and how it affects business, it becomes more clear that DEI as both a concept and a practice is crucial to a company’s success and employee satisfaction.

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