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6 Min Read

6 Guiding Principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Why You Need to Focus on Them

Claire Beveridge

Whether you’re a seasoned DEI professional or dipping your toes in for the first time, familiarizing yourself with the guiding principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion is worthwhile. 

These principles form a foundation from which actionable diversity, equity, and inclusion work can begin and provide a framework for DEI leaders to use when building DEI strategies and statements

By focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion, organizations create a workplace where employees feel they belong, which helps with employee engagement, increases trust, and supports innovation.

1. Bias

What is bias in the workplace?

Bias in the workplace is holding opinions, beliefs, or attributes about an individual or group of people based on certain characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or age, that impact how you think about or perceive them.

Two forms of bias are unconscious bias and conscious bias. Unconscious biases are stereotypes and assumptions that individuals form outside their conscious awareness. An example of unconscious bias is subconsciously favoring men for leadership positions even though women in the candidate pool have the same qualifications.

Conscious bias refers to intentional prejudices held toward individuals or groups and involves being aware of one’s biases and making choices or judgments based on those biases. For example, a hiring manager won’t hire Asian workers because he’s a racist.

Everyone holds biases, and they’re more prevalent in the workplace than you might think. According to Deloitte, 39% of employees say they experience bias frequently, and 83% categorize the bias(es) experienced or witnessed in the workplace as subtle and indirect or microaggressions

Bias touches every area of business, from the language used in job descriptions to compensation and who is hired. And as all employees hold some form of bias, this is all the more reason to make combatting bias an integral principle of your DEI efforts.

How does bias impact DEI?

Holding bias against another person or group means your workplace won’t be built with inclusivity in mind. If allowed to go unchecked, bias can lead to unfair treatment, favorability, and discrimination. This impacts critical business decision-making, including hiring, career progression and development, and budget allocation. The result is an organization that’s underrepresented and marginalized. 

Further reading: 5 Key Tips To Remove Social And Cultural Bias From Employee Self-Evaluations.

2. Transparency

What is transparency in the workplace?

Workplace transparency relates to an organization’s efforts to be open, candid, and transparent. An example of transparency in the workplace is sharing accurate salary bandings on job postings and making compensation information available for employees to see or openly sharing revenue goals, growth strategies, and helpful data. 

How does transparency impact DEI?

Prioritizing transparency helps create a culture of trust and openness while empowering employees with relevant information to help them stay informed about the business and their careers. Without transparency, a culture of mistrust and miscommunication can occur, which impacts employee performance, morale, and productivity. 

Further reading: Smashing Down Your Open Door Policy.

3. Accountability

What is accountability in the workplace?

Has anyone ever asked you to be accountable for your behavior? This question relates to taking responsibility for your actions and understanding that your actions are answerable. Accountability also means accepting the consequences—whether positive or negative.

Let’s say you set a recruitment goal to increase the number of women-identified developers on your engineering team. You share your goals and targets, regularly report on progress made, including tracking the number of women-identified candidates in the pipeline, and share this information with relevant stakeholders. This is being accountable in the workplace. 

How does accountability impact DEI?

According to Harvard Business Review, when challenges in the workplace arise, they may be more difficult to manage without an accountability framework for measuring and evaluating DEI efforts.

By following accountability as a guiding principle for diversity, equity, and inclusion, organizations show their commitment to creating a culture where employees are held responsible for their actions which help creates an environment that drives change.

Further reading: Engaging Millennial Employees via Accountability, Clarity, & Prioritization.

4. Empathy

What is empathy in the workplace?

Empathy in the workplace is the ability to relate to the experience, thoughts, and emotions of other people and recognize the meaning behind verbal and non-verbal queues. Empathy also means reacting compassionately and understanding someone else’s point of view. 

For example, a direct report is struggling with losing a family member. As a manager, you display active listening, seek to understand their perspective, offer support, and allow them to adjust their working schedule to accommodate their needs. 

How does empathy impact DEI?

Having empathy as a guiding principle for DEI efforts means that your work will come from a place of understanding and compassion, allowing you to foster deeper working relationships. But unfortunately, not everyone is naturally empathic. If you need support in flexing your empath muscle, check out this article from the New York Times on how to practice empathy.

Further reading: Empathy: The Leadership Skill You’re Missing to Understand Your People.

5. Accessibility

What is accessibility in the workplace?

Accessibility in the workplace refers to creating an environment that prioritizes equal opportunities and inclusivity for all employees, including those with disabilities, neurodivergent people, and other needs. 

Accessibility involves removing barriers and providing accommodations to ensure individuals can fully participate in work-related activities, programs, and facilities. For example, an organization ensures that its office space is physically accessible by installing elevators, ramps, and wide doorways to support individuals who use wheelchairs or are mobility impaired.

How does accessibility impact DEI?

Creating a workplace that’s accessible to all helps to build an inclusive environment, ensures equal opportunities for employees, widens the talent pool, and increases diversity.

Further reading: How to Set Goals to Achieve Greater Disability Inclusion and Accessibility in the Workplace.

6. Intersectionality

What is intersectionality in the workplace?

Intersectionality is the recognition and examination of the interconnected nature of different social identities, such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, and other dimensions of diversity. It acknowledges that individuals possess multiple identities that can intersect and influence their experiences of privilege or oppression.

How does intersectionality impact DEI?

Intersectionality recognizes that individuals have multiple dimensions of identity that interact and intersect. It goes beyond viewing diversity as a singular characteristic and acknowledges the complexity of human experiences. By considering how different identities intersect, organizations gain a more comprehensive understanding of diversity and the unique challenges faced by individuals with intersecting identities.

Further reading: How to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace.