The question about how to define diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is common. In fact, PRSA recently shared a survey from the Institute for Public Relations Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and The Wakeman Agency to study how people define DEI and what that entails within their organizations. The survey closed on Friday, and I’m looking forward to reviewing the results. Why? Because defining DEI is important.
In any other professional setting, it would be expected that the group working on a problem would have a shared understanding about what they are working on together. It’s how you get alignment as a team and figure out how to achieve your collective goals. But for whatever reason, groups tend to shy away from defining DEI as they begin doing the work.
I have my suspicions as to why most groups don’t take on the work of defining DEI early on in their work. I think some groups assume everyone defines those words the same way: “We all volunteered to show up and do the work. We know what we’re talking about.” I think other groups are so intimidated by the work and getting things wrong (trust me, you’ll get things wrong no matter how hard you try not to), that they dare not dabble in trying to define these things: “We know we need to do better on racism, sexism, ableism, nationalism and all the other -isms, so let’s just start trying to do better.” And I think some groups simply don’t know what they don’t know: “I just want to treat everyone equally. We don’t need words to define the right way to treat people.”
Whatever the case, I strongly advocate for defining diversity, equity and inclusion with your work group or organization to establish a shared understanding of what exactly you mean when you describe these terms.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Do a quick Google search to help generate some ideas.
- Ask DEI leaders how they define the terms.
- Read books by thought leaders on the topic.
- Attend DEI trainings and learn what definitions the trainers use.
You will find that once you have a shared understanding of what DEI means, your team will be better equipped for strategic planning and setting goals to dismantle all the -isms it needs to address.
Joshua P. Romero, MA is the Communications Manager for the City of Bend and serves as a Communications Co-Director on the board of PRSA Oregon. For him, strategic communications is about educating, empowering and engaging his community. When he’s not working or volunteering, he likes to get outside with his husband and goldendoodle to enjoy all the outdoor activities Central Oregon has to offer.