How to Be a Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador – Celeste Warren
Everyone’s Role in Helping All Feel Accepted, Engaged, and Valued
- Everyone in an organization has a role to play in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
- The concept of DEI has now expanded beyond its traditional core dimensions.
- DEI ambassadors need a range of skills and capabilities, including emotional intelligence.
- Whatever your organizational role, the path to becoming a diversity ambassador begins with self-awareness.
- Diversity ambassadorship requires you to take action.
- Individual contributors can make substantive and systemic DEI contributions.
- Chief DEI officers must bring deep personal, organizational and strategic awareness to their work.
- Executives must create the conditions for DEI efforts to succeed.
- Frontline leaders have a critical role to play in promoting DEI within their teams.
- HR practitioners should embed DEI in all people systems and practices.
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Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Everyone in an organization has a role to play in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
When it comes to workplace DEI, many people feel unable to lead change. Those who don’t occupy positions of authority might feel powerless or constrained by leaders. Colleagues might not want to talk about DEI, considering the topic too fraught with personal risk or inappropriate for conversation in a professional setting.
But DEI is here to stay. Around the world, workforces are becoming more diverse with each generation as people become more interconnected, workers migrate across borders, and cultures blend.
Two trends in business also mean DEI will remain a focal point.
First, economic inclusion – the idea that all people should be able to access financial products and services – is becoming more widely accepted, and that means all companies will need to know how they can contribute toward reducing financial inequality.
Second, corporate social activism continues to grow in importance, as consumers and employees increasingly insist that companies align with their values.
The concept of DEI has now expanded beyond its traditional core dimensions.
When you think about diversity, consider it in the broadest sense, to include not only age, ethnic heritage, race, gender, sexual orientation, and mental and physical abilities, but also differences in socioeconomic status, religious views, political beliefs, national origin, moral values, and more.
Now DEI is also considered to have an organizational dimension, including, for example, how long diverse employees have had tenure in the organization and whether they have managerial status.
DEI ambassadors need a range of skills and capabilities, including emotional intelligence.
DEI ambassadors should develop the ability to steer difficult conversations toward healthy exchanges over destructive conflict.
They should exhibit honesty and unwavering integrity while encouraging the same in others. It takes courage and fortitude to speak up when another person says something inappropriate, but DEI ambassadors must do so consistently.
Overcoming Assumptions and Bias
Becoming aware of your own assumptions or biases that could derail your diversity efforts must take priority. Every human has biases, both conscious and unconscious. These include assumptions or prejudices you might hold regarding people of certain races, backgrounds, genders or ages.
These biases might have taken root because you’ve had little or no exposure to some groups, or they might have formed due to the way you were raised.
Diversity ambassadorship requires you to take action.
An ambassador is a person who represents and promotes something. A DEI ambassador makes a difference by promoting DEI principles and working to see them implemented. All the assessments and deep thinking in the world amount to nothing without action.
The action necessary includes working to address what you discovered during the self-awareness stage of your journey: rooting out your conscious and unconscious biases and building the skills and capabilities you’ll need.
“You can’t simply say words of solidarity, you have to demonstrate it through your everyday actions.”
Individual contributors can make substantive and systemic DEI contributions.
If you’re an individual contributor, without a position of formal authority, you should assess your strengths, skills and gaps related to DEI advocacy, that is, your ability to support and promote diverse people.
How willing are you to speak up when you witness a microaggression, for example? Do you share your thoughts in meetings and encourage others to do the same? Inventory your biases, both conscious and unconscious.
Ask colleagues and your manager to help you understand the biases and blind spots you might have trouble recognizing. Ask them whether they think you show courage in supporting inclusion in meetings or elsewhere.
CDOs (Chief DEI officers )
Chief DEI officers must bring deep personal, organizational and strategic awareness to their work.
CDOs will need to conduct a self-assessment, too, to discover their strengths, gaps and biases. After all, no one can know everything about DEI, and no one’s free from biases. CDOs, in particular, need to become aware of their blind spots. Look at your resources, too.
Do you have an external network of CDOs and DEI experts to tap for learning? Do you have the business and financial acumen to make the case for DEI initiatives? Create a personal learning plan to close any gaps.
Frontline leaders have a critical role to play in promoting DEI within their teams.
When middle managers and supervisors fail to operationalize visions and plans from higher up, the frustrated executives often refer to those managers and supervisors as the “frozen middle.” Managers either help turn executives’ strategy into reality or they form a barrier.
If you’re a manager or supervisor, evaluate your DEI skills, capabilities and biases, and then assess the environment by listening to employees and learning about individual team members