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Limiting Beliefs That Stall DEI Progress

We’ve talked recently about the myth women of color are fed in the workplace, where opportunities for growth are often considered “too early in their story.” That myth alone is only the tip of the iceberg of other biased and inequitable ideologies that can stall or pose obstacles to your organization’s DEI strategy.


No DEI strategy is effective without a continuous checking of the individual thought patterns and behaviors that can uphold White supremacy culture. These limiting beliefs, in particular, are things you can look out for that may be impeding on your progress in creating a more anti-racist, equitable, and inclusive working environment:


“We’ve never done that for anyone else before, so it wouldn’t be fair if we do it for you.”

It’s an excuse that often comes up during negotiations for salary, promotions, or raises, and it’s used to justify why competitive salaries or leadership roles somehow can’t be for the people of color on your team.


Budgets and compensation may be real, but if the thought of ‘it wouldn’t be fair to do it for you if we can’t do it for everyone else’ is enough to shut down conversations about meeting your employee’s needs, dig deeper. DEI work is not about copying and pasting one approach across every member of your team, but a mix of meeting the individual needs of team members while keeping a systems-level picture of how justice is being applied within the organization.


A single parent or caretaker may need Fridays off or a late start in their day. Someone recovering from an injury or illness may need to take appointments during the day. Team members living a far distance from the office may need to be completely remote or on a hybrid schedule. Equity can take on many different forms – and just because there is no precedent for it does not mean it cannot be done.


“This work is complex and difficult.”

There are some things in life that are only as difficult as we make them, and DEI is undoubtedly one of those. This is not to underscore the hard work that DEI practitioners and teams carry out every day but to emphasize that the challenges many of them face are man-made. As Stevie Wonder would say, problems have solutions, and throwing our hands up to say ‘this is too hard’ blocks progress that could otherwise be made.


The solutions that DEI poses are fairly simple: pay people well, treat them with kindness and respect, put people of color in positions of power, and provide them with the support they need to be successful and be open to feedback/being wrong. What makes this work challenging is the assumption that it will somehow be a burden on you as a leader or on your team. Shifting that perspective to one that sees DEI as liberation instead of hardship can open up doors to creativity and resolutions that can create lasting change.


“We want to do this, but first…”

In many spaces (especially in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector), there’s a habit of spending so much time on the groundwork of DEI that nothing actually happens to change the lived experiences of employees of color.


What good is a report or landscape analysis of the field when bullying in your place of work goes unchecked? What is the point of affinity groups and listening sessions when racial microaggressions are more common than compliments?


This is not to suggest that there is no place for reports or other methods that build a clear record of what needs to change, but when that is all that happens, you should question what is preventing you from moving forward and implementing what you’ve learned.


We have the tools we need to create change – we need only put one foot in front of the other and do the work. Schedule a consultation with ShiftED Consulting today to turn your DEI plans into action.


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