DEIBJ (diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice) initiatives are not crafted for overnight appeal, but rather, for long-term success.
Schools and businesses working to create a welcoming environment for all need to initiate conversations surrounding things like race and gender equality with a constant mindset of growth and learning.
Roanoke native Kat Pascal advises businesses and organizations about DEIBJ strategies and is also the founder of the nonprofit organization Latinas Network. In her experience working with a variety of organizations, taking the first step toward change is usually the hardest, and people can be faced with harsh truths.
“Problems don’t go away by not talking about them,” says Pascal. “Businesses need to realize that by not addressing it and not bringing it to the forefront, they’re doing a disservice to those individuals.”
Most commonly, Pascal still finds denial (“That’s not a problem here, we don’t have that problem.”) and proximity (“I couldn’t possibly be racist, my best friend is Black!”) are the initial red flags that can be the toughest to overcome.
“We’re all biased. Only through growing and educating ourselves are we then able to move to a place of openness and inclusivity,” says Pascal. “Instead of empathizing, just listen. Take away what you think you could change in your individual life and start there.”
For organizations to be at the forefront of evolving their DEIBJ strategy, leadership can’t have just one workshop or one conversation and expect perfection. This process involves bringing more seats to the table for diverse stakeholders to freely talk about their experiences. These stakeholders should reflect your student body, alumni, and/or consumers.
Nowadays, access to information through social media allows more people to see injustices and mistreatment. You can go viral very quickly if something is going wrong. When a business lacks DEIBJ initiatives, its workforce and its community know it. That’s why today’s environment demands an authentic approach, versus a performative one.
Performative allyship is when you’re doing it for show. Companies are criticized when it’s clear they’re doing something to get buy-in from the audience. Having an authentic approach is leading through education. Listening, learning, and having conversations internally on an ongoing basis to allow necessary change and growth to happen.
Making changes globally starts with changes within ourselves to be more aware of our unconscious bias. It’s a journey that requires an active approach as organizations and businesses expand and mature.
“Hiring an outside firm is absolutely the best practice that we find works when taking that first step,” says Pascal, who tailors her approach to each organization based on its needs.
“Identifying what those problems are, who is bringing up these problems, and when did this initiate? There are a lot of factors to consider,” explains Pascal.