Step Up Your Game (DEI) – We are watching and keeping score

“Noticing that a lot of the Diversity and Inclusion work doesn’t include Diversity!”

Larry McKenzie, Coach

Larry McKenzie is a multi year high school boys state basketball champion coach. He currently coaches at North High School im Minneapolis, Minnesota. Coach McKenzie’s recent post about what is lacking in the profession of diversity and inclusion prompted me to write this article. Rather than respond to Coach’s post with a laundry list of acts arguing that I’m better than that, and that is not how I do this work, I decided to resist the urge to protect my ego. Instead, I reached out and asked Coach and others what can we and I do better in order to get better results.

The profession of Diversity and Inclusion is under fire. Many companies have maintained diversity, equity and inclusion offices for many years, yet there have not been transformative results. In fact, some DEI outcomes are worse now than they were several years ago. In addition, in many instances the composition of DEI departments are not racially or ethnically diverse or equitable. Many of these departments also do not center on, or focus on those they are supposedly trying to help. The profession of DEI is under fire. My profession is under fire. I am under fire. We must do better, so we can all do better.

Part of making DEI better is admitting that we have failed. We must acknowledge shortcomings and missteps and reflect on what needs to be done differently to achieve better results. Another major part of getting better results is listening to those impacted by the work and taking constructive feedback to heart as we dismantle and reconstruct a system in order to provide equity and inclusion solutions. Those that are impacted by diversity and inclusion must be hired and retained to build a new system. They know many of the answers because they have been on the short end of not receiving the promised outcomes from DEI. They know we need to do better. Coach McKenzie and his friends know what we should do and here are some of those ideas:

1. Hire Black and Brown people to lead the DEI work inside of companies;

2. Hire Black and Brown consultants to provide DEI and racial equity training for employees;

3. Recruit Black and Brown Board Members;

4. Hire Black and Brown interns and teach them the DEI profession. Also teach them other careers and provide them guaranteed jobs once they successfully complete their education;

5. Hire more Black and Brown people on executive leadership teams of companies and provide them equitable pay;

6. Create satellite offices in Black and Brown neighborhoods and hire people from the community for jobs in these offices;

7. Set aggressive goals to spend money with Black and Brown businesses; and

8. Measure, measure, measure and hold people accountable for DEI and racial equity results or lack thereof.

I want to thank Coach McKenzie for assisting the DEI players with a modification of the playbook. I appreciate his commentary and suggestions that we must do better in the DEI space. As we continue to transform DEI, racial equity and anti-racism work, we must hold everyone accountable, measure progress, record success and failure and change the playbook if the plays are not working. We must do better, so all of us can do better.


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