What are the Qualities of a Good Diversity Equity and Inclusion Practitioner?
DEI After 5 — Season 2 Episode 1 — with Cornell Verdeja-Woodson
Not everyone is cut out to be a DEI Practitioner. There. I said it!
This is a revelation I came to a few years ago when I noticed an influx of people coming into the profession because it was:
1) an ‘easy’ way to get into a more senior role (very few organizations to that point had anything more than a director-level role unless it was pretty advanced in their organizational journey or academia
2) starting to get a bit more visibility from those in the C-suite, which goes back to #1
I noticed a group of people coming in but had zero experience — professionally or lived in the space. They had ‘passion’ for the one aspect of diversity they identified with and very little else.
That was until the summer of 2020. Within a few months, we saw the murders of Amaud Aubrey, Brianna Taylor, and George Floyd take center stage as the nation grappled with the reality of racial inequities. Companies quickly posted their’ thoughts and prayers’ and made their social media profiles black to show solidarity and that Black Lives Matter. They expected what had always happened — kudos and positive PR touting how ‘woke’ these companies were. They didn’t expect the push back of Black employees stating they were not seeing the same reactions internally. They were still experiencing the otherness that was always there. There was no solidarity with the Black community if there wasn’t solidarity with Black employees.
The singularly focused DEI professionals were lost. Not only had many of them dismissed the previous cries for support before, but they also had no clue what to do at the moment. Leadership was asking for a plan, and there was nothing.
So what should organizations look for in hiring a diversity practitioner or consultant?
In this conversation with Cornell Verdeja-Woodson, we unpack what it means to be a holistic DEI practitioner, the need for self-awareness, and what companies serious about changing their company cultures need to look for in those hired to do diversity, equity, and inclusion work.