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Beyond the Diversity Statement: DEI as a Strategic Imperative

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

As a leader of a public or private enterprise, these words should resonate deeply with you. 

Stranberg Blog, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion with Maya Bordeaux

DEI initiatives are built to foster and ensure fairness among all of the people that your business comes to touch. This starts with you and includes your team; it incorporates your board; all of your current and future employees. It includes your current clientele as well as the people or businesses that you hope to connect with in the future. 

We recently had the opportunity to discuss the DEI imperative with Maya Bordeaux. Maya is a HR executive, lawyer, and DEI strategist who recently founded the HR and DEI Consultancy Lead with Love Consulting LLC. In her tenure, she most recently served as Chief HR and Communications Officer at Tribune Publishing. 

 

You are a human resources executive, lawyer and DEI consultant.

How do these three disciplines inform your perspective ?


I am able to provide real life examples and experiences as well as practical solutions to my clients and to companies in which I have lead HR and Diversity. I have had extensive legal training and have studied diversity research for many years, so I am able to provide counsel that is fact based and data driven. The unique value that my perspective brings is that I have actually been responsible for leading many DEI efforts within companies, and my expertise has been shaped by my personal experiences as a Black female executive in corporate America and the diversity of my client experiences. The combination of my professional and personal experiences enables me to provide authentic and candid advice and counsel, and rarely do I need the additional review and expense of outside legal counsel.


Why is DEI a business imperative?


DEI has always been important to business as well as impacting the bottom line. However, companies widely vary as to when they finally understand and embrace DEI as a business imperative. 


Before 2020, the hustle and bustle of daily life distracted many of us from the importance of DEI. The pandemic silenced all of that noise, and then George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent social unrest put the global spotlight on race relations in America. 


That spotlight has caused many companies to look internally and profess:

We have not done enough to engage and support our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) employees, we have not acknowledged their unique experiences. We need guidance on how to better engage these employees to ensure that their experiences are accounted for and improved.

For businesses that are ‘waking up’ to the importance of DEI, what is the next step? How does one create a DEI roadmap?


Every organization is different, but the first step is always exploring the cultural competence of the executive leadership team. To move the dial on DEI, you must have alignment, consistency and commitment from the top of the organization.

True commitment begins with education. Leadership needs to develop an agreed upon definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And, they need a deep, visceral and clear understanding of why DEI is an imperative for their business. DEI is a business case that must be easy to be articulate. With agreed upon terminology and an understood imperative, we have the groundwork for organizational commitment.

Ten years ago, when a company would say, ‘I want a diverse pool of candidates,’ that likely translated as: ‘I want at least one woman candidate.’

Today, a diverse slate means so much more – diversity of background, experience, gender, age and racial diversity. Even further, some companies are moving away from the term ‘People of Color’ to looking for a candidates with a specific racial and cultural identities.  Organizations are being increasingly intentional about selecting candidates that reflect their employee and customer base. However, DEI is more than a hiring best practice. A robust DEI strategy typically has at least these three areas of focus:

  • Infrastructure

  • Education (or Capability Building)

  • Employee Engagement

Companies are typically very open to these concepts, and have even been confident in the diversity of their organization, but when we analyze the company demographics, we discover very few people of color, particularly in middle and upper management, as well as less advancement and promotions for people of color. This hits at one of the core questions:

Is leadership’s commitment to diversity genuine when there is such poor representation at the board level, in leadership, and even across many individual contributor roles?

What are the greatest challenges to starting and building momentum behind a culture of DEI?