The DEI Debacle: Making the Case for Thoughtfully Paced and Sequenced Exclusion | Sessions

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Concurrent Session
The DEI Debacle: Making the Case for Thoughtfully Paced and Sequenced Exclusion
In-Person and Virtual Friday 09/10/2021 03:45 PM - 04:45 PM   Add to calendar

Competencies: Interpersonal (Behavioral), Leadership (Behavioral), Workplace (Technical)
Workplace Application:
In no other American corporate construct do we celebrate effort over impact like in the context of DEI.  

Diversity, as a commitment vs compliance undertaking, hit the Fortune 500 stage in the early 1990s. Thereafter, around 2012, Inclusion entered the scene. Between 2012 and early 2020, most companies spent much of their precious resources debating such impactful imperatives like whether the “I” should precede the “D” in D&I and how much more broadly; beyond, race, gender, age, LGTBQ, Disability, marital status, region of birth, hair color, finger nail length, preferred dog breed and favorite ice cream flavor, they could define their diversity statement; ever careful to assure all are included and no one felt left out. Meanwhile, black employees were just hoping that the DEI work could just focus, for a while, on their particular plight. Can we just stop the bleeding caused by racism in work and treat the now infected wound? Many of us simply desired to just be able to say the words “racism” or “white people” and “black people” at work without fear of reprisal.

And then, in May of 2020, everything changed.

Corporations far and wide, yanked an “E” from the sky and affixed it right next to the D and the I and cemented it all with a “Black Lives Matter” banner on their websites. Further, many hired or promoted Diversity executives with fever pitch, allocated an extra $100,000 to their DEI budgets, signed pledges to do better with their black employee population and searched high and low for consultative engagements to help advance DEI strategies. Some of these organizations were operating entirely out of fear or a perfunctory obligation to appear sincerely invested in allyship and attracting, retaining and amplifying its black talent base. Some, on the other hand, were quite earnestly and committed.

What if neither motivation matters? What if the fundamental flaw in DEI is DEI itself?

Learning Objectives:

  • Hear why DEI MUST be a segmented, paced and sequenced to focus on the most marginalized and economically impactful population-black people.
  • Discuss how systems, staffing, cultural norms, compensation methodology, job structures and evaluation processes should all be examined for presumed prejudice and bias and then recast with the goal of assuring greater hiring and retention.
  • Learn how the browning of America and the realities around the “available” workforce after 2045 make a new  “macro economic” case for racial equity in the workplace. 
  • Discuss why this work requires a thorough understanding of your individual, corporate and communal beliefs, already in place, about black people. It all starts with your beliefs, then behaviors, then policies. 


Nikki R. Lanier, JD Photo
Nikki R. Lanier, JD, Adjunct Professor,
University of Louisville MBA/HR