Diversity, Equity & Inclusion+
by: Laura A. Meck, Partner Sonata Venture Solutions
The phrase DEI has become widely used in recent years as organizations strive to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. But what exactly does DEI mean?
Diversity refers to the presence of different identities, backgrounds, and perspectives within a group or organization. This can include diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability status, religious beliefs, political views, socioeconomic status, and more. A diverse workplace includes people from all walks of life and lends itself to different opinions leading to innovation.
Equity is about ensuring fair treatment, access, and opportunity for all. It's not just about being diverse for diversity's sake. True equity means eliminating barriers that have excluded or disadvantaged certain groups. It requires acknowledging ingrained societal biases and proactively correcting them. An example that I like to use is: I am 5’0” and my son is 5’10” – he can easily reach the top shelf in a cabinet, I can’t. Equity in this scenario is my ability to use a step stool. Equity does not create advantage it levels the playing field for all.
Inclusion refers to a culture of belonging. An inclusive workplace makes all employees feel respected, valued, and able to participate fully. It's about making people of all backgrounds feel like they can be their authentic selves and contribute meaningfully.
Why are equity and inclusion so important? Simply having diversity in an organization is not enough. If underlying systems and cultures are still biased or exclusive, diversity alone will not lead to equality in the workplace.
Equity is crucial for creating a level playing field. Many groups have faced historical barriers to access and advancement. Lasting change requires rethinking systems and structures. This means examining policies, processes, and organizational culture to identify and eliminate bias.
Inclusion is key for retention and engagement. No one wants to feel marginalized or unwelcome at work. An inclusive climate allows diverse teams to collaborate effectively. When people feel psychologically safe to share ideas and perspectives, organizations benefit from better decision making.
The E and I of DEI have profound impacts on innovation, productivity, and the bottom line. Research shows that companies with diverse and inclusive cultures outperform the competition in employee engagement, retention, stronger talent acquisition and improved profitability.
Prioritizing equity and inclusion aren’t just moral imperatives - it's smart business. To tap into the full potential of today's diverse workforce, organizations must create environments where everyone is empowered to succeed. The journey requires humility, commitment, and continuous effort, but the rewards are immense.
Now, why the + after DEI? It’s a way to recognize that diversity goes beyond the specifics spelled out in "DEI." It represents an openness to expanding our ideas of diversity over time as society evolves. For example, 20 years ago DEI discussions tended not to explicitly include the LGBTQ community. The "+" serves as a reminder not to arbitrarily limit diversity to certain groups. There are always more opportunities to expand our understanding of identity and make workplaces more inclusive.
The "+" also acknowledges intersections between different diversity dimensions. People have layered, multidimensional identities. Focusing on only one aspect of identity fails to capture the complexity of human experiences. The "+" reminds us to consider intersections of race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and more. Additionally, the "+" represents populations that are small in number but still face exclusion. Their voices should not go unheard simply because their group is small. A comprehensive view of diversity is needed.
In essence, the "+" reinforces that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts must remain flexible, nuanced and continuously evolving. As societal understanding of identity grows, DEI practices must grow with it. The "+" keeps the door open to future learning and progress. The "+" might seem like just a symbol, but it carries an important meaning. It signifies an expansive, flexible, and forward-thinking approach to DEI that strives for ever greater inclusion over time. The work of diversity, equity and inclusion is never truly finished - the "+" helps remind us of that. So, the next time you see DEI+ know that it’s inclusive of all, and it addresses things like Allyship, accessibility, belonging, and justice.
At the end of the day DEI+ is a framework you and your company will establish to engage your workforce where they are and help drive them to where you are going. The framework establishes the “who, what, how, why and when” you’re engaging, and it includes checkpoints and KPI accountability for all to see.
Sonata Venture Solutions, Sonata Venture Solutions provides workforce development, leadership and executive consulting, training, coaching and other related workshops / programming on topics including DEI, DEIB, DEIA, DEIJ. In addition to our established programs, Sonata provides custom programs, workshops, and training for workforce development to meet your company’s requirements and strategy. Our curated, design-led programs focus on building and developing talent at all levels.
About the author:
Laura A. Meck. Laura, Partner at Sonata Venture, has been helping businesses grow for over twenty-five+ years. Passionate, tenacious, and driven to help others succeed makes each day a gift for Laura. Being a serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, mom, and partner has helped Laura learn how to best help busy people juggle it all and create harmony in in their own lives and in business. You can reach Laura at 888.626.2404 or Lmeck@sonataventure.com. Learn more by visiting www.sonataventure.com.