Making DE&I Actionable

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (often referred to as DE&I) have come to the forefront in recent years. As we navigate these topics, a lot of confusion emerges on how to move forward in a way that is measurable and constructive. We spoke with DE&I expert, Jaqueline Wilson Cranford, Founder and Principal of Cranford Advisory Services, to get her advice. Here are some key takeaways to ensure organizations are mindfully incorporating DE&I into their culture and event strategies: 

 

Start by Looking Inward 

Oftentimes, groups look outward to see what “best practices” are for a sensitive topic. DE&I instead should focus on working from the inside out.  Look at your team. Who is sitting at the table? Is this an environment where people are comfortable voicing their perspective? If not, the foundation needs to be laid to create a safe space to have open discussions.  

With more voices from different perspectives, you are better enabled to solve difficult challenges. Without addressing the needs of your own group first, creating inclusive and equitable experiences for your events will be that much harder to achieve. 

 

Make It Sustainable with a Team Effort 

What companies will do when faced with uncertainty is bring in an expert, start a taskforce or create a position to specifically address DE&I concerns. While this is a strong and well-intentioned approach, this is only the first step. One delegated entity cannot be the only body to create change. To create improvement, everyone needs to buy-in and move together towards the same goal to drive initiatives forward. 

To do that, you need to think about WHY you’re doing this. What is the long-term vision? From there, you can develop a strategy that can be assessed over a set amount of time and create goals within that. Checking in regularly and adjusting as needed will create accountability and keep the goals front of mind for the entire organization. 

 

Meet People Where They Are 

While they are two separate ideas, inclusivity and equity, to create an inclusive space you need to be equitable to everyone who comes to your event. What this means is a shift of mindset: no longer should you be thinking “I’m going to help them” but rather “I’m going to provide them with the tools I have to ensure they can do what they’re here to do”. It’s a small difference but meeting people where they are demonstrates that you respect them.  

To be mindful of this, there are a lot of factors you should consider for your event, such as: 

  • Accessibility – Are people able to physically access all areas of your event: the building? The rooms? The stage? If not, what is the workaround? Consider making your event hybrid so those restricted by travel, finances or other concerns are still given an opportunity to attend virtually. 
  • Representation – Do you have a variety of voices at your event? The speakers? The attendees? Are the topics relevant and inclusive to the various people in the audience? 
  • Language – Is the marketing content represented in a way that is accessible for all? How about presentations? How are you addressing your audience? A simple Google search will provide a variety of inclusive terms. 

Keep in mind there is a reason we call incorporating DE&I a practice: as people continue to grow and evolve, there will be new perspectives to learn and we won’t always get it right from the start. Being open to listening to others and being willing to do the work is a crucial point we took from our conversation with Jackie. We must practice what we learn if we want to do better. The most important takeaway from this is to not only show grace but also offer grace while having challenging conversations. By having the humility to admit you are still learning, it opens the door to better educate yourself and others. 

For a more in depth discussion, tune in to our Pivot Points episode with Jacqueline on how we can better be mindful of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.