Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

Diversity Equity Inclusion Framework: A 7 Point Plan

museum of black american history and cultureI was invited as a keynote speaker for the National Association of State Energy Officials convening for its Energy Policy Outlook 2020 Conference. My “mission impossible” was to address diversity and inclusion in energy policy. I was to have 20 min. while the attendees ate their final meal together on the last day of a week long conference.

The time limit and competing with the clanking of silverware are obstacles, to be sure, but with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) work, the kicker is that if one succeeds in illustrating the key points, the audience will leave the room feeling hostile (at the speaker), angry (at the world), guilty (at the level of privilege they didn’t ask for, but have unknowingly benefited from) or utterly bummed (in general).

The “what” is not as important as “why” and the “how”. But everyone “just want to know what to do”. My approach for this engagement was to tell a story, an allegory, to illustrate that we are all in it together, and how easily we confuse symptoms and the victims/the marginalized with the root cause. [The allegory of The Ship & The Leak will be another blog post.]

But I had to give them something they can take home, more than a feeling and a mindset. So I prepared a 7 point plan for a DEI framework.

A 7 Point Plan for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Framework

1. Learn the Language of DEI

  • When we know the word, we will see it, and will be able to think more clearly about it
  • Difference between equality and equity; diversity and inclusion; mentor and sponsor; minority and minoritized
  • Terms and what they represent, like intersectionality, tokenism, performative DEI, diversity tax, emotional labor, ally/sponsor/champion, glass ceiling, bamboo ceiling, political capital

2. Define “we” as large and inclusive as possible

  • It will remind us to consider views other than our own
  • Get us out of the “zero-sum” mentality
  • Recognize that to do so, we need to actively push ourselves to learn more because the experiences of the minoritized groups, by definition, are not included in the mainstream

3. Design with the most marginalized and vulnerable in mind

  • To benefit us all (e.g., curb cuts in sidewalks were designed for wheel chair drivers but we all appreciated them when we had to roll our suitcases, walk our bikes, push strollers)
  • To avoid unintentionally serving the most privileged of one factor of diversity (e.g., “women’s movement” have often been criticized to not include issues women of color face, because it’s easier to help cisgender, heterosexual, white women)

4. I before D (focus on inclusion first before diversity)

  • Without having an inclusive environment, attitude, and behaviors, no amount of diversity attracted will help, because it is not sustainable: e.g., a big push to include a community of hard of hearing would be wasted if the event or company does not have sign language interpreters and captioning services.
  • If we created an inclusive environment, diversity will follow

5. Integrate, not segregate

  • Well-intended separation for the marginalized groups don’t necessarily help, and is not usually the answer: where possible, integrate, not segregate
  • Setting up a special group based on a dimension of one’s identity: e.g., women’s business competition, often sets unintentional expectations of the audience because the participants will be seen as not competent enough to be included in the regular version
  • Seclusion make sense when the marginalized group asks for it: e.g., men’s rape victim support group, where participants may not feel safe to share their unique experiences especially when the broader community is unaware of the needs of the group

6. Approach with abundant humility

  • We think we know, because we don’t know what we don’t know: in the same way fish doesn’t see water, we don’t see air and we take it for granted
  • Recognize that we have been living in a world that is optimized for us, and by doing so, we have made marginalized others

(Our world would not have steps because most of us are ambulatory bipeds, if we were all born without legs, our architecture would have been optimized differently; therefore, our decision to create steps made folks without legs disabled)

7. USE our privilege

  • Marginalized groups are already having to maneuver a course designed without their needs in mind: we don’t need them to lean into the broken system further
  • Nor should we burden the fixing of the system on the shoulders of the marginalized groups: the group with privilege is in the position to make the change

Will we? As Audre Lorde observed, the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house. The above 7 point plan shows why we haven’t made significant progress in DEI: it is counterintuitive at best (where our good intentions based on our own narrow experiences can be hurting others) and it takes courage (to actively reject a system that has been serving us well, albeit at the expense of others).

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work demands broad lens and long term vision; its implementation, with collaboration and cooperation; its approach, nonpartisan and scientific. I can’t think of anyone better than policy officials to be the architect of a more inclusive system.

Godspeed, our policy makers.

Interested in how to apply the framework?
Contact yuka at excitedcuriosity dot org.

Photo: National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.

One comment on “Diversity Equity Inclusion Framework: A 7 Point Plan

  1. Colorful Sisters
    March 17, 2021

    Reading this was just lovely 🙂


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This entry was posted on February 21, 2020 by in Culture, Diversity & Inclusion, Event, Gender, Justice, Legislation, Racism.


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