Writing a Diversity-Equity-Inclusion (DEIB) statement

Careers!  

This matters to every one of us, but means different things to different people. Mine has been interesting and the journey has been long. Many of us are at different stages in our career journeys. Some, at the start of their journeys, others well ahead into their careers, and some others in the middle of career changes like, a new job, becoming self-employed, career transitions, or at the very end of their career journeys. Whatever stage we are, we spend a lot of energy (physical, emotional and mental) on our careers. So, it matters to us. It matters that we are thriving (or not). It matters that we belong and feel included and valued. It matters that we are given a chance to be our best selves (whatever that looks like). 

Reflecting back, … as the New Year arrived, I was excited at another opportunity to re-ignite my passions and dreams; to re-focus on what matters – lots of personal goals, and career ones too. I must admit, the New Year came too soon. I wasn’t ready for it. I definitely needed a few more days to top-up my energy to feel able to face the challenges and demands of work, and those from working on my career goals, – on my career journey. 

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ … is that simple question that people ask children to ascertain what they wanted to become, – what career path to forge. Or, maybe, to nudge them with ideas of what to become.  

As a young girl, I played around with thoughts of becoming different things – a nurse, a pharmacist, … and it kept changing as I grew older – at least until I became self-aware of my passions, talents, and where I wanted to channel them. I always cared about people and believed that everyone was unique, with individual sets of gifts, abilities, and talents to equip them for their life’s purpose – for their ‘calling’; to allow them to flourish and be fulfilled. This intrigued me! I realised quite earlier that I was blessed with the capacity to connect with and understand people, and with the intuition and perception to help people make sense of different things that mattered to them. I guess people were drawn to me because I listened and cared. I got them.  

For me, it was that ‘need’ to help others be all they can be, to empower them to reach for more, and towards fulfilling their goals and passions.  

Finally, … I knew! I wanted to become a psychologist. This thought was exciting, liberating even, and sort of ‘completed me’. Now, … the journey to get there… 

Psychology was always on my mind, but I did not become a psychologist (not straight away). ‘Life’ happened many times, and many circumstances and different reasons led me a different path. And many years later, the psychologist in me lay dormant working in finance and accounting. Although I loved numbers, I felt unfulfilled. Something was missing…  

So, finally, I decided to go for it – to change careers. It was hard, scary, and full of unknowns. Plus, I had to make lots of sacrifices, – from salary cuts, taking lower job roles, to juggling ‘night’ school with my other commitments. Embarking on this career transition led me here where I am now. Ten years later, I have a BSc in Psychology and a MSc in Organizational Psychology. Like I said, the journey has been challenging and long. I have also had to endure many career barriers along the way. But strategies like DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging), make it easier to navigate – particularly for someone from my background.  

Careers can be hard. Yes, climbing that career ladder is hard, especially if like me, you are from an under-represented or marginalised group. I wish someone had told me that. There were many hurdles I had to face, even to get to where I did (which was not far, as career progression goes). Being someone that was ‘different’, – from an under-represented and a minority ethnic group, there were stereotypes and biases to fight against. But all I wanted was to be given a chance, to be valued, to belong. It was frustrating to work so hard just to be heard or seen, or be given opportunities just as ‘the others’, to be treated the same way as ‘the others’. I was constantly exhausted from pushing against the barriers: the limited opportunities, unfair assessments, under-employments, and many of the unspoken biases and systemic barriers that are crafted to stifle and constrain my many career efforts – just because I am different. So, If you are ‘different’ like me, then you can relate. This prompted my MSc research focus on the ‘ideal worker’ norm (a hierarchical power structure that promotes inequality at work) and how this contextualises the career barriers that ethnic minoritised employees experience. Some of the findings showed that employees from minoritised ethnic groups felt that they were not the ideal worker (that ideal expectation or fit to a job or organisation). Instead, they felt that they were the ‘othered’ and were treated differently due to similarity biases or in-group biases (where people favour those that are like them). Many of my interviewees experienced marginalisation, limited opportunities, low social capital, and were stereotyped and labelled as ‘incompetent’ because of how they look, speak, or even the sound of their names. Repeatedly, they were made to work harder to prove themselves as ‘deserving’ because they were different. 

But, … ‘different’ is good! Why be the same? Instead, we can be enriched by embracing different perspectives, thoughts and experiences. Diversity is positive and adds MORE.  

So, yes, what a relief that the world is now realising this! What a difference it also makes to our careers! Imagine that we all get it, and are happy to give everyone a chance and treat people fairly, regardless of their backgrounds, beliefs, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, disabilities, class, gender etc…? Regardless of what makes them different from us. Not judging but embracing and celebrating these differences. I know, … it’s easier said. But, what a relief that the world is working towards this. Well-done world! 

Maybe now, my career journey can be a little easier to navigate? I hope… 

The new year also brought with it a new task at work to write a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) statement for Zest Psychology – where I have the opportunity to work as an intern Psychologist (part of my exciting psychology-career change-Journey!). This was needed for a funding application, and to also have a statement and policy detailing our commitment to DEI.  

 I jumped at this task and was excited to be part of making this change towards a more diverse, inclusive and equitable career-world where people feel like they belong. So, I went off with the goal to write a good DEI statement. 

Some key things on my mind were: What DEI means? Not just to me, but to others – and maybe, even more to that person from a marginalised or under-represented group. Then, what does it mean to an organisation? Surely, not a ‘tick box’, please! It has to matter. So… why write a DEI statement and policy? 

 

Writing a DEI statement – ‘the What?’ 

A DEI statement is important as it stands as an organisation’s public declaration of their commitment to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace, which outlines their principles and values regarding DEI. These outlined principles are then translated into concrete action plans in the DEI policies that follow, by detailing the specific steps the organisation will take to achieve their DEI goals.  

 

Things to consider. 

To write a good DEI statement, it is important to: 

  • Include your employees in the process to understand their DEI opinions and thoughts, including their experiences in your organisation. It demonstrates inclusivity, open communication, and also tells them that they are valued. This can be done through surveys or questionnaires.  
  • Understand the power of belonging. Everyone has a deep-seated desire to belong and feel connected or be part of something. The social psychologist Abraham Maslow highlighted this in his Hierarchy of Needs theory. A strong sense of belonging can boost our self-esteem, creativity and wellbeing, and therefore, can impact the work we do positively. Related to belonging is the need to feel safe. Amy Edmonson coined the term ‘Psychological safety’, which describes a workspace where employees feel safe to make mistakes, share ideas, and take risks without the fear of being judged or punished. It is important to consider these at the start of and throughout the DEI journey. 
  • Reflect on your organisation’s core values. You will need to consider how DEI fits into the bigger picture. So, your statement should be an extension of your values as an organisation. This enables you to stay authentic and clear on what you stand for. 
  • Be transparent, ready to act and show accountability. Being transparent about your current state shows that you are genuine and ready to embark on the DEI journey to effect a change. It demonstrates that this is not just words, but a commitment. It is also important to show accountability by your commitment to continually review and revise the statement as your organisation evolves. 

Why a DEI statement & Policy? 

This is beneficial for both the organisation and their employees because when individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives come together, this promotes innovative ideas, effective problem solving, and greater success is achieved. This then opens up a work culture where:  

 

  • The organisation paves the way for people to feel comfortable to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work, and to feel safe that they will not be judged or discriminated against because of who they are (or are not). 

 

  • People are assured that they will be treated fairly and have a fair chance and access to opportunities as everyone else – e.g. leadership development opportunities, mentoring, and social capital. Bourdieu’s social capital theory highlights the career disadvantages of having limited social capital (worth checking this out). 

 

  • People have a sense of belonging and do not feel like they are treated differently or excluded from the ‘in-group’ because of how they are different from others that are ‘more accepted’. This touches on Henri Tajfel’s Social identity theory (SIT) – a social psychological theory about intergroup relations and categorisations, including social identities, marginalisation, and prejudices within groups. For example, in-group/out-group categorisations.  

One of the functions of DEI is to fight against these types of disparities in our workplaces. 

 

As a result, writing a DEI statement and policy is a way an organisation along with their employees, together, make an effort towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture. It equips them to dismantle the barriers posed by institutional work practices and norms that encourage discriminations or stereotypes and reinforce or contribute to inequalities and marginalisation at work. This is important! It is important to me. And it is important to the career-world. 

So, writing this DEI statement gave me a chance to be part of this change that I want to see. And to help me get a little closer to my career goal; forging through those ‘previously inaccessible opportunities – now made possibilities’ (hopefully) by a DEI- aware career-world. 

Let’s all continue to embrace each other and work together to make a better career-world, and a much better world where everyone has a chance.

Author: Zoe Nwosu (MBPsS MSc) 

Intern psychologist at Zest Psychology

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