The events industry has come a long way in its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), but we still have a distance to go.
Imagine being a father, and your daughter asks you to build her a playhouse so that she can use it with her friends on her birthday. You tell yourself it’s easy and that you can accomplish it quickly so you’ll wait until later.
You wait until the day of her birthday to start building what you failed to realize is a 200-piece playhouse, and the party starts in two hours.
So, what do you do?
You were wrong in thinking you could get it done in two hours. Now your daughter is on the cusp of tears because you chose to wait until the last minute to build this playhouse.
That is very similar to how many people choose to treat DEI. We often wait until the last minute.
Often, we don’t have data to pull together to make proper decisions ahead of time. Instead, we wait until we face a scenario and have to act under pressure. It’s one thing to say you support DEI, but we must put it into action. Here are nine meaningful ways to intentionally implement DEI into your work environment.
1. Collect and Analyze Data
Without collecting data about learning styles, personality types, disabilities, demographics, and accessibility needs, we have no basis for navigating DEI. Data will be the foundation that we can build upon as we implement practices that open the door to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Data is essential. Collect it, analyze it and implement it.
2. Identify Problem Areas and Barriers
The next step is finding out what problems need fixing. But how can you fix a problem you don’t know exists? Just like the father not knowing the playhouse had 200 pieces until it was too late, not implementing DEI can lead to a messy outcome. Walmart faced a $125 million lawsuit because they chose not to identify their DEI gaps. Coca-Cola faced a $192.5 million lawsuit for the same reason. This is why we have cancel culture today—because many people feel it is the only way their voice will be heard when it comes to discrimination. Take the time to know your co-workers’ learning styles, personality types, disabilities, and accessibility needs, and give them a voice.
3. Don’t Fake DEI
The world understands DEI by now, and the world also understands when you are doing something just because it’s trending. Between Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2021, Blendoor reported that 535 tech companies pledged to donate more than $4.5 billion to support DEI in all facets of their work. However, Blendoor also found that the companies that made Black Lives Matter statements or pledges, had an average of 20% fewer Black employees than businesses that didn’t make comparable statements or donations.
These kinds of inconsistencies are also seen in discriminatory pay practices. Last Year’s Black Women Equal Pay Day advocacy efforts revealed that in 2020, Black women had to work an extra 214 days to earn the same amount as white, non-Hispanic men made. A company’s outward claims to support DEI are hypocrisy if they’re not backed up by fair pay and hiring practices.
4. Change and Implement Systems
Leaders have to acknowledge that their organization isn’t a level playing field. HR departments have to recognize that their hiring practices need an overhaul. Event professionals must acknowledge that their vendor teams and preferred vendor lists have remained the same without a thought of reevaluating for years.
To have equity means that all people have a fair opportunity to reach their full potential. Not some people, but all people. Five simple steps toward implementing systems include:
- Remove Policies that hinder DEI
- Hire DEI professionals for quarterly training
- Fill in gaps seen from collected data
- Include DEI in annual evaluations
- Never stop assessing
5. Enhance Equity
Recognize inequalities and acknowledge that we are not operating on a level playing field. Opportunity is not the same for everyone. Equity is more than equality. Someone in a wheelchair will need some extra accommodations to take the same opportunities as someone who is not. We must go beyond equality and enhance equity.
6. Reveal Unintentional Bias and Move Beyond it
How do you determine if you have a bias?
- Step one: Figure out who makes you feel mad or uncomfortable and why. Is the reason you are uncomfortable based on your personal experience or because someone else told you something that may or may not have even happened to them?
- Step two: Admit that you have this bias, validated or not. Maybe you are hurt and angry that after being with someone for 10 years, they finally tell you they are gay or bisexual. Now you project your feelings of hurt or anger onto the entire LGBTQ community. You have to go through these feelings and emotions and let that mess go.
- Step three: Confront the ugly bias you hold onto. Have lunch with someone in a wheelchair. Get coffee with a black woman. Ask someone who does not look like you to teach you something. This is the hardest part because people don’t want to be vulnerable enough to check their bias, but we have to.
7. Provide Effective Tools
Effective tools for improving DEI include quarterly trainings, evaluations that include DEI grading, therapy, accountability partners, making new friends outside of your community, and joining social and racial justice organizations.
Creating a DEI team is another form of accountability for your organization and community. How many of us are DEI professionals? How many of us have experience fixing DEI issues? At the National Events Council, we have five members on our council who are actual DEI professionals because we want to make sure we speak from a knowledge and experience position. Don’t settle for a voluntary team of employees with no background in this. Do the hard work.
The goal here is to stop doing what you have been doing for years. The reality is knowing that this will take time and daily accountability because we all know we cannot pull away from a slice of red velvet cake when we have gotten used to eating it week after week, or is that just me? Changing the way you think and changing habits will take time. Give yourself grace during this journey.
8. Avoid Diversity Tax
Diversity tax is something that happens all the time, especially in the form of tokenism. Tokenism involves the practice of recruiting people from underrepresented groups to give the appearance of promoting equality in your organization. We need to focus on meaningful, institutional change through program development and rooting out things like tokenism.
9. Ask for Help
You are not expected to have all the answers yourself. It is admirable to seek out help and take suggestions to heart. That is exactly why I founded the National Events Council to end racial equality within the event industry by bringing awareness of BIPOC business owners and supporting them with meaningful resources.
Together, we can make the events industry and every industry safer and more welcoming for everyone. We are proud to be a black-owned event planning company that is committed to improving DEI in our own company and community and in the events industry as a whole.