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08/25/2021

DEI: It Starts With You

Efforts may start small, but they have an outsized impact on your employees.  

Any right-thinking person can acknowledge that individuals deserve equity in all parts of life, including in our workplaces. Employees deserve to feel they can bring their full selves to work, and no one should be discriminated against or experience bias in the workplace.

Acknowledging that truth, though, is just the first step.

Big or Small, It Starts at the Top

Whether your organization has employees around the globe or just a few in your hometown, a commitment to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) matters to the people who work for you.

At NEW, we strive daily to provide solutions for our corporate partners that help them build a workplace where everyone gets a fair shake. That can’t happen without complete buy-in and confidence from those at the top of the leadership ladder. You must walk the walk for DEI efforts to reach their full potential.

Stated DEI goals and transparent reporting are a great way to hold everyone accountable to workplace progress. While it can be hard at first, being honest about where you are earns the trust of your employees — and customers. Be transparent about where you are now to show you’re doing the hard work.

Changing the Game

Accountability breeds confidence and ensures everyone is onboard with making strides toward equity. Then, it's time to change the game. Acknowledging privilege is a great place to start.

For example, we know that women, particularly women of color, are underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. Removing names and identifying information from resumes corrects for the possibility that unconscious bias — and the tendency for human beings to identify with those who most resemble themselves — is creating a homogenous workforce that isn’t inclusive. That’s one small change that could make all the difference!

Educating yourself is another powerful step. Dozens of articles have been written listing the resources those with privilege can leverage to educate themselves. Take a look at a few and set yourself a reading list. It’s not the responsibility of marginalized groups to educate others. It’s the responsibility of those who want to do right by others to educate themselves.

No Tolerance for Intolerance

One of the strongest steps you can take is something every employee, from the most junior to a CEO, can put into practice: speaking up. There is no more powerful show of support than backing up a colleague when you witness bias and intolerance. Show your employees by example that they work in an environment where all are welcome.

Embrace awkward conversations. While it’s important to speak up, be willing to listen to others when something you yourself have said is brought to your attention. React with openness to criticism and a willingness to listen, and you will continue to set a model of trust and safety for those around you.

A Better Future

DEI efforts may start small, but they have an outsized impact on your employees. When you build equity into your business model, you’ll be rewarded with a happier workplace, improved retention, and the trust and confidence of your employees and customers.

At NEW, Advancing All Women is what we do every day. But any organization can make DEI a key tenet of their business and reap the rewards that come with it.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News

About the Author

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning and leadership community representing 13,000 members in 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada. Learn more at newonline.org. Read More