“DEI Is Everyone’s Job”: Women’s Breakfast Tackles Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in the Workplace
Diversity, equity and inclusion have rapidly become top policy priorities in the workplace. But beyond the Instagram black squares and Notes app apologies, it’s not clear whether much has changed. On Tuesday, LM Live‘s final Women’s Breakfast of the year convened a panel of top DEI experts at the Studio at 7 World Trade Center: Thaly Germain, managing director of Transformation & Culture at BerlinRosen, and Evelyn Ontaneda, a DEI and talent and organizational development consultant and strategist. Erica González, founding editor of IDAR/E at the Women’s Media Center and the director of #Power4PuertoRico, moderated the panel.
The goal of the conversation, as González noted at the top of the panel, was to “understand the difference between transformational change and going through the motions,” with both panelists acknowledging that many companies and organizations that promised as much have not actually done the work to achieve the former. The panelists pointed out that some of those organizations considered the hiring of said DEI officers as an act of sufficient commitment, rather than merely a first step.
In reality, the panelists said, DEI should be an organization-wide effort, with everyone from C-suite executives to individual staff hires working together to make systemic change through difficult conversations. “The position [of a DEI officer] is frosting on the cake, but what goes into the cake? Every aspect of the organization needs to center DEI,” Ontaneda said. “DEI is everyone’s job, not the officer’s.”
“Folks see through the bullshit,” Germain added. “When they get your statement, they say, ‘Let me see your board. Let me see your C-suite.’” It’s not just talking points, but transformative things that need to happen in your company. Can the photographer who takes headshots take photos of dark-skinned folks? What is your long-term approach? What are you willing to invest in?”
The panelists also spoke about issues of sexism and misogyny in the workplace, how to build coalitions with other individuals seeking transformational change and the struggle to maintain momentum in the DEI movement. “When you haven’t built muscle memory, you get fatigued. There’s a dip,” Germain said. “The question is whether you can get back to the thing you meant to do.”dei, lm live, womens breakfast