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Know Your DEI Story

Written by: Hakemia Jackson, Diversity Equity And Inclusion Panel


The earth is shaking and the tides are shifting rapidly. It’s not because of the tectonic plates in the crust of the earth. It’s because of the millions of people uprooting their hollow beliefs about DEIB and planting a deeper connection to the DEIB movement. DEIB is an Acronym for Diversity, Equity, inclusion and belonging. While known to many, most aren’t aware of the journey it took to get to where we are today in DEIB.

Historically, there were global inequalities (income inequality or healthcare inequality) to regional civil rights issues (Civil Rights Acts of 1964) that were the roots of the DEIB movement. Regarded as something only the politicians, government officials, and corporate leaders had the power to change. In today’s society, DEIB has morphed from simply policy pushing to being people-centered and citizen controlled. It’s the everyday individual contributor, activist, and business owner’s efforts that are creating a new future of collective change and equity for all in life and in the workplace.

I’m not here to explain to you why DEIB is important and why it’s vital for the Future of Work. You know that already! I’m sure you have done your research and seen recent reports from Mckinsey that racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to perform better and outperform competitors. You may have also seen the Harvard Business Review (HBR) study that shows companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenue. HBR also mentions that companies with “two-dimensional” diversity are 45% more likely to report that they have captured a larger portion of the market and 70% more likely to have entered into a new market in the past year. DEIB is more than just revenue, it’s more than a one-off initiative, more than an awareness-building training, or a compliance approach that’s simply performative toward its talent. It’s about cultivating humanity to evolve into the best versions of themselves for work and life. Growing beyond the “hard numbers” (metrics) to authentically connecting your DEIB strategies to a mission-driven, impact story approach.

Before you or your organization eagerly jump to strategy, think about your DEIB story. Your story can’t be denied because you are the expert in it. You own it! Your story adds to the beautiful mosaic that makes DEIB so valuable. Your story explores why DEIB is significant to you and/or your organization's mission. It’s easy to take action, it's impactful when your actions are intentional and tied to a deeper meaning on why you do what you do in DEIB. I will admit it takes work to establish a deeper connection to DEIB because you may have to address past actions or uncover the organizational history that was malicious or contradictory to the modern-day beliefs tied to DEIB. On the other side of the spectrum deepening the DEIB connection may look like expanding or increasing your engagement to more than 1 underrepresented identity group or establishing a corporate social initiative in underprivileged communities. Being aware of whichever side of the DEIB spectrum you lean on, provides valuable insight into how you should craft your story while on this DEIB journey.

For instance, you may be a leader who has recently arrived at a place where you are interested in learning more about DEIB. While on your growth journey you discovered that you knowingly and/or unknowingly displayed biases, or microaggressions toward people of color or individuals in underrepresented groups. You realize that your own worldview has caused you to be disconnected to the DEIB movement. You now feel ashamed or guilty. The major question you have now is, should you continue to invest time in growing DEIB because of your past behavior?

The answer is Yes! No need for a pity party. It’s time for you to exercise unwavering courage and ferocious curiosity to understand why you believe what you believe. Think about the people, environments, and education that shaped your worldview. Who was missing from your experience? What would have been the benefit if those missing pieces were there? How has your racial or social identity affected the way you view others and the way others view you? How have your advantages or lack of disadvantages contributed to your opinions or actions? What’s keeping you from fully comprehending or acknowledging the plight of others? Understanding oneself as a diverse cultural being goes hand in hand with how well-grounded and confident you are in this DEIB movement. Most importantly, your responses to these questions matter for your DEIB story.

On the other hand, your organization has recently spoken out condemning racism and denouncing injustices across the board. They are urging companies to revamp their values and mission statement to show their commitment to fostering inclusion and belonging in the workplace. However, internally the employee experience does not align with the lip service leadership is saying while on public forums. In fact, after a thorough DEIB Audit, HR discovers the organization's history in perpetuating inequalities in hiring, compensation, upward mobility, and fostering toxic workplace cultures. The Executive Leadership Team is now embarrassed and frozen in disbelief because their actions appear to be more performative than authentic. The major question your organization may have is, are we able to be transformative in this DEI movement knowing what we know and what the world knows about us now?

The answer is yes! Yes! Yes! Moving from performative allyship to authentic allyship takes purposeful action. First, you must understand the difference between performative allyship and authentic allyship. Performative allyship is a gesture that is symbolic in nature, but does nothing to push the narrative of underrepresented groups forward. So, what theirs a social media post on the company’s platform about BLACK LIVES MATTER, WOMEN's HISTORY MONTH or PRIDE MONTH. While it's nice to be recognized, how are you supporting/promoting the black lives within the organization? Are their women executive leaders on your board? Are you addressing discrimination toward individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community both in your organization and externally? When leaders in your organization are aware of the company's DEI story, they see allyship as a part of the organization's mission. Being an alley to increase your company followers isn’t ideal or being an alley out of fear reeks of inauthenticity. Authentic allyship is intentional, meaningful, continuous action, and mission-driven. The organization acknowledges its power and privilege in its industry and vows to take a collective stance against social injustice and inequity. Authentic allyship partners with marginalized persons, groups, and/or institutions to promote transformative advances in hiring, upward mobility, retention, pay equity, holistic HR policies and practices, and culture.

There are many organizations that have a complicated DEI story. For example, Bank of America pledged to spend $1 billion over the next four years to address economic and racial inequality. Sounds like a great initiative but they have also paid out $4.2 million (US Department of Labor) after being accused of discriminating against blacks, Hispanics, and female job applicants. The company later denied allegations of discrimination.

What about Nike? While they stood in full support of Colin Kaepernick (an American former football star) and his position on social change for black and brown people. They fell short on gender equity with their female athletes by not implementing adequate maternity leave policies, practices, and compensation. Although a public blunder, Nike has never shied away from its DEI controversy. They have actively sought to get ahead of it as they became aware of them. Unashamed, they have even aired their own opportunities for growth in DEI. This shows their continuous commitment to their DEI journey.

Your DEI story is your DEI story. Use my E.A.R. Technique when shaping your DEI story. We have two of them for a reason. It's time to use them to listen intently. E.A.R. is an acronym for:

Explore what you don’t know and interrogate what you do know. We all have gaps and mental traps that keep us believing our story is the best story.

Accept what was exposed during the exploration phase. You or your organization may have received feedback that was different than what you believed. It’s ok. Simply stay focused on how to use the new data to evolve efforts in DEI.

Reflect on the DEI journey. What new perspectives you have added to your DEI story? What were the proudest moments in your story? What were the most challenging experiences? How did you make DEI mission-driven?

I have partnered with leaders and organizations who are trapped in regret, shame, guilt or fear because of how their story connects to DEIB. The advice I have given to both leaders and organizations in short is;

Your DEI story will help society as a whole normalize DEI. It’s time to grow past fear or guilt and take meaningful purposeful actions to enact monumental change!!!

For more info, follow Hakemia on LinkedIn, Instagram and visit her website!


Hakemia Jackson, Diversity Equity And Inclusion Panel

Hakemia Jackson, Global Executive Coach and Founder of Divinely Powered Leadership Development & Executive Coaching Practice is a passion-centered, results-oriented, holistic change-maker who has impacted leaders globally. With over 18 years of corporate experience in Technology, Talent Management and DEI, she specializes in transforming complex cultures into human-centric cultures of inclusivity and innovation to create long-term sustainable value. Hakemia takes a systemic, intersectional, human-centric approach to her work to deliver tailored and sustainable solutions to organizations like Shell Oil & Gas, The New York Times, Pinterest, and many more. As a DEI Board Advisor to a Fortune 100 company, she guides leaders with her no-nonsense yet vulnerable approach to addressing, committing, and taking action on DEI to impact growth and business performance. Her persistence when advocating for belonging and equity aims to improve outcomes for the BIPOC community and underrepresented groups and enthusiastically keeps CEOs and senior leadership teams accountable to their promises. She holds a Master in Science in Organizational Behavior & Executive Coaching, Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems, Licensed Spiritual Belief Therapist (LSBT), and Professional Certified Coach (PCC). Hakemia is a proud at times tired mother of 3 beautiful children, a devoted believer, and a committed wife.



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