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If a fly on the head of a politician can capture the imagination of the entire United States voting population, then just imagine all the buzz and difference that you alone can create in your personal life and professional career.
If a fly can dominate a 24-hour news cycle — complete with a Twitter page, campaign t-shirts and a fly swatter — then surely, we all can figure out a way to best thrive in these surreal times.
As the editor-in-chief of a dynamic multiplatform publishing division, I take pride in overseeing Workspan Daily, a news service that reports on multiple facets of the workplace and the employee experience.
So, what, you ask, does a vice-presidential debate have to do with the day-to-day life of a corporate cog in the wheel? Moreover, what do politics have to do with total rewards? Is there no escape from the daily pandemonium?
These questions aren’t rhetorical. I intentionally used the cynical “cog in the wheel” description because many people do not feel they have the autonomy or talent to make a difference in their immediate surroundings. The dire circumstances of a divided COVID-19 planet have left them frustrated, if not exasperated.
When I think about working for an organization that has designated an entire month to the lofty concept of Workplace Equity, I wonder what that exactly means and how I can make it as meaningful to others as it is to me. I look at the WorldatWork mission and how it has expanded light years beyond the initial mission of the American Compensation Association, and it makes me proud to be a WorldatWork employee.
But this blog post isn’t about promoting my organization, nor is it about my own belief system. It’s about the value of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and how we as a society and people should embrace the concept and turn it into a sweeping initiative.
What Is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)?
According to the eXtension Foundation Impact Collaborative, diversity is the presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective. Populations that have been — and remain — underrepresented among practitioners in the field and marginalized in the broader society.
Equity, according to eXtension, is promoting justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.
Inclusion, as defined by the DEI collaborative, is an outcome to ensure those that are diverse actually feel and/or are welcomed. Inclusion outcomes are met when you, your institution, and your program are truly inviting to all. To the degree to which diverse individuals are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes and development opportunities with an organization or group.
The Fly Was No Accident
We often refer to diversity and inclusion (D&I) as its own discipline or area of interest, but really DEI is a more apt, comprehensive and aspirational goal for organizations to attain. DEI speaks to equality and it also speaks to distinct individual circumstances and unconscious biases that continue to oppress people from fulfilling their goals.
DEI belongs in the national (and, yes, global) conversation because it speaks directly to humanity and what separates us from all other living beings. It speaks to commonalities and differences, but it also speaks to empathy, customization and recognition. DEI rewards people for overcoming barriers that in another time would have automatically disqualified them from achieving their dreams. DEI is not a racial quota or state mandate (though it could be perceived as such); it is a refreshing, integrated outlook and a holistic mindset, a reset of the chess board, where the value of pawns is equal to the value of kings, where queens could hold more power than kings, and all have the potential to rule.
The vice-presidential debate displayed the true contrast (and lack of diverse leadership) the U.S. federal government faces. It is not merely a black-and-white issue or a male vs. female issue; it is a societal issue that we must overcome, in Small Town and Main Street America, and in the boardrooms across Corporate America, some of which are now mandated by state law to diversify.
You might say the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head was a random distraction from all that ails America. But I say that it didn’t land there by accident. For America to truly become a global leader, it must contend with all of the unwanted disruptions, inconveniences and racial injustices that so plague our nation. We must contend with the continued marginalization of minority groups. The damage thus far may be reparable, but it is long past time for us to confront the grievances of The Other.
The fly has spoken. We can no longer pretend it’s not there.
About the Author
Dan Cafaro is the editor-in-chief and director of publications for WorldatWork.