Closing the DEI Gap: a Q&A with Candace Washington of Pivotal Impact (Part II)

What is the top misconception that organizations have related to equity before you start working with them?

We’ve seen that there’s often confusion around equality and equity. Many people don’t know the difference when they start this journey. Equality means things are the same on all levels for each person. Organizations need to understand that equity in the workplace is about everyone receiving fair treatment; when equity exists, people have equal access to opportunities. That sets up an advantageous environment for employees and the employer.

What does success look like? How do we measure it?

We focus a lot on measurement, and when we think about the temperature checks, you have to have lots of listening sessions to understand what’s happening. Let’s say a firm comes in and does DEI training for an organization. They’re trying to gauge where your organization is at with performance and retention of talent and where you want to go. Measuring can be done with engagement surveys before and after the experience to see what that change in behavior looks like. In addition, an organization should have an accountability scorecard with emerging leaders and management and constant communication and flow to revisit what they’ve learned, what’s different as a result of the experience, and how they’re holding each other accountable for the commitments they made. You need those checks and balances to ensure that you are seeing the needle move, because if the needle isn’t moving, what is the point?

What are some everyday behaviors that people may not realize are obstructing inclusion?

When I think of things that obstruct inclusion, I think of microinequities. Let’s say for example a leader is saying good morning to everyone besides one person, or a group of employees goes to hang out for drinks and one person is left out, or you’re in a meeting and you feel you can’t speak up or your opinion isn’t being heard or valued. Those are the types of microinequities that can occur within an organization. And when they start to happen to you, you might start thinking, “I don’t think there’s a place for me. I don’t feel like I belong.”

I know we touched on this a bit, but how has the pandemic affected organizations’ efforts to create inclusive spaces?

We’re engaging with each other from a communications standpoint every day, but we aren’t physically together, and what we’ve seen is that it is all about making sure people are being heard. You can’t just stop by someone’s cubicle to ask them how they’re doing, so it takes a lot of effort to check in with people now. You have to communicate differently.



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