GSG Panel Discussion Explores DEI and Employee Communication

Last week, we were delighted to host an interactive discussion on “DEI: Driving the Future of Employee Engagement” in our Seattle office. Our panel of Seattle-based leaders in the diversity, equity and inclusion space addressed the critical role that communications plays in conversations around equality in the workplace, unconscious bias, employee engagement, and talent recruitment.

Our panelists:

  • Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, Mariko Lockhart;
  • Starbucks’s Senior Manager of Inclusion Diversity Equity and Accessibility, James Thomas;
  • Carta’s Head of People Programs and Learning & Development, Tessa Schneider; and
  • Seattle Public School’s Principal Tarra Patrick.

Our insights:

Moderated by GSG’s Josh Chaitin and Jenn Rea, the conversation centered on the topics of how systemic issues relate to change and DEI, the need for transparency around DEI engagement in the workplace, and how everyone can be an influential player in this discussion. Here were the key takeaways:

  1. Ally-ship means more than just the majority supporting the minority, it means that the majority has an obligation to amplify the unheard voices in the room. Within organizations, this means creating, communicating and actively supporting policies and practices that elevate opportunities for greater equity.
  2. A helpful tool in learning how to engage in DEI discussions is to intentionally practice finding opportunities to find empathy in your day-to-day life – both inside and outside your workplace.
  3. Challenge global statements and language that disempower those in the minority. For example, if someone claims that addressing DEI is too big a challenge because it is a systemic issue, remember that all systems are made up of people, and people have the power and responsibility to create change within these systems.
  4. Consumers are demanding transparency from the companies they interact with and this demand reflects employee sentiment, as well. Organizations need to communicate their commitments to address and embrace diversity, equity and inclusion to internal and external audiences. They need to demonstrate these commitments through action, including sharing information about efforts to increase diversity across all levels of their workforce and to create a work environment that enables people from diverse backgrounds to not only find work, but to thrive.
  5. Being an ally requires challenging actions and language that negatively impact those in the minority even – and especially – when no one from the minority is present. Consider how you respond when you see or hear something offensive/demeaning to minority groups when you’re behind closed doors. Calling out biases can make people in the majority feel most uncomfortable, but it is where some of the most powerful conversations around inclusivity can occur.
  6. DEI needs to be prioritized and presented as a problem to be solved. It is not something you can passively engage with. For those in the majority, this means not opting out when conversations or circumstance become too uncomfortable, but instead, choosing to stay actively engaged. Being active can include everything from supporting proactive actions within an organization, such as the creation of DEI policies and resources, to calling out actions that enable the suppression of the minority, such as unfair hiring practices.
  7. It is essential that those in the majority seek to educate themselves to better understand how to be strong allies without relying solely on seeking guidance from those in the minority, as this can create an undue burden.