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DEI Jobs: How Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Are Changing the Workplace

Published on: July 28, 2022

a stack of wooden blocks with the words diversity, equity and inclusion on them

Diversityequity and inclusion (DEI) are more than corporate buzzwords. These seemingly simple terms have the power to transform how we treat employees and build community within the modern workforce. They also provide a wealth of opportunities for compassionate and proactive professionals looking to make a discernible difference. 

Despite having already made its mark within the professional world, DEI remains highly misunderstood. Misconceptions abound, with entry-level employees and C-suite executives alike failing to understand just how necessary DEI training is and how transformative DEI jobs can be.

To shed light on these exciting opportunities, we've compiled a guide to all things DEI —what it is, why it's important and which career opportunities await.

What Is DEI?

Although often grouped together, the concepts of diversityequity and inclusion reference three distinct values that can coalesce to make a healthier, more welcoming and more productive workplace.

Together, these three qualities are implemented within training programs meant to improve workplace culture while also accommodating individual development.

To truly understand how these concepts work together, it helps to gain a basic grasp of what they mean separately.

Diversity

While many people think of diversity as referencing minority populations, this definition fails to capture the true potential of a diverse workforce or community. Diversity should be framed less as classifying what makes us different or grouping us within categories — and more as celebrating the unique perspectives and talents we bring to the table.

Within a corporate framework, diversity represents the full scope of differences seen within an organization. These relate not only to race, gender, sexual orientation or disability, but also, to education level, philosophical viewpoints, marital status, job experience and so much more. A truly diverse workplace is one in which all these differences are accepted, encouraged and celebrated. 

Equity

Equity involves a level playing field, in which, despite the many differences highlighted above, various types of people enjoy full access to relevant resources, not to mention opportunities for advancement. For a workplace to be equitable, it must actively strive to build fairness and accessibility into both everyday functions and long-term initiatives.

Understanding is also essential; leaders must recognize where fairness is lacking and what can be done to reverse these problems. When possible, workplaces must address disadvantages that prevent certain professionals from living up to their full potential.

Inclusion

Leaders sometimes assume that, if they make an active effort to foster diversity and equity, inclusion will naturally follow. In reality, inclusion requires separate initiatives, with the goal of ensuring that all team members feel a sense of belonging. 

Unfortunately, even when a diverse array of individuals is represented and given fair access to opportunities, they may still feel "othered," or develop a sense that they don't fit in. As such, inclusion efforts aim to make every person feel as if they are an integral part of the team — and that they are valued exactly as they are. Empathy and respect are key to fostering a solid sense of inclusion.

Why Is DEI in the Workplace Important?

Today's leaders increasingly view DEI as a moral imperative. It is a powerful component of values-driven business, in which shared philosophies are as important as the core products or services a particular company provides.

Beyond this, DEI is important because it drives impressive results. From employee satisfaction to productivity and innovation, it is increasingly clear that organizations that successfully implement DEI initiatives are the most likely to succeed.

Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

Workforce diversity prompts a wide array of compelling benefits. Many of these should make employers sit up and take notice, although employees also clearly benefit from exposure to DEI-oriented work environments. Key advantages include:

Improved Worker Satisfaction

A growing body of research suggests that career advancement opportunities are decidedly limited within organizations that fail to commit to diversity. This, in turn, can make employees feel demoralized. SurveyMonkey research science manager Laura Wronski notes that "workers who are satisfied with their company’s efforts on [DEI] issues are actually happier with their jobs."

Innovation

It only stands to reason that, by seeking ideas from a greater variety of professionals, organizations will ultimately uncover exciting possibilities that might otherwise have been overlooked. Without an emphasis on DEI, however, businesses may pass over the very employees who are best positioned to provide powerful insights.

Numerous surveys and case studies confirm that DEI drives innovation. As experts from the Harvard Business Review explain, it's important for leaders to value differences — this ensures that "employees can find senior people to go to bat for compelling ideas and can persuade those in charge of budgets to deploy resources to develop those ideas."

Outperforming on Profitability

The various benefits highlighted above coalesce to make diversity-minded companies as much as 36% more profitable than their lagging counterparts. This is evidenced in comprehensive studies from McKinsey, which make a clear business case for implementing DEI initiatives. Data from McKinsey reveals that when companies fail to achieve diversity within their executive teams, they are far more likely to underperform in terms of profitability, as compared to the national median within their industry.

DEI Is a Priority for Modern Employees

In addition to boosting innovation and productivity, DEI can play a vital role in recruitment. A wealth of surveys indicate that DEI is a priority for today's most in-demand professionals, many of whom will happily sacrifice the highest-paying jobs if the employers in question fail to live up to their personal convictions.

Results from a 2021 poll conducted by CNBC and the SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey reveal that nearly 80 percent of today's employees prefer to work for companies that emphasize DEI. Over half of respondents took this a step further, referring to DEI as "very important" in the workplace.

Unfortunately, only a third saw sufficient DEI efforts taking place within their own companies. This can give employers a competitive edge in recruiting — an essential advantage amid a tight labor market.

What Skills Are Most Useful in DEI Roles?

DEI isn't achieved by happenstance; it takes a concerted effort, led by thoroughly trained — and incredibly passionate — teams or individuals who are determined to make a difference. These professionals typically display a blend of soft skills, including these essential qualities:

  • Empathy. There is no substitute for empathy in DEI initiatives. Employers charged with improving diversity must have a firm grasp of the challenges that all types of professionals face. This means listening attentively as employees voice their concerns — and showing both compassion and a commitment to change. The more perspectives these leaders encounter, the better.
  • Collaboration. Because their everyday tasks involve appealing to and working with a wide variety of colleagues, DEI professionals must be effective collaborators. They can expect to work closely with employees at all levels, as well as executives, vendors and clients.
  • Data analysis. Soft skills are highly valuable for DEI implementation, but these must be backed by a clear ability to navigate complex research. DEI professionals must determine the scope of the problems within their organizations, along with where, exactly, barriers to diversityequity and inclusion exist. This calls for extensive research and quantitative skills. From there, DEI experts can identify metrics for success and track progress — adjusting as needed according to evolving data.

What Types of Jobs Are There in DEI?

As a team effort, DEI can be implemented at all levels. While it depends, to some extent, on a top-down approach in which a positive example is set at the management level, employees of all kinds can contribute to the end goal of achieving a work environment that is healthy and rewarding for all.

Interested in working in DEI but not sure how these ideals might fit into your future profession? Below, we've highlighted several types of positions that involve the creation and implementation of DEI programs. These are categorized by level and team involvement. As you'll see, DEI can be integrated into a diverse array of positions.

Senior Leadership

While DEI was once largely an afterthought, employers are finally beginning to give these concepts the attention and respect they deserve. Often, this means hiring DEI experts for senior positions in which they hold a great deal of influence and oversight.

Increasingly, major corporations hire Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs), who are tasked not only with implementing specific DEI initiatives, but also, with building diversity, equity and inclusion into the very fabric of the organization.

Middle Management

The logistics of large-scale values or programs promoted by CDOs may require ironing out at the middle management level. There, common titles for DEI jobs include:

  • Director of DEI
  • DEI Program Manager
  • DEI Project Manager
  • HR DEI Lead
  • Senior Director of DEI Communications

Diversity Recruiter

As mentioned previously, today's employees overwhelmingly want to work for companies that value DEI. Diversity recruiters determine where gaps exist and which types of employees are best capable of bringing valuable new perspectives to the workforce. From there, they actively recruit professionals from a wide array of backgrounds. They may also be involved with onboarding to set new hires up for success.

DEI Consultant or Specialist

While many organizations now employ in-house professionals in hopes of making lasting changes, some may need to turn to consultants or specialists to bridge the gap. These independent professionals provide many advantages worth considering, even for organizations that already manage their own DEI teams. Often, an outside perspective is needed to uncover issues that in-house professionals overlook — or to provide ideas for solutions that may otherwise never be considered.

Many DEI consultants specialize in specific concerns that require a detailed understanding of policy or industry trends. Others bring a wealth of experience within targeted sectors. They can ensure that businesses of all sizes and within all industries benefit from implementing DEI.

Jobs That Transition Well Into DEI Roles

Earlier, we identified a variety of soft skills that are critical to success in all types of DEI positions. These skills are also essential in a variety of other fields, however, making DEI-oriented careers ideal for employees who have already cultivated highly transferable skills. Examples of jobs that transition well into DEI include:

  • HR Manager
  • HR Coordinator
  • HR Analyst
  • PR Manager
  • Recruiting Manager
  • Talent Acquisition Coordinator
  • Marketing Director
  • Employment Attorney

What Kind of DEI Training Is Available?

While many transferable skills can prepare professionals for success within the DEI niche, this field still calls for a high level of targeted training. Thankfully, this is readily available. Recently, many degree programs have implemented DEI coursework.

New graduates increasingly emerge with valuable DEI training, but there are also plenty of opportunities for professionals who received their degrees prior to the increasing demand in DEI initiatives. Targeted certification programs allow employees to seamlessly make the transition to DEI roles. 

Husson Online, for example, offers a certificate in diversityequity and inclusion. This undergraduate program involves a total of nine credit hours. Enrolled students receive numerous opportunities to reexamine societal and institutional ideologies that may function as DEI roadblocks. They emerge equipped with a thorough understanding of the expanded role that DEI plays in modern organizational culture, as well as the actionable insights needed to drive change as they step into leadership roles.

If you're interested in building DEI into your career path, consider enrolling in Husson's DEI certificate program. Contact us today to learn more about our DEI training opportunities.

 

Sources

https://dei.extension.org/

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