3 Things to Start Noticing About Where You Work

Katie Zink
4 min readMay 2, 2020

When I hear people admit with frustration things like, “we need a more diverse applicant pool”, “a more diverse leadership team”, or “a more diverse network”, I get that feeling I always get right before I’m about to maybe go out on a limb (or challenge someone’s belief).

Don’t get me wrong, hoping for a diverse array of people who want to work at your company indicates massive potential to me. If this is you, you’re almost ready to make a real commitment to organizational DEI.

DEI practitioners are working hard to foster a mindset and debunk some of the inaccuracies of how workplace diversity is done. It never ceases in importance to slow down and take these terms (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) as individual parts.

Much of the blame and onus of workplace diversity falls onto the shoulders of our HR teams, but it’s bigger than one person or one team’s function. Fostering inclusivity requires company-wide commitment to change and is part of the collective culture. Simply wanting to hire for diversity is just one piece of the puzzle.

What’s the right mindset to have?

When done authentically, DEI is a transformational activity for the entire organization and uses an equity lens at all times. What does that mean?

It’s:

  • Not just “checking a box”.
  • Knowing it will take time.
  • Coming to terms with your own privilege.
  • Understanding how history has contributed to the problems we still have today.
  • Knowing there’s a spectrum of understanding, and an educational component needs to happen first before progress can be made.

Here are three things to start noticing about the environment you’re working in.

(1) Take a mental inventory of how your culture operates and the gaps.

Are there knowledge gaps, blind spots, or biases in daily operation? (hint: there always are.)

Do you see opportunity gaps (e.g. patterns of people getting hired and promoted, patterns of people getting invested in, and certain folks accessing available opportunities, or straight-up pay inequity)?

Do you notice minimal representation or disenfranchised voices (e.g. what do leadership teams look like, who speaks the most in meetings, who’s always taking the notes)?

What would the attendance be like if you were to host a workshop with your colleagues to discuss topics affecting race, gender, abilities, experiences, or backgrounds?

Do you and others believe all opportunities in the company are open to anyone who is qualified?

Yeah, heavy stuff.

I know how demoralizing some of this may be. I’ve felt all the fatigues: outrage-fatigue, decision-fatigue, and yes, even compassion-fatigue.

But remember, allowing discomfort is the first step to long-lasting change.

(2) Who’s in your community and why?

What does expanding your “reach” really mean to you? Is it the ability to make connections with and have an impact on the lives of as many identities as possible?

Or, is it just making more sales…?

Who does your product and service resonate with? Is it a homogenous audience without consideration of those who may be underserved or excluded? What if during the design process, considering and centering underserved identities actually resulted in the ability to serve more people?

Are you attracting clients that also value DEI work and share this as a common goal? What do you think that could do for the collective success of our societies?

For example, one of my favorite collaborations from last year was a meetup project with Portland Public Schools. The purpose was to increase access for educators of color to the Ed-Tech industry. This led to participants making unique connections and addressing ways to increase their representation in education. For those who are familiar, a lack of diversity in education has resulted in deeply-embedded systemic issues like The School To Prison Pipeline. Initiatives focused on increasing access to educators of color and restorative justice efforts will impact our future generations and result in an expanded opportunity for more students, not just students of the majority.

When you think about the role your organization plays in the community, more meaningful partnerships can grow.

Brands who demonstrate visibly conscious behavior, exist with integrity, and truly care about making a difference and justice, versus reputation and optics, are becoming favored in their market. Buyers want to trust that a company’s Why is more than just profits. They are expecting company leaders to articulate and demonstrate this commitment, too.

(3) What are your blind spots?

To adopt the mindset for workplace DEI, be a lifelong learner. This work calls for a fully-new set of terms, vocabulary, and lost history lessons to be understood and articulated.

Vernā Meyers gives my favorite explanation of how to identify your biases and walk boldly toward them.

Before doing or acting, first, seek to understand. Practice humility. Start having more open discussions with others on the subject matter of equity if it’s new to you. Our brains are wired to take action often well before we really understand what we need to do.

It’s a journey.

TBH, dismantling these aspects of the culture will take a long time and the landscape is changing constantly. It will be a gradual process and will require lots of internal work and self-education.

Once you get started with your first vision, first goals, and first plan, you can then create steps for sustainable and ongoing action. It’ll take a well-planned strategy.

This is the stuff I live and breathe. To see first-hand how we can recreate the success I’ve seen in other organizations, click here.

Originally published at https://katiezink.co on May 2, 2020.

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Katie Zink

DEI Strategist | Facilitator | Writer | Believes we’re all capable of our own revolution. Learn more about my signature consulting program at katiezink.co