10 Ways to Get Started on Your DEI Jouney

by Katee Van Horn

As a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant, I get to work with a lot of amazing organizations. I also have learned there are a few things I can count on, like the questions that are asked. The question I get the most is, “Where do we start?” with a close second being, “What can we do right now?” 

I get it. When you start to dig into all the ways to become more inclusive and to drive more diversity in your team and board, it can become overwhelming. There is so much to do and so many ways you can make mistakes that you may feel like giving up. My advice for every organization, including yours, is to start small, build, and iterate.

What does starting small mean? Here are 10 ways to begin:

  • Review your job postings. 
    1. Check for language that might turn a candidate off from applying. Use inclusive language like “build,” “growth,” and “develop.”
    2. Research shows that women and people from underrepresented groups are less likely to apply to a role unless they meet all the criteria listed, so be sure every “required” skill is really required.
  • Talk to your leaders and team about why inclusion matters, especially as you think about the communities you serve and how to leverage differences to make the team even better.
  • Write an Inclusion Statement based in actions you will take. Put it on your website and add it to each job posting.
  • Be consistent in how you measure performance and make sure everyone knows the process of how they will be evaluated.
  • Review your company handbook and look at language.
    1. If you use the language of “he/his” or “she/her,” change that to “they/them.”
    2. Make sure policies are inclusive — and that benefits are reflective of the people you want to attract and retain.
  • Do your own work. Learn about diverse communities. We are all on our own journey and need to be open to learning. At the same time, don’t expect your team members or friends from underserved groups to do the work for you. 
  • Listen and believe people. When folks from underserved groups share their experiences, listen and believe them. Even if your experience was different. 
  • Look at your board and leadership team and create a plan for how you will be more inclusive and represent more diversity.
  • Expand your network by connecting with diverse voices. Hearing from people who are different from you will help you to grow and will give you ideas of how to make DEI real for your organization.
  • Be inclusive. It should be simple, but look around the room and determine who is missing and what voices are not being heard. Bring them to the table.

And, as a reminder, give yourself and others grace. You will make mistakes. You will say the wrong thing — and so will others. By giving grace and accepting grace, we can all grow.

Katee Van Horn is CEO of VH Included Consulting & Coaching.

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