Reckoning and Regression: The Performative Rise and Fall of Post-Floyd DEI
Watch the episode:
Read what we discussed:
Overcoming DEI Challenges: Building Leadership Capacity and Centering Equity
The business world experienced a reckoning after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Many companies rushed to establish diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) roles and programs.
However, in today's economic climate, these initiatives are often the first to face budget cuts and rollbacks.
Amena explores the realities behind these trends and spotlights the need for leadership capacity building and centering equity in order to create sustainable culture change.
The Performative Nature of Post-Floyd DEI Efforts
Many companies initiated DEI activities due to optics and external pressures, not an internal commitment. They wanted to "fix the look" of being inclusive without doing the deeper work.
Now, with eased scrutiny and financial constraints, they view DEI as expendable. This reveals that they never saw it as integral to business success.
The Core Struggles Facing Today's DEI Practitioners
On the ground, DEI leaders recognize inequities needing to be addressed.
Yet they struggle to get leadership buy-in and funding for equity-focused initiatives.
There is often a capacity gap where executives lack the knowledge and skills to spearhead culture change. Their focus stays on compliance and representation instead of achieving true belonging and inclusion.
The work must start from the top.
Leaders need anti-racist and inclusive leadership coaching to build their competencies.
This allows for more psychological safety across the organization.
They also require a deeper understanding of systemic oppression, power dynamics and racial literacy. This builds the resilience to sit with discomfort, hear hard truths and support changes.
Adopting a Context-Specific Diagnostic Approach
Cookie-cutter DEI solutions don't spark transformation. The specifics of inequity and exclusion must be surfaced and addressed.
Using assessment tools and data strategically is key.
The goal is to pinpoint unique obstacles then implement and measure targeted solutions.
Quick fixes won't suffice.
Making the Business Case for Equity
Initiatives flounder when leaders can't connect DEI to concrete business outcomes. If they can't articulate why equity matters in their context, the work loses momentum and support.
Pay equity is one issue with clear ties to retention and performance. If employees can't afford basic needs despite full-time work, that signals exclusions requiring change.
Looking Ahead with Courage and Commitment
The path forward lies in building capacity, centering belonging and seeing culture change as a long-term investment that pays dividends.
Avoiding discomfort means avoiding progress.
With courage and wisdom, leaders can guide their organizations towards equitable systems where everyone can thrive.
This creates resilience in the face of social and political challenges.
Ultimately, DEI must evolve from a sidelined initiative into an integrated business imperative focused on systemic equity.
Only then will it realize its transformative potential.