What is DEI Consulting?

Diversity, equity and inclusion — commonly referred to as DEI — is increasingly important in the workplace, organizations, and schools, as we seek to embrace all of the diversity in our world. 

This work goes beyond simply including diverse voices. Multiple identities, cultures, languages, sizes, abilities, and communities must be included and consulted if we are truly committed to equity. These voices must also be embedded in our practices, policies, procedures, and everyday consciousness. We must specifically think about those who are vulnerable, marginalized, and underserved; and actively engage these voices via inclusive practices and behaviors.

How can DEI Work Help Us?

DEI work can mean a promotion for those individuals who are never promoted and overlooked due to bias or lack of inclusion and discriminatory practices. Organizations would thoughtfully scrutinize personnel practices, policies, images, and protocols for equitable practices when engaging in thoughtful DEI work.

A Child being Handcuffed by a Police Officer

In schools, DEI will assist school leaders and educators in making sure they are teaching with an equity lens, and that their instructional toolbox is diverse, culturally responsive and flavorful. This work can make the difference in disproportional over-discipline of Black and Brown children when educators reflect upon their perceptions and biases they bring to the classroom. Looking through an inside out view, law enforcement will be forced to look at the insidious practices of over-policing and contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline. In society, we can find resilience, strengths-based perspectives, and cultural respect of others via effective DEI work.

Ultimately DEI work is crucial to organizations and schools. It is essentially important for all societal systems. The “inside out” process which entails carefully scrutinizing self to identify biases, microaggressions, and policies and procedures that contribute to organizational and individual behavior supports a workplace and world that is equitable, safe, validating, and empathic for all.

Please review the definitions below that provide you with more information regarding DEI Language.

Definitions Most Commonly Utilized in DEI Work

A cartoon illustrating the differences between equality, equity, reality, and liberation
  • Equity: Treating someone differently to treat them fairly
  • Equality: Giving everyone the same resources
  • Diversity: Is the range of human differences, including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religion or ethical values systems, national origin, and political beliefs.
  • Inclusivity: Is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized, promoted, sustained toward the ultimate goal of fostering a sense of belonging. Inclusion values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of everyone.
  • Culturally Responsive: Being culturally responsive is an approach to living life in a way that practices the validation and affirmation of different cultures for the purposes of moving beyond all “isms.” Cultural responsivity refers to the ability to learn from and relate respectfully to people from your own and other cultures. Cultural responsiveness is for everyone. (NCCREST)
  • Cultural Humility: To practice cultural humility is to maintain a willingness to suspend what you know, or what you think you know, about a person based on generalizations about their culture. Rather, what you learn about your clients’ culture stems from being open to what they themselves have determined is their personal expression of their heritage and culture (personal culture). Cultural Humility has three dimensions:
    1. Lifelong learning & critical self-reflection — to practice cultural humility is to understand that culture is, first and foremost, an expression of self and that the process of learning about each individuals’ culture is a lifelong endeavor, because no two individuals are the same; each individual is a complicated, multi-dimensional human being who can rightfully proclaim “My identity is rooted in my history… and I get to say who I am.”
    2. Recognizing and challenging power imbalances for respectful partnerships — while working to establish and maintain respect is essential in all healthy and productive relationships, the root of effective practice is in acknowledging and challenging the power imbalances inherent in our teacher/student dynamics.
    3. Institutional accountability — organizations need to model principles that dissect and hold accountable systems that oppress and maintain inequities across classrooms, schools, policies, procedures, discipline, expectations, etc.

Think of diversity as the dance
Think of Inclusivity as who is asked to dance

Race is not real—Racism is real!
  • Bias: A perception, belief or prejudicial thought or action in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
  • Race: A social construct/Race is not biological. It is a social construct (made-up). There is no gene or cluster of genes common to all blacks or all whites. Were race “real” in the genetic sense, racial classifications for individuals would remain constant across boundaries.
  • Racism: Racism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one person by another — or the belief that another person is less than human — because of skin color, language, customs, and place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations, and legal codes. Racism can be enacted toward an individual and be prevalent in structures, systems, politics, etc.
  • Ethnicity: Shared cultural practices, perspectives, and distinctions that set apart one group of people from another. Shared cultural heritage (i.e., ancestry, sense of history, language, religion …learned…not inherited) *How an individual identifies & with whom.
  • Institutional Racism: Institutional racism involves polices, practices, and procedures of institutions that have a disproportionately negative effect on racial minorities or other marginalized groups’ access to and quality of goods, services, opportunities and the right to an appropriate education.
Hand-lettered sign reading "The System was never broken; it was Built this way".
  • Stereotyped Threat: According to Steele and Aronson (1995), stereotype threat is defined as a “socially premised psychological threat that arises when one is in a situation or doing something for which a negative stereotype about one’s group applies” (Steele, 1997, p. 614). Another description of stereotype threat suggests that individuals are at risk of confirming a negative stereotype about their group. Here, individuals who experience stereotype threat are 1) acknowledging that a negative stereotype exists (i.e., salient in a given context or is explicitly stated) about the capabilities of their social group (i.e., race/ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic status) and 2) demonstrating apprehension about confirming the negative stereotype by engaging in particular activities.
    An example of stereotype threat is a member of a stigmatized group (i.e., African American students, women) feeling apprehension about performing on an academic task because the individual is afraid that a possible poor performance may confirm a pre-existing negative stereotype about the individual’s group (i.e., intellectual capabilities of African Americans or perceived underperformance of women in science and mathematics) Retrieved 2-2-17 from www. Education.com
  • Oppression: Oppression is the systemic abuse of power by one group at the expense of others via institutions, systems, psychological means, ideology, mental, emotional, and physical power over- including via culture, technology, images, refusals of rights and other powerful means to maintain status quo.
  • Internalized Oppression: The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.
  • Social Justice: Social justice is the fair and just relation between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, pursuing social justice is often enacted by pushing up and over systems that are complicit in maintaining the status quo.
  • Cultural Competence: Cultural competence in education implies a heightened consciousness of how culturally diverse populations experience their uniqueness and deal with their differences and similarities within a larger social context. Concurrently, cultural competence requires educators to use an intersectionality approach to interacting with and teaching students by examining forms of oppression, discrimination, and domination through diversity components of race and ethnicity, immigration and refugee status, religion and spirituality, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, social class, and abilities. (NASW).
  • Intersectionality: The theory of how different types of discrimination interact. An example is black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black, and of being a woman, considered independently, but must include the interactions, which frequently reinforce each other…Or, a bi-racial student who is asked to divorce him or herself from their bi-cultural identity. (Coined by K. Crenshaw, 2010)

Identity Development

How do we develop into the people that we are? Take a look at Identity Development and how it is formed across groups. How does your upbringing impact how you think about equity and diversity?

Table: Comparison of Identity Formation Models
Interaction Institute for Social Change, 2017