Diversity Last? Why Equity and Inclusion Matter

In my last entry, I talked about diversity, equity, and inclusion in recruiting. I went about defining what those things meant to me and how I believed they should be practiced throughout the recruiting process.

As with everything in life, there is always much to learn; a recent article by Richard Leong, a DEI consultant based in California, as well as the IndySHRM DEI Conference, has me going through the process of reframing the definitions I established just one blog ago!

It is what it is, and it’s work worth doing.

So, here’s why I’ve come to think, in the grand scheme of things, diversity is the least important thing we should be focused on, and why equity and inclusion need our attention, especially when it comes to recruiting.


What is equity again?

Per my previous entry (and from the Urban Strategies Council):Equity is fairness and justice achieved through systematically assessing disparities in opportunities, outcomes, and representation and redressing [those] disparities through targeted actions.

This means we understand why certain people and communities carry privilege and access, while others do not.


What about inclusion?

In Forbes’s 2021 article, Paolo Gaudiano’s said: “inclusion is the act of ensuring that people’s experiences within an organization are not impacted negatively as a result of their personal characteristics.”

This is sometimes also (or concurrently?) called belonging, because it is the means with which we make others feel a sense of being included or belonging.


So, what’s wrong with diversity?

Great question.

Diversity has been championed as the measure for which a company, school, or organization can claim social capital. Unfortunately, too often is this act of creating “diversity” actually just performance; while places might be hiring people who don’t look the same as the majority of their employee base, their leadership is still all white men or their workplaces are not safe for the people they’ve hired or the turnover rate for folks from marginalized groups remains high.

The list goes on.

At the end of the day, diversity becomes co-opted by those in leadership as a shield, therefore stripping it of its power.


Wait, so why is diversity less important than those other two?

It’s quite simple: if equity is at the center of our practices to create inclusive workplaces + cultures, then diversity will naturally occur.

This shifts the focus from “diversity” to “equity and inclusion.” By shifting the focus, we can start to change and/or implement equitable, inclusive procedures and practices. That doesn’t mean diversity isn’t important; it means that by creating equitable access to opportunities and creating inclusive, informed spaces and processes, we will naturally trend towards diversity in who we hire, who we promote, and who leads us.


Okay, that makes sense. However, what’s that have to do with Richard’s article?

Well, this is where it all comes together.

In his article, Richard talks about shifting from DEI to EDI. He defines EDI as Equitable Diversity and Inclusion, meaning that by framing, “Diversity and Inclusion as under the overarching adjective of Equitable, it sets us up to think differently.

The hierarchy here places equity above the others, something I agree with. But in truth, if we are focused and practicing equitable inclusion, which would be the understanding that not all employees have the same type of access and privilege and creating a workplace and culture grounded in that, then equitable diversity will come.


Okay I get it. If equity is being centered, and equitable inclusion is being embraced, then diversity will come. I get it! What’s that have to do with recruiting?


By creating equitable recruiting habits, we are more likely to eliminate bias from our practices. Will we always be perfect and eliminate bias by implementing these things? Of course not.  That’s not possible! But it’s something to strive for. And that’s the thing; so many of us in this space what to recruit “diverse candidates,” but what does that really mean? Are we just filling quotas for the hiring teams? Or are we truly connecting the right people with these opportunities?

Instead of looking for diversity, we should focus on the why and how we do things. By practicing equitable inclusion, by centering equity, we invite diversity: in our candidates, in our employees, and in our companies. When that happens, we grow.


To learn more about this topic, you can click on the links below:

The Inescapable Ambiguity of DEI and Why EDI Works Better (substack.com)

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