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Why DEI?

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What is DEI?

Although Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a hot topic of conversation today, there is no one definition of what we mean by DEI. However, we will attempt to provide our best description of DEI to help frame the conversation around this important topic. 

The purpose of creating a DEI strategy is to define the short-term and long-term goals, priorities and initiatives for the organization. The process provides direction on how to achieve these objectives.


This includes:

  • Creating a DEI internal and external statement.

  • Continuous DEI educational programs for the team.

  • A DEI Communication plan which:

    • Communicates the DEI mission / vision and strategy internally and externally.

    • Includes the onboarding process.

    • Defines the digital brand: DEI information on the website and in social media.

  • Designing a talent pipeline focused on increasing diversity in the hiring, promotion, and succession planning process.

  • Listing the initiatives that the firm decides to focus on (based on the survey and data collection).

  • Defining metrics and creating a tracking process.

So, if DEI isn’t about quotas and numbers, what are we measuring?

What are we measuring in a DEI program? It is important to recognize that all organizations are on a DEI journey, and a DEI program helps you determine where you are and where you are headed. A solid DEI program should not be punitive or shaming in terms of where an organization is today. It should outline where the organization wants to head with its DEI efforts. 

Some key benchmarking measurement best practices include the following means to evaluate your organization: 

  1. What are you doing in the workplace? 

  2. What are you doing for the workforce?

  3. What is your role related to diversity in the industry or marketplace?

  4. How do you support DEI with your supplier community? Are you working and partnering with those that have DEI values?



The presence of “difference” within a given setting. Differences can arise in our appearances, thoughts, likes and dislikes, values, and identities. Diversity among identities may relate to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, education, marital status, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, and socioeconomic status, to name a few.

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While ‘equality’ means ʻsameness,’ EQUITY means FAIR treatment, fair access, fair opportunity and fair advancement for all people. Equity is an approach that ensures everyone is supported in their personal and professional development. Unlike equality, equity does not aim to treat all individuals in the exact same way. Instead, equity recognizes that advantages and barriers exist.

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The act of creating environments in which people feel like they can bring their authentic selves to work. It means everyone feels valued, respected and appreciated for their unique identities, even when they’re different from others. Inclusion outcomes are met when you, your institution, your policies and programs are truly inviting to all. And it extends to the degree in which diverse individuals can participate in decision-making processes and development opportunities.

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What is DEI?
DEI Benefits

DEI Benefits

DEI programs, when implemented correctly and tied to an organization’s strategic and business objectives, have proven to benefit an organization’s bottom line by creating a competitive advantage in many ways:

1. Financial performance: A study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians.


2. Employer of choice: According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers view a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating companies and considering job offers.


3. Innovation and growth: Harvard Business Review found that diverse companies are 70% likelier to capture a new market. They’re also 45% more likely to report increased market share year-over-year.


4. Increase employee engagement: 83% of millennials report being actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive workplace culture. The percentage drops to 60% when their organization does not foster an inclusive culture.


5. Powerful decision-making: Teams that are inclusive make better decisions up to 87% of the time, according to a study conducted by Forbes.

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Positive outcomes of organizations with DEI strategies include:

  • Diverse teams are more innovative, can solve complex problems

  • DEI is connected to employee engagement, job satisfaction and retention

  • Diversity and Inclusion impacts reputation and risk management

  • Corporate social responsibility and corporate sustainability

  • Limit legal liability

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Keys to Success

DEI often fails because organizations:
  • Recognize their workforce is not diverse, so the organization decides to recruit and hire diverse populations. But the new hires don’t last in that environment. This is typically due to lack of programs that support engagement and inclusion in the organization.

  • Observe and treat symptoms, yet fail to gather and review data. 

  • Fail to assess culture and climate.

  • Implement tactics with no strategy, metrics or accountability.

  • Limit efforts to recruitment only.

  • Have no alignment to strategic objectives and culture.

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Keys to Success

Diversity vs. Inclusion

Who is represented in an organization? Inclusion speaks more to who is respected, expected and integrated into an institution. Diversity is like being invited to the party, while inclusion is being asked to dance. Inclusion can’t be mandated. It must be cultivated.

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Diversity vs. Inclusion
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A quick, small act that results in a slight or indignity.

Offense is never intended.

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This is not a prejudice against a group as much as it is about favoring those who are a part of “your” group. 

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Prejudice or unfairness directed by a system or institution (health, religious, judicial, etc.) towards individuals of an oppressed or marginalized group, whether consciously motivated or from lack of exposure to issues important to marginalized communities.

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Also known as unconscious bias. Prejudice or unfairness directed by someone (a person) from a privileged group towards individuals from an oppressed or marginalized group, usually coming from a lack of exposure to issues important to marginalized communities.

The following quote from White Fragility helps us better understand the many misconceptions about the difference between DEI and Affirmative Action:

“…Affirmative action is a tool to ensure that qualified minority applicants are given the same employment opportunities as white people. It is a flexible program – there are no quotas or requirements…No employer is required to hire an unqualified person of color, but companies are required to be able to articulate why they didn’t hire a qualified person of color (and this requirement is rarely enforced). Additionally, affirmative action never applied to private companies – only to state and governmental agencies (though it can apply to private organizations contracted to do government work). Still, this program has been systemically chipped away at, and several states have eliminated affirmative action programs altogether.” 

- White Fragility, p. 92

  • As an organization, why should I be interested in doing this? Why do I need a DEI program?
    As noted in DEI Benefits, when implemented and tied to an organization’s strategic and business objectives, DEI programs have proven to benefit an organization’s bottom line by creating a competitive advantage in many ways. But beyond financial and innovation metrics, there is also a case to be made for building more diverse teams and greater humanity. The DEI function deals with the qualities, experiences and work styles that make individuals unique (e.g., race, age, religion, disabilities, ethnicity) as well as how organizations can leverage those qualities in support of business objectives. The workforce is aging and changing considerably in terms of generational makeup. There are now five, or more generations in the workforce ranging from the Silent generation (born between 10928-1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Generation X (born between 1965-1980), Millennials or Generation Y (born between 1981-1996) and the newest segment Generation Z (born since 1997). Each generation bring a mix of employee expectations around topics of reskilling/upskilling in the age of automation/technology, holistic employee wellness, connecting work to social impact and purpose, flexible work arrangements, social media outside the workplace and more that will affect DEI training for this modern workforce.
  • I think we have a pretty diverse team. ​I have always hired the right person for the job, and I don’t believe in quotas or hiring someone who isn’t qualified. Do I still need to do this?
    Chances are there are already some DEI practices in place. However, a DEI effort should not be considered solely related to hiring practices, and efforts should expand beyond EEO compliance and Affirmative Action. Diversity is a more inclusive concept and includes people of various religions, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status and a variety of other states of being. Diversity and affirmative action deal with issues related to discrimination, but in different ways. They are complementary in function, but different in their goals. While affirmative action focuses on taking positive steps to get individuals into the organization, diversity in the workplace works to change the culture within. Rather, DEI is about your employees and vendors feeling included. It is about your culture. It is about growth and movement. Do you have a documented pipeline strategy for hiring? Do you track the demographics of candidates that apply for position? How do you know if you are reaching a diverse population of qualified candidates if you are not tracking these areas in your hiring practice?
  • How long does it take to see any progress or ROI?
    Like any business initiative, the answer to how long until you see a return on your investment depends on a wide variety of factors. However, many organizations may start to see an ROI in as a little as six months. There are also opportunities for immediate wins with regard to culture. But keep in mind that your DEI program is a journey.
  • Who owns DEI?
    DEI should be an important function of your organization just like marketing, finance, sales, etc., and led by a dedicated professional(s) whenever possible to achieve the best results. Small- and medium-size organizations that cannot afford to hire a full-time person can have their HR leader champion the initiative and leverage a committee/council to advance the program with the CEO/leader being very involved and managing it from the top. No matter who leads DEI, it is crucial that the principles of your program are part of the fabric of your organization.
  • My leadership is interested in DEI, but because this is new to all of us, we don’t know how to get started.
    The AOE Benchmarking Assessment is a perfect method to get started as it will help your organization identify key areas for the development of your DEI program. The AOE Assessment also provides you an opportunity to see how you compare to others in the industry.
  • How is DEI going to help us with what is happening in our world right now?
    Never before have organizations been expected to participate and comment on the wide variety of atrocities we hear about on the news. A DEI program can serve as the cornerstone of an organization’s efforts to be responsive within an organization and the communities in which their employees serve, work and live. Development of a DEI program will help provide leadership with the decision-making and communication tools to be responsive to the things that have become so commonplace in our world today.


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