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New approaches to DEI work for a new decade


In a recent edition of her daily newsletter "RaceAhead," Ellen McGirt of Fortune Magazine shared this article on the future of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work.


I found a lot to like in this piece, which maybe isn't a surprise considering its author, Dr. Janice Gassam, holds a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Dr. Gassam is broadly critical of many traditional approaches to DEI work, and I think the 9 practices she highlights in this article are all due to be phased out so new, innovative approaches to improving organizational climates can take their place. She also helpfully provides concrete alternatives that practitioners can put into place to improve their DEI practices.


I feel most strongly about practices 5 (not assessing DEI efforts) and 9 (one-size-fits-all DEI training). The only way we can contribute to more general knowledge about what does and does not work in the intergroup relations domain is by testing our efforts using scientific methods whenever possible. Companies may fail to do serious assessment because they fear the negative consequences of not finding a positive result, but null results still have the positive effects of demonstrating that DEI is something the company takes seriously and encourages them to adopt approaches that are more scientifically informed and contextually grounded. It could also be that companies suspect the one-size-fits-all trainings they often implement are unlikely to be effective, and conducting such an assessment would confirm this suspicion. The fact that such a suspicion exists, though, simply highlights the importance of shifting to an approach to DEI work that is based on the specific intergroup climate within a given context and uses messaging that is relevant to the people whose behaviors need to change.


In all, I found Dr. Gassam's article enlightening and think it provides a great blueprint for some of the ways we can work to improve DEI work in the 2020s. By adopting more scientific and grounded methods, we can more effectively create institutional climates where everyone feels welcome and supported.

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