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Part 2: What is DEIB exactly?

By Tess Zachary 

DEIB stands for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, but strictly speaking, it should probably read DEI = B. That’s because DEI is the formula (and steps taken) to create the desired result of Belonging. 

You may ask where the “B” came from. Thought leaders in the DEI space (who also added the “E” several years ago) advocate to add “Belonging” as a foundational principal because “Belonging” refers to the whole person, not the sum of demographics. I’ll explain in more detail, but simply put:

Diversity is about the individual

Inclusion is about the relationships between individuals

Equity is the action

Belonging is the goal


I was introduced to diving deep into DEI by a class I took on communicating with people Asperger’s Syndrome. I have a dear friend who has Asperger’s, and I wanted to make our interactions as comfortable as possible for them. During this class, which also spoke about intersectional communication, I found resources on things I never even considered about ways I can communicate and interact with people who are not like me in various ways. Years later, and I am still finding new things to learn!

The broader your understanding of subjects within the DEIB umbrella, the more you can help your organization apply those lessons in various ways. Simply put, if this is important to you, you will find the time to prioritize this part of your education and development.


Diversity is a term that refers to the variety of different perspectives represented in an organization. When we talk about Diversity, the first things that may come to mind are what we in the U.S. known as the eight (8) Federally “protected classes” which are mostly visual and physical differences like race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age, disability and genetic information. But this kind of diversity is only part of the conversation. Diversity also means different ways of thinking and seeing the world. This includes neurodiverse people, and diversity based on life experiences like upbringing (including cultural diversity), socioeconomic background, generation, various identity choices and education, just to name a few.

There are literally thousands of areas of Diversity, but as you undertake this journey you must begin somewhere, so starting at bigger categories and then drilling down is a reasonable approach, just make sure you don’t stop there.   

Is your organization Diverse?

Some casual observations you can make to give you a general idea about the diversity of your organization:

  • Does your organization’s patronage reflect the makeup of your city/community in diversity
  • What is the demographic of your management team? Does that reflect your city/community/organization, or is it mostly homogenous? 
  • Are other cultures, races, ethnicities, gender, sexual orientations, ages, identities, experiences, and abilities represented widely in your organization, or do they mostly reflect the management team?
    • Volunteering data in the US shows that volunteers also look like those who engage them – White (26.4% versus 19.3% Black, 17.9% Asian, and 5.5% Latinos/as), educated (65.3% with at least some college education), and women (27.8% versus 21.8% men). (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (
  • If you don’t know the demographics of your organization, you are doing yourself a disservice. If you don’t know who you are serving, how do you know you are serving them? 

To get a broad look at your community, you can visit the US Census Bureau. Bear in mind that the Census is limited, so this isn’t a ‘metric’, but merely a place to begin when you first start to look into your community. 

Note: The Census is particularly flawed in the race category.  For example, the Post Enumeration Survey and Demographic Analysis Estimates after the 2020 Census results show that the 2020 Census undercounted the Black or African American population, the American Indian or Alaska Native population living on a reservation, the Hispanic or Latino population, and people who reported being of Some Other Race.  

On the other hand, the 2020 Census overcounted the Non-Hispanic White population and the Asian population. The Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander population was neither overcounted nor undercounted according to the findings. Census Bureau Releases Estimates of Undercount and Overcount in the 2020 Census

Check your culture, process, and policy
  1. Does your mission statement/values/vision talk about DEIB?
  2. Closely read organizational, promotional, and marketing materials. Bias can often be found in them, both implicitly and explicitly. Pay attention and keep an eye out for off-putting and troublesome terminology.
  3. Are there organizational goals around DEIB?
  4. What policies exist about DEIB?
  5. Where do you get your members, attendees, staff and volunteers? If you aren’t looking in a wide variety of sources, you might be missing out on Diverse voices.
  6. Do you provide any kind of DEIB training for your managers, staff, attendees, and volunteers?
  7. What kinds of holidays does your organization recognize? It is only secular holidays? Do celebrations tend to center one culture?
    1. For example, in December there are 14 nonsecular holidays, and another dozen U.S. based secular acknowledgement days.


A second ingredient, inclusion, is the key to unlocking and maintaining the full benefits of that diversity. How inclusive is your club, event or organization? It is not enough to invite people from diverse backgrounds into our events. We need to include diverse voices in planning and decision making, and value their contributions.

Is your organization Inclusive?

There is no one “test” for inclusion, because we are dealing with people who are rich and complex, and what includes one person doesn’t necessarily include another. This really neat two (2) pager by MD Anderson uses very simple language to speak to some very complex Inclusion issues.

Ten Characteristics of an Inclusive Organization (

Some Examples and Inspiration around Inclusion

Below are easy ideas for cultivating inclusion by making your organization more accessible:

  • Do you meet in a convenient location for everyone? If not, consider meeting in more than one venue. Access to public transportation and expenses of locations are important factors. 
  • Can people find information if they are unable to attend? Offering virtual options is much more accessible to a broad number of people.
  • Does the time of your meeting work for who you want to be?  You could provide options, such as some morning and some evening meetings. Not every meeting needs to include a meal.
  • Are there any unnecessary costs that block some from attending, such as the cost of a meal? A limited menu can also create unintentional barriers for those with dietary restrictions. Also consider providing the choice of not eating at all.
  • Can you bill for fees on a monthly or quarterly basis instead of annually, for those who would manage better this way? You could set up a small premium to cover the added cost.
  • Are scholarships available for marginalized populations to encourage diverse attendance regardless of financial ability?
  • Give staff/volunteers/attendees multiple ways to provide feedback

Give everyone something meaningful to do:

This requires that management understand why each member is there and determine what activities would fulfill their passion and purpose for joining. It is sometimes easier to do a task yourself then delegating but handing tasks over to someone new is a great way to include them.

Provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training:

Everyone benefits from an honest discussion about these topics. Bring in speakers or conduct training sessions on any or all of the following topics:

  • Promoting inclusive language: Learn about the effects our words have on creating a culture of normalized behavior. Gendered language, for instance, is a barrier toward achieving gender equality.  Program to achieve those goals. Although free expression is important, what we say and how we behave matter. Do not tolerate speech or behavior that promotes bias, discrimination, prejudice, or hatred because of age, ethnicity, race, color, disabilities, religion, socioeconomic status, culture, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  • Detecting and avoiding unconscious bias and discrimination. Sometimes people can unintentionally be treated unfairly because of a personal characteristic. Sometimes people can unintentionally treat people unfairly because of a personal characteristic.
  • Understanding and avoiding sexual harassment.  Bring in an expert to raise your organizations awareness of the issue and what they can do to prevent it.
  • Calling out inappropriate behavior as a bystander. David Morrison, retired Lieutenant General of the Australian Army, and current chair of Diversity Council Australia, notes “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Everyone should be held accountable for how their words and actions may affect others


Participate in International Women’s Day, Harmony Day, your local Pride celebrations and other days that celebrate diversity. Take the opportunity to celebrate the things that support the culture you are trying to create.

Some resources on Inclusion that may provide some inspiration:


Equity seeks to remedy the disparities between people by considering the advantages of some people and distributing resources to achieve equal outcomes for all people. Equity is the action in DEIB! As trite as it is, equity is truly about “leveling the playing field,” and giving every person the unique resources they need to have access to opportunities in a given organization.

If Diversity is about Individuals, and Inclusion is about the relationship between individuals, Equity is the action that makes it all possible by developing and deploying policies and procedures that counterbalance varying degrees of advantage. 

Equity ensures that everyone -with their unique differences- has what they need to be successful. This means providing resources and access to those who need them with the ultimate goal of balancing unfair access to opportunities within the organization.

So how do we balance inequities?  The short answer is allyship.

In 2021 named “Allyship” the word of the year. According to, allyship is “the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership.”

While allyship may be a noun, developing more equitable and inclusive organizations requires allyship to be an action for both organizations and individuals. Equity is the practice of being aware of one’s advantaged position and using it in a specific domain to actively support and include people in less advantaged positions.

In essence, allyship leverages advantage intentionally to create equity. By training and empowering people at all levels of an organization to become allies, we are creating an army of positive change-agents for increasing equity, across, within and outside of an organization.

Implementing equitable actions in your organization has the potential to change the lives of everyone involved and affect positive change in your entire community.

Here are a few examples of equitable practices that may inspire you

It can be complicated to demonstrate equity because constitutes fair and equitable treatment is often subjective and unique to the experiences of every person.

However, an organization can show equity by first recognizing this reality and then carefully cultivating a safe environment that allows for open discussion and understanding:

  • Ensure diverse cross-level representation Many organizations recruit for diversity but fail to provide equitable opportunities for education, accommodation, and advancement. When this happens, what we see is high diversity in low authority and low impact functions, and over (or exclusive) representation of one demographic in management. You empower diverse people by giving equitable access to high-impact and management functions.
  • Implement growth opportunities and education that promotes equity One-size-fits-all training and one-path-to-success is a systemic barrier that often prevents marginalized people from growing inside of organizations. This lack of access creates an enormous diversity deficit. By investing in various diverse ways for someone to learn high-authority and management functions in your organization, you’re providing marginalized people to grow within your organization.  
  • Make promotional and training materials accessible This means providing a variety of avenues through which people may access information (including non-web-based channels).
  • Skills-based selections Not everyone has access to higher education, and this shouldn’t bar them from opportunities if they have the skills necessary to do the job. Instead of focusing on specific degree requirements in your organization, emphasize skills and experience. If someone in your volunteer organization has the desire to perform a specific function but may lack some of the skills, be willing to spend the time it takes to train them in the skills to do that job!
  • Provide inclusive incentives Not everyone is motivated in the same way. Use a variety of reward and incentive tools and ask people how they are motivated! Increased responsibility, events, awards, recognition, and gifts are all different ways to reward people who are working hard at fulfilling your mission.
  • Provide equitable access This not only means access to resources and opportunities, but also physical spaces and materials. It is important to consider whether your meeting space is wheelchair-friendly, whether you have accurate closed captions on a video presentation, and if your space has adequate accommodations for people with sensory sensitivities.
  • Empower people. It isn’t enough to have all the best resources in place. You also must make sure everyone knows about the resources available, know how to access them and feel comfortable and safe doing so.
  • Re-evaluate your equity practices. Organizations should continue to analyze and update their equity practices as new information is given.
 Measuring equity

There’s no surefire method for accurately measuring equity, which makes it challenging to know the impact of your efforts. A common tactic for understanding the state of equity in your organization is through satisfaction surveys or net promoter scores (NPS).

Here’s an example of some survey questions you can include that specifically speak to equity:

  • Do you believe you are treated fairly in our organization?
  • Do you believe that our organization’s appointment/hiring/promotion (whatever words are appropriate) practices are fair?
  • Do you feel recognized and appreciated in a way that is meaningful to you?

People-Managers are in a unique position to solicit honest feedback. so is important to collaborate with your staff and management and train them on how to have open conversations about DEIB.

Some resources on Equity

Equity Resources: Living the Statement | NAEYC

EdPlus – Equity Resources

Equity & Justice – Center for the Study of Social Policy (


Now that you have a broad understanding about what DEI is, let’s talk about the “B”.  Belonging is not a “natural” outcome of DEI practices, but a separate and intentional choice organizations must make. While it may sound counterintuitive, when you check all the boxes on policy and institutional changes-even with the best intentions-you will likely find people are not engaged, and people do not feel like they belong, and in some cases you’ve even managed to alienate the people you are trying to embrace.

What happens when we turn our focus to DEI is that data collection, surveys, and business metrics often focus on apparent, visible, or single differences.  When we spend our time putting people into neat little boxes, people do not feel like their unique identity is being acknowledged. Sometimes solely focusing on the process leaves people feeling like merely a demographic -particularly since traditional business metrics don’t recognize the intersectionality of each person’s complex identities.  

If you focus on belonging from the beginning and do your work with a constant awareness that people don’t fit into a single demographic and each person’s identity shifts over time, only then can true inclusion happen-when people are empowered to show up and present their entire selves.

Belonging is the emotional state that is the goal of DEIB efforts. For someone to feel truly welcome, they need to feel welcome exactly as they are.

In the 3rd article in this Guest Blog series, we will address Belonging: How your organization can step onto the road of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion