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Rethinking DEI: The BEAD Framework for a Holistic Approach

In a recent encounter, I witnessed a situation where one person criticized another for using the letters in the wrong sequence for DEIB. It made me contemplate whether I consistently adhere to the currently accepted order of these letters. The reality is that there isn't a definitive governing body that has established a consensus on the matter. The arrangement seems to vary based on one's focal point. Oftentimes, DEI are grouped together without a full grasp of their distinct meanings.

An incident at a networking event underscored this issue. A Human Resources leader shared that their CEO dismissed the need for DEI efforts, citing the organization's existing diversity. Upon further discussion, it became clear that the "I" in DEI was being overlooked. This highlighted the disparity between perceived and actual progress, as the CEO believed they were already addressing "DEI" comprehensively.

As practitioners in the DEI field, it is crucial to delineate our objectives and rationale. I've also contemplated the precise terms to employ. In this month's blog post, I intend to reorder the letters to reflect their relative significance and cascading impact. For instance, if an organization prioritizes diversity without ensuring an equitable and inclusive environment, the efforts to attract a diverse workforce might be in vain as retention becomes an issue.

BEAD: A Holistic Framework

Belonging: In my 2022 book, "Creating Belonging," I introduced a model that illustrates how a sense of belonging emerges at the crossroads of authenticity and acceptance. The definition I offer is "The right balance of authenticity and acceptance. We actively encourage others to present themselves authentically. We confidently show up without fear of rejection." When an organization neglects to foster belonging among its employees, their productivity diminishes, and their tenure might be compromised. Amidst the DEI terminology, belonging emerges as a cornerstone, demanding primary attention.

Equity: I often find a particular cartoon image encapsulating equity's essence (see below). equity, distinct from equality, entails providing everyone with what they require to succeed. This analogy emphasizes tailored support rather than uniform treatment. While an inclusive environment and a sense of belonging are vital, they can erode without due consideration for equity.

Accessibility: Among the newer terms under the DEI umbrella, accessibility acknowledges the reality of an environment not universally designed. Incorporating accessibility remains a work in progress for me. Its essence lies in ensuring that individuals with disabilities can meaningfully engage within the workspace. Whether it's facilitating wheelchair access or providing ASL interpreters, accessibility underscores the importance of accommodating diverse needs.

Diversity: The ultimate aim is to cultivate a vibrant and diverse workforce. It's worth noting that diversity isn't a standalone identity; rather, it signifies the convergence of distinct identities or attributes around the table. A individual person isn’t diverse. The rationale behind pursuing diversity stems from research indicating that diverse teams yield superior outcomes, heightened revenue, and increased profitability.

The BEAD Acronym

In conclusion, I propose the BEAD acronym: Belonging, Equity, Accessibility, and Diversity. This structure reflects the sequence and priority I've expounded upon. Notably, inclusion isn't explicitly represented; I incorporate it within belonging, recognizing that inclusion is an inseparable facet of fostering a sense of belonging.

The question remains: Will there ever be a universal convergence upon a single acronym and lexicon? As the landscape of DEI continues to evolve, perspectives will inevitably differ. Yet, by refining our understanding and approach, we can collectively move closer to a shared framework that encompasses the true essence of diversity, equity, and inclusion.


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