Unlearning Bias, Building Belonging: Beyond Diversity Training to DEI

Tania A. Ibarra, CPA
January 25, 2021

I've sat through countless Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) trainings throughout my decade-plus career in corporate America. You know the ones - the yearly one-hour refresh during onboarding, often repetitive and focused on the "value of diversity" without much on building a strategy. Honestly, I can't say I gained much practical knowledge from those sessions.

That's why I spent the last seven years studying neuroscience and learning engagement principles. I wanted to solve this problem with my team at Step Up: Equity Matters. Here are some suggestions for creating a deeper understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion:

1. Diversity is an outcome, not a strategy.

Ditch the one-and-done D&I trainings. We need to keep diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the forefront, not just check a box once a year. D&I training often relies on meeting quotas and surface-level learning rather than equipping employees with the skills and knowledge to truly understand their role in fostering an equitable and inclusive workplace. Many employees are unaware of their own impact, leaving them unprepared to create real change.

2. D&I looks outward, and DEI finds a common center.

D&I training often focuses on "othering" different groups instead of understanding our shared humanity and collective struggles to live up to our ideals of fairness. It's less about exploring our differences or finding common ground and more about accepting that creating belonging is a daily choice. We need to turn off autopilot and make space for genuine connections.

3. D&I is a step; DEI brings change full circle.

DEI is a journey, not a destination. It requires conscious effort and sustained learning to transform behavior. D&I initiatives often fall short of creating lasting equity across an entire organization. Only when every employee builds their baseline competency will we be able to achieve our DEI goals.

4. One size only fits some.

Generic D&I trainings rarely address the diverse needs of employees. We need multi-level and multi-demographic approaches while ensuring everyone shares a solid foundational understanding.

DEI training is as much about unlearning as it is about learning. We must actively identify and dismantle harmful patterns that perpetuate inequity. DEI is a commitment to continuous growth and transformation.

Ready to unlock the power of DEI in your organization? Join the movement - unlearn, build, and create a genuinely inclusive workplace!