Lessons Learned in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Posted By: Ricardo Alicea DEI, Publications, Press Releases,

Last year AAGO partnered up with Valencia College Peace and Justice Institute to facilitate a DEI Leadership Academy, a series of workshops designed to create a safe space for engaging in difficult conversations and to cultivate a healthy and accountable workplace culture where inclusive excellence is centered. Thirty-seven of our members participated and completed the 4-part leadership academy with the intention of fostering a community where all voices are heard and valued, and each person has an equitable opportunity to grow and thrive.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are related concepts, but they have distinct meanings:

Diversity refers to the variety of characteristics that make individuals unique, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and abilities. It is about creating a mix of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences in each group or organization.

Equity refers to fairness and justice in the distribution of resources and opportunities. It is about ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background, has equal access to the same opportunities and resources and that any barriers to that access are identified and removed.

Inclusion refers to creating a culture where people from all diverse backgrounds feel valued, respected, and supported. It is about creating a sense of belonging and a positive work environment where diversity is celebrated and leveraged to drive innovation and success. It is also about actively engaging and empowering individuals and groups who have been historically marginalized or underrepresented.

In other words, diversity is about representation, equity is about fairness, and inclusion is about creating a sense of belonging and engagement for all. All three are important and interrelated concepts and work together to create a more inclusive and equitable society and organizations.

My favorite ‘Aha’ moment from the Academy was the introduction of the ‘Principles for How We Treat Each Other.’ These principles were given to us at the beginning of the Academy to guide our interactions with one another during our time together, but these principles can be used in our daily lives to practice respect and community building. The one that really ‘spoke’ to me was #9, ‘Speak your Truth’; sometimes we forget ourselves during our constant need to be liked or heard. Please see the attached flyer of all thirteen principles for you to print and carry around.

Which one speaks to you?

The following are highlights we learned during the academy:

Why DEI?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives can bring a variety of benefits to organizations, including:

1. Improved decision-making: A diverse workforce brings different perspectives and ideas, leading
to more innovative and effective solutions.
2. Increased productivity: Research shows that diverse and inclusive teams are more engaged and
motivated, leading to higher levels of productivity.
3. Greater flexibility and adaptability: Organizations with a diverse workforce are better equipped
to adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs.
4. Enhanced reputation: Companies that are seen as promoting DEI are often viewed more
favorably by customers, employees, and other stakeholders 

5. Improved financial performance: Studies have shown that companies with more diverse
leadership teams tend to have better financial performance.
6. Attracting and retaining top talent: Organizations that promote DEI are more likely to attract
and retain a talented and diverse workforce.
7. Building a culture of respect and inclusion can lead to a more positive work environment, in turn
leading to better employee satisfaction and retention.

Understanding Bias

Bias refers to a tendency to favor or disfavor a particular person, group, or idea without a good reason.
Biases can be conscious or unconscious, and they can influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

There are four distinct types of biases that can impact how we interact with others and make decisions,

1. Confirmation bias: The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way
that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.
2. Implicit bias: Unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that can influence our perception, judgment,
and behavior towards certain groups of people.
3. Halo effect: The tendency to make a general impression about a person based on a single
characteristic or trait.
4. Stereotyping: The act of making assumptions about a group of people based on a preconceived
idea or belief.
It is important to be aware of our own biases and work to counteract them so that we can make fair
and unbiased decisions, and create a more inclusive environment.

Having Difficult Conversations about Inclusiveness

Having difficult conversations about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) can be challenging, but it is a
a crucial step in promoting a more inclusive culture within an organization.

Here are five tips for having these conversations:

1. Listen actively: When having a conversation, actively listen to the other person's perspective
and try to understand their point of view. Avoid getting defensive or interrupting them.
2. Be respectful: Even if you disagree with the other person, it is important to be respectful of their
opinions and avoid personal attacks.
3. Be open to feedback: Be open to receiving feedback from the other person and be willing to
consider other perspectives.
4. Create a safe space: Encourage open dialogue and provide a space where people feel
comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.
5. Be willing to educate yourself: Be open to learning about different perspectives and actively
seek out information and resources that can help you better understand different perspectives.
Always be open to learning about different perspectives and actively seek out information and resources
that can help you better understand different perspectives.

Being an Ally

Being a good ally for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) involves taking actions that support and
promote the equal treatment and empowerment of marginalized or underrepresented groups.

Here are six things you can do to be a good DEI ally:

1. Educate yourself: Learn about the history and current issues facing marginalized communities,
including the ways in which systems and structures perpetuate inequality.
2. Speak up against discrimination and bias: Speak out against discriminatory language, behavior,
and policies when you witness them.
3. Practice humility and self-reflection: Recognize that everyone has biases and that it is important
to be aware of them, and work to counteract them.
4. Be an ally in action: Put your words into action by supporting and promoting policies, initiatives,
and programs that will create a more inclusive and equitable society.
5. Take responsibility: Recognize that being an ally is an ongoing process and take responsibility for
your own learning and growth and be willing to admit when you make mistakes and take steps
to correct them.
6. Lead by example: Model inclusive behavior and attitudes to create a welcoming and safe
environment for everyone.

Always Stay informed and keep up to date with the latest DEI practices, news, and developments to
ensure you are informed and can continue to make a positive impact.
We learned so much during this academy, but there is still so much to be learned and done. I challenge
you to be the catalyst of change in 2023!

We need your help to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion front and center in our lives, our communities, our work environment, and our industry. Our DEI committee has a very robust plan for 2023. If you want to join us, please reach out to Heather Alzate at
heather@aago.org. See you at the next meeting!