In the season four closer of the DE Talk podcast, we shared a special conversation that took place at DirectEmployers 2023 Annual Meeting & Conference (DEAMcon23) in Chicago, back in mid-April. Live on stage, our podcast host Candee Chambers moderated a fireside chat with diversity strategist and activist Torin Ellis from t ellis brands and Errin Braddock, Enterprise’s Chief Diversity Officer on the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). During this lively talk, our guests discussed how most DEIB activities taking place in organizations today aren’t actually fostering change and how we can all work toward transforming the workforce for everyone. Catch a snippet of the conversation below and be sure to listen to the episode in full for more great takeaways.

Candee Chambers sits on the DEAMcon23 stage with Torin Ellis and Errin Braddock

Candee Chambers sits on the DEAMcon23 stage with Torin Ellis and Errin Braddock

Candee Chambers:

Okay, we’re just going to get started. So, the DE&I landscape has changed recently. What do you attribute that to?

Torin Ellis:

Yeah, I would say that, first and foremost, what we saw last year towards the end of 2022 was a decrease in CDOs and D&I-related jobs. The attrition or the churn was around 33% in just the D&I space, where compared to non-D&I related roles it was around 21-24%. What we’ve consistently seen is that when women elevate to positions of power, there’s not that same emotional benefit for them. They don’t get to enjoy the same emotional benefit that men get to enjoy when they are elevated to power. We see that individuals that are a little gray in the beard are having a harder time securing roles because of ageism. We see that people that are struggling with disabilities are struggling to find, still, employment.

And why is that? Because in this moment we have people that are in leadership and in power that continue to subscribe to band-aid like efforts, throttling, a little fairy dust of effort, running away from the humanity that should be centered in our businesses. What’s missing is your voice because your leaders, they answer to three people: stakeholders, shareholders, and the markets that they serve and support. As employees, and I’m speaking to the larger body of employees, unless you are demanding that inclusion and equity is important in your organization, they will continue to do things that disrupt and devalue the efforts that we are working so earnestly at in D&I.

Errin Braddock:

That’s an interesting response. I think Torin talks a little bit about the fairy dust. I’d explain it a little bit differently. So being newish to it, what I’ve seen over the last three years, and I don’t think it’s intentional, there’s a lot of activity. To use a little slang, I think people are out doing all the things. Some of it is a little performative. That’s probably the magical pixie dust you’re talking about. But a lot of that, I think, is unintentional.

But I like to call it treadmill running, not to use a lot of analogies. I know we had Shola here yesterday, talked about the cow and the bull. But this concept to me of treadmill running, when I think about treadmills… This is not for everyone. When I think of treadmills, that’s to get me into shape, that’s to help me feel good. I see a lot of companies and a lot of people who are doing this treadmill running. It makes them feel really, really good, but if we’re trying to get to the other end of that room, treadmill running won’t get you there. And so, we really want to focus on what’s the activity, how are we going to get there, not just how we are on a treadmill.

I’ll give you an example. This is about really touching people who really care about this work and want to see progress. So, anybody here bought a home before? So, you all have heard this concept, and I’m not disclaiming that these aren’t real things, but there’s this real huge move, on “it’s no longer a master bedroom or a master bathroom”. It’s a primary bedroom, a primary bathroom. Don’t get me wrong. All that’s really important. Words are important. But I can tell you as a Black man, I don’t really care about that. Let me tell you what I care about in the real estate market. I care about when I’m selling my home that I don’t have to take down every Black picture that identifies a Black person owns this house. I care about when it’s time to have an assessment done on my home to determine the home’s value I don’t have to have my white neighbor come over and sit in my house during the assessment. That’s what I care about.

But someone else is feeling good because they call my bathroom a primary bath. To me that’s treadmill running. We’re running in place, and that is exhausting. You will get tired, and people will stop. So, it has to be about progress. What I’ve seen right now is you have to focus people in on what’s not treadmill running, what’s progress because there is this activity versus progress and we have to be focused on progress. So, I’ve seen that change. I’ve had to slow people down and tell them, “You’re on the treadmill. Let’s get off the treadmill. I know you feel good and it makes you feel good that you’ve done all these things, but it’s not really moving anything forward but making you feel better and getting you in better shape.” This is about all of us, as you said. It’s about the entity, the people, all of us. So, I’ve seen that shift, and so trying to get people back to progress is a shift that I think we need to start going towards.

Powerful stuff! To hear the full conversation, listen to episode nine now and be sure to subscribe to DE Talk emails or text alerts to be notified when season five starts in a few months. And keep an eye out for more information on DEAMcon24, taking place April 3-5, 2024 in New Orleans, where you can get a front row seat for more great conversations like this one!

Kacie Koons
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