Dei Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right

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Dei Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right

Dei Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right

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So who am I? I’m someone who deeply and personally feels the imperative of making better organizations and a better world. I’m someone who wants to use their understanding of the world, of organizations, systems, and people, to fix things that have been broken for a long time—perhaps even within our lifetimes. I am radically impatient and uncompromising when centering those negatively impacted by systems. I work to understand the structures, cultures, people, and processes that constitute systems to help people make better ones. I rely on data of all kinds to understand, justify, process, and enable change. I believe that people can change and grow, that systems can adapt to undo inequity rather than perpetuate it, and that we can both build and fight our way to a better world. In all, this a great beginners guide to DEI. However, it doesn’t push the needle enough to be considered the innovative and provocative work of a DEI change maker (and maybe Lily didn’t want it to be and that’s totally ok). To that end, this book is distinctly focused on the actionable above all else. It is not a compilation of discrimination or trauma porn; ⁴ I am assuming that if you do not already have some measure of empathy, you wouldn’t be reading this book. It is not a collection of inspirational stories of real-life success; learning about the minority of people who succeed despite systems not built for them is not enough to build better systems yourself, and inspiration without efficacy results in little. This book will not dedicate much time to convince you that inequity is real; that preparatory work is important but done better elsewhere. This book is also not about me or my life, though undoubtedly, my own identities and experiences have informed my work, and undoubtedly you’ll learn something about me through reading this. But Lily, our company has a racial justice commitment”—racial justice outcomes are more important than statements of commitment.

Well, no. Unfortunately, none of that happened. What happened is that an industry whose sole job it was to make a difference, that had fought for years for a seat at the table, was catapulted into the spotlight more suddenly than anyone could have predicted. After a year of our efforts, what we have to show for it is . . . inconclusive, at best. Systemic inequity is still alive and well. Organizations worldwide still struggle with representation on multiple dimensions, from race and gender to age, class, sexuality, religion, and more. As societies, we still face the same enormous challenges we faced in 2019 and have faced for decades and centuries. Chapter 8: Achieving DEI is the strategy chapter, where you’ll learn how to use and gain trust as the currency of change. I’ll be honest about what happens when the work gets messy and what to do when the neatness of theory meets the complexity of practice. You’ll learn how to carve out a path for yourself and your organization toward diversity, equity, and inclusion that gets things done, whether your stakeholders trust their leadership to lead DEI step-by-step or have so little trust that even good-faith consideration of DEI sounds like wishful thinking. One of the brightest minds in DEI work today brings us a 'how-to' for inclusive leaders. You'll be amazed at how Zheng's straight talk and clear thinking are so deeply grounded in research. You should 'book club' this one in your business; it offers the path for avoiding 'performative allyship.'" Chapter 7: Change-Maker: Everyone lays out the various roles needed to actually create diversity, equity, and inclusion as outcomes of an initiative or campaign and focuses on the far-easier-said-than-done work of coalition-building as a means to make change. This is where to go if you’re looking for help wrangling the various stakeholders and constituents in your organization to engage them most effectively in change-making. This is where to go if you’re looking to find a role for yourself to make a difference in your organization without being overwhelmed. On the question of power, Zheng recognizes that “If we are to achieve DEI in the organizational sense, we will need to engage critically and often with power” because “power is the potential to influence or compel people or events”. But power comes in many forms, and Zheng lists several forms of non-formal power, such as expertise, information, charisma and influence, that can be deployed to achieve DEI outcomes.One participant of a training that focused on inclusive language for LGBTQ+ communities later told a colleague that “transsexual” was outdated and un-inclusive language. Their colleague, who had happily identified as transsexual for years, was less than thrilled to hear that her own identity was somehow “un-inclusive” from someone who wasn’t trans themself. An uncomfortable percentage of modern DEI work amounts to moonwalking toward inequity, from poorly designed training to irresponsibly deployed policy to earnest but unskilled volunteer initiatives. Summary: “The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias” explains why bias is a part of the human condition and how interactions based in bias can affect the success of your organization. Experts from leadership transformation company FranklinCovey provide a guide to understanding and overcoming unconscious bias. Performative Allyship: Zheng identifies the problem with allyship being more performative than leading to actual change. Zheng examines the criteria for performative allyship, asking, what makes an action performative? “If an action is intended to gain social media clout or make a person look good, those are dead ringers for performative allyship” (p.87). Description The definitive comprehensive and foundational text for critically analyzing and applying actionable DEI techniques and strategies, written by one of LinkedIn's most popular experts on DEI.

Now, five years later, the effects of the movement are starting to materialize. The #MeToo movement undeniably increased reporting of sexual assault and harassment by empowering victims to share their stories—with a smaller but notable increase in arrests, as well. 29 But belief in the benefits of the movement is polarizing, with only 25% of men in a US study believing that recent attention to sexual misconduct had a positive impact, versus 61% of women. 30 This split is far from the only concerning effect. Within workplaces, following the #MeToo movement, a 2019 study found that 60% of managers who are men felt uncomfortable mentoring, working alone with, or socializing with women—a 32% jump in discomfort from just the year prior, with 36% reporting that this discomfort stems from worries that engaging in any way would be seen poorly. 31 This trend is exacerbated in senior-level men, who are now 12 times more likely to hesitate to have 1-on-1 meetings with junior-level women than before. I appreciate Zheng's approach to this task, as it encourages a mentoring attitude amongst DEI practitioners. It’s not uncommon for DEI professionals to enter a company without understanding the culture, climate, or ways to effect real change there. In medium-trust environments, there are two core tensions, “the tension between legitimacy and power and the tension between stakeholder patience and intervention effectiveness.” Zheng recommends leaders with formal power put skin in the game by making commitments with consequences, and creating and empowering stakeholder groups to hold them accountable. Then they can follow the high-trust playbook, but start with small wins to build trust between the accountability groups and the formal leaders. organizations to share difference-making tactics, trade valuable resources, and seek the counsel ofSource: “Why Diversity Programs Fail,” by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, July–August 2016. Authors’ study of 829 midsize and large US firms. Why it’s a must-read: This book aims to help executives create DEI 2.0 and build cultures of belonging. “Leading Below the Surface” gathers true stories, tips and strategies for applying this leadership style. Wilkins shows the importance of starting with self-improvement and self-awareness. You’ll also learn how to practice empathy and create psychological safety for your team. Women of color deserve truly equitable workplaces where our success and well-being is centered. Lily Zheng’s DEI Deconstructedis a compelling must-read for leaders who want to stay accountable, make change, and create better workplaces for us all.” Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify, and Stop Microaggressions” by Tiffany Jana and Michael Baran I think what makes Lily an expert is their intersectionality and lived experiences. They don’t say this outright, but… you can’t be a cis-hetero white dude AND be a DEI expert. BUT, there is space at the table if you do fall into this category. For example, you can be an executive that triumphs DEI-focused change within an organization, but please leave the teaching and coaching to those with the lived toolkits.



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