Diversity, equity and inclusion are buzzwords in today’s political and social landscape with every company, brand and organization setting up some sort of team or statement that addresses the issues that have been present for decades associated with these topics. This year marks the 60th anniversary of integration at the University of Mississippi, and in looking toward our past, we are also able to see how much work is left to be done to reach an equal and equitable point in our future.
Diversity is the presence of people of different races, genders, ethnicities, social classes, religions, sexual orientations and other differences between people’s backgrounds. Inclusion focuses on making sure people of diverse backgrounds feel included and welcomed in all spheres, and equity is about promoting justice and fair practices that ensure everyone has access to achieve the same opportunities. The political, social and corporate landscapes are all receiving public pressure to implement DEI committees to ensure the needs of all people are being met, and while many are responding to these calls, it is difficult to say how effectively these committees and their policies are actually being enacted.
The 2022 Workplace DEI Report by Culture Amp, used by more than 5,000 organizations, revealed that although 84% of respondents believe their company is working toward a more diverse and inclusive workplace, only 34% report having adequate resources to support DEI initiatives. Companies may be performing DEI while not actually creating actionable goals and supporting the ideas of the committees they have put into place. Discussion is progress, but it is not enough. To create a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive landscape, we need to push companies and organizations to do more than say they are making progress and instead show what progress is being made.
The report Elevating Equity: The Real Story of Equity and Inclusion claims that around 80% of companies are just going through the motions when it comes to DEI. Human resource respondents provided information on what their companies were doing in regards to DEI initiatives and goals, and research showed that 40% of companies view diversity work as a way to mitigate legal and reputational issues. These statistics are not just concerning, but dangerous to our future as a nation. As much as everyone wants to say they support equality, without making steps toward real change within our own organizations, we are counteracting the very things we say we want. The only way to ensure the DEI movement is worthwhile is to hold companies accountable for the work they are claiming to do.
Even right here at the University of Mississippi, where we have an entire team dedicated to diversity within the campus community, we are never really informed about changes that are made or real data on how DEI initiatives are being implemented on campus. In recent years, it has become clear that transparency within every business and organization is an important step toward ensuring the safety and success of all parties involved, and this same commitment needs to be addressed in the realm of DEI. Students should be equipped with a knowledge of history and an understanding of what actions are being taken to protect them and promote overall inclusion in a university with a complex racial past. As we take the time to celebrate integration at our establishment and the legacy of James Meredith, we must also look toward the future. The work is not nearly done, even six decades later, and it is the duty of each and every person to hold ourselves and each other accountable for creating a social, legal and political environment that is inclusive and equitable for all citizens.
Briley Rakow is an integrated marketing communications major from Lemont, Ill.