Hey there, you’re listening to They Don’t Teach This in Business School. I’m Julie Bee, and I’m really glad you’re here today.
It is Pride month, folks, and for me it’s a special time of the year. I’m a proud, gay woman, and this month means a lot to people like me, and our allies. If you don’t know why pride month happens in June, or how it even started – that’s totally fine. You can find out a lot of the origin story by googling. Also, educating yourself on the Stonewall riots will help a lot.
But the history of pride isn’t why I’m recording this today. I want to celebrate it, and I also want to express something I feel very strongly when conversations about diversity come up.
There should be no “but” when talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is often abbreviated as DEI. In my time as a business owner, I’ve worked with a lot of companies. I’ve also had the opportunity to have many conversations about DEI. And I cringe when I hear phrases like this:
We celebrate diversity, but our audience doesn’t support pride, so we aren’t going to talk about pride month.
We have an inclusive culture, but we want to be careful about how we talk about that publicly, because we want to attract the right audience.
We support equity, but for some reason (fill in the blank) people seem to thrive in this role more than others do.
So here’s the deal – the word BUT doesn’t belong in DEI conversations because it is an exclusionary word. Anything after it usually negates what was written or said just prior to it. I recognize there are exceptions to this rule. I’m not perfect at this rule, either. BUT – pun intended – I feel very strongly about this thought.
Working with companies over the years, I have heard many statements like the above. Here’s how I handle it. I draw attention to it, and then offer some rework ideas in the form of a statement or question. As an example, I’m going to rework that first statement a few ways.
Again, that first statement was, “We celebrate diversity, but our audience doesn’t support pride, so we aren’t going to talk about pride month.”
All right, so here are some options. Here’s how I would approach it for whoever said or wrote that statement.
First, can we change it to something like, “We celebrate pride month because we believe in diversity, and we have a plan of action to address our audience, should they ask questions or express concerns.” Be prepared and have a plan. If you really want to celebrate diversity, and you’re also concerned about what the audience may think or say, be prepared for it. Make sure everyone in charge of response is on the same page.
OR another option to re-write that statement may be , “Our audience may react poorly to a public support of Pride month, so we have made the decision to not publicly address Pride.” I’m not joking here – I can actually accept this as a legitimate option. I know a lot of business owners who support DEI, but choose to not talk about DEI publicly because of this or a similar concern. I can respect that decision because they are practicing EQUITY in it. IF they don’t recognize pride month, they don’t recognize any other DEI month/week/or day, either. THIS approach is better than proclaiming your support of DEI and then picking and choosing. Bottom line – don’t proudly say you believe in and support DEI – don’t make it part of your marketing strategies or hiring conversations – and then not support all of it. You’re either all in, or you’re not.
One final rework possibility could be, “We want to celebrate pride month, AND if our audience isn’t on board with it, maybe they aren’t our audience. Are they our audience?” I recognize this is a big risk for some. I recognize the role of capitalism and money. And – if YOU and your brand and company support DEI, and your audience doesn’t – I think that has to open the door for some conversations around it.
As leaders, as business owners, I think it’s important to remember this when we’re having discussions and conversations with our teams. For some, when it comes to DEI, there’s a lot to consider. For others, the answers are straightforward.
The point here is, if diversity, equity, and inclusion are a central part of your brand’s mission, vision, values; if you proclaim the support, don’t back pedal with exclusionary words.
The word but really doesn’t belong in DEI conversations.
I’m Julie Bee, and they don’t teach this in business school.