In early civilizations—African, Chinese, Greek, Mayan, businesses existed. They may not look exactly like what we consider “modern” organizations with HR and technology systems, nevertheless, they functioned with people as essential (Arredondo, 1996). Consider scenes of marketplaces where families came to buy and sell products, usually through bartering practices. These may be considered entrepreneurial but if you go to big cities around the world, markets are still centers of commerce; and yes, they are driven by and dependent on people.

Organizations and people are in interdependent relationships

Contemporary industries—agriculture, childcare, education, finance, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, government, and sustainability, among others, continue to evolve but not just through innovation but also through people. If we unpack these broad industries, a range of companies, organizations, and institutions with their own identities will be revealed. Of course, these organizations require personnel to function, thrive, and meet their business goals. Today, and in the foreseeable future, people will continue to be essential to business failure or success.

Diversity is ever-present through people’s functions, roles and responsibilities

Ask employers and they will readily assert that talent, commitment, a strong work ethic, and a positive attitude are what they desire from employees. Organizations tend to have multiple levels—custodial personnel, IT teams, supervisors, and senior leaders; presumably, these units represent a diversity of identities, skills, and functions. Even small consulting companies like mine depend on staff with marketing, technology, finance, and research skills, and this comes in multiple intersecting identities. 

DEI is not a government mandate

In the past year, anti-DEI biases have once again permeated higher education, K-12 education, and different business organizations. Through state-legislative mandates, DEI programs and offices have been closed, and people have been reassigned and become unemployed. But why? Politicians, education administrators, and business leaders assert a range of reasons, undermining their own rationale for establishing these programs. Resistance is flagrant, hostile, and intense.  

The irony is that DEI programs and offices are about choice. These are not mandated by the federal government but state legislatures have behaved as if they were. What we are witnessing are knee-jerk reactions to inclusion and equity that are needed for organizations to thrive. Instead, people have been thrown under the bus.

35 years ago when I began my diversity management consulting to today, diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to be essential to maintaining healthy and productive workplace environments.

Also, read previous, related blogs.

Arredondo, P. (1996). Successful diversity management initiatives. Sage.