Change Management Christopher SmithAugust 4, 2021

What Is DEI Culture? [Key Concepts and Principles]

What Is DEI Culture? [Key Concepts and Principles]

What is DEI culture? In this post, we’ll learn about diversity, equity, inclusion, multiculturalism, and other key concepts related to DEI culture.

What Is DEI Culture?

DEI is an acronym that refers to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The term can also refer to “equality, diversity, and inclusion,” as found in the peer-reviewed academic journal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, or EDI.

The core concepts of DEI culture and journals such as EDI focus on topics such as:

Diversity in business

Diversity in business began in the 1960s and focuses on concepts such as equal employment opportunities and the reduction of workplace discrimination based on identity.

Social justice (see below), multiculturalism, and non-discrimination are seen not only as the right thing to do, but they are also more profitable and generate better business outcomes. Proponents of DEI and diversity in business suggest that including the viewpoints of marginalized groups can drive improvements in areas such as:

  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Lower turnover
  • Increased productivity

Diversity as a concept is not limited to business, as we’ll see below, but can also be applied to other organizations, such as government agencies and non-profit organizations. 

Equal opportunity

Equal opportunity refers to the idea that everyone, regardless of their identity classification, should have equal opportunities to, for instance, get hired, receive the same salary, be treated equally in the workplace, and so forth.

This idea emphasizes the fair and equal treatment of individuals, free of prejudice and discrimination. The intent is to make jobs and opportunities available to those who are most qualified, regardless of identity classifications such as:

  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Country of origin
  • Religion
  • Gender

Proponents of this theory argue that equal opportunity fosters an environment of open and fair competition. This concept has been criticized on different grounds, such as the idea that it legitimates inequalities of wealth and income. Those who favor this view argue that equity, or equality of outcome, is the only way to create truly fair outcomes.

Equity

Equity is concerned with fairness and justice, particularly as it is applied to areas such as:

  • Society
  • Gender
  • Race

In an organizational context, equity, fairness, and justice are often applied to many of the other concepts covered here, such as the practice of non-discrimination in hiring, gender parity in the workforce, income equality among identity classifications, and so forth.

Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is the idea that multiple cultural groups can cooperate and collaborate while still maintaining their individual cultural identities.

Metropolitan areas are often considered multicultural centers, since many ethnic groups often coinhabit the same locale, while still engaging cooperatively.

In many businesses, cultural and ethnic diversity has begun to increase, leading towards organizational cultures that are multicultural in origin. 

Multiculturalism differs from polyculturalism, which rejects the idea of race as a social construct, claiming it has no scientific basis. Polyculturalism argues that ethnicity and ethno-nationalism in particular should be overcome through communication and the creation of a community culture, rather than “tolerating” other cultures. 

Culture and Change in Today’s Diverse Workplace

Since the modern workplace is becoming more diverse and globalized, many professionals are adapting, not only by adopting modern business practices and digital tools, but by shifting the organization’s culture.

There are various strategies for changing an organization’s culture, and those strategies tend to be rooted in the political and sociological school of thought that one belongs to.

For instance:

  • Liberal change suggests that organizations should create a fair labor market, a meritocracy, that creates equal opportunity in the workplace. The core concept focuses on legal compliance and rules as a means of minimizing discriminatory practices.
  • Radical change aims to overtly change the outcomes of business practices, rather than on rules and procedures. Quotas, for instance, can be used as a means of regulating racial diversity, income inequality, gender parity, and so forth.
  • Culture change is a concept in organizational change management that focuses on altering the culture of an organization. This entails shifting the underlying values, beliefs, and social norms of the organization in order to align it more closely with a specific cultural archetype, such as DEI culture.

In terms of DEI culture specifically, there are several tools used to achieve culture change, such as diversity training, diversity audits, and anti-discrimination policies.

Other business professionals also emphasize the importance of other types of diversity, such as cognitive diversity, which is not dependent on or predicted by ethnicity, age, gender, or other social identity categories. This concept emphasizes the diversity in areas such as:

  • Perspective, or the way individuals deploy their own expertise when facing new situations
  • Knowledge processing, or the extent to which people deploy new knowledge or generate new knowledge when facing new situations

Regardless of one’s own stance on what makes an ideal organizational culture, it is important to recognize, among other things, that business metrics such as employee retention, job satisfaction, and employee productivity depend on how well an organization’s culture aligns with the values of both the workforce and the company’s missions, values, and vision. For more on this topic, see our post on corporate mission and vision statements.

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