Over the past 10 years, many companies have adopted diversity, equity and inclusion platforms to signify their commitment and support of social issues. This movement has accelerated since the reckoning in June 2020. At that time, many companies publicly professed their solidarity with social justice causes through #blackouttuesday, posted black squares across their social media channels and offered similar gestures. While the intentions may have been pure, the social media trend came with some backlash. This was especially true for organizations that had been silent on such topics up to that point. And that begged the question: Who was merely engaging in “performative DEI,” hopping on the bandwagon because it was the thing to do at the time and not out of true sincerity?

What does performative DEI look like?
How can you tell if your organization has been performative, as opposed to authentically supportive of DEI? One way is to assess the nature of the gesture. Was it mostly “I stand with you” messaging? Did it include commitments to do anything meaningfully different or supportive in the future? If it did, has the company made good on those commitments? Signs of performative DEI include offering lip service sans commitments, engaging in milquetoast “efforts” amounting to checking a box and writing a check as a “one and done.” Organizations that do this are not taking DEI seriously and deserve the “performative” moniker. One could argue that it’s worse than making no gesture at all.

What does it look like for a company to authentically commit to DEI?

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