Critics of D.E.I. Forget That It Works

By Caroline Elkins, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss

Support for corporate and academic D.E.I. efforts appears to be shrinking, even though most people want the same thing: competitive organizations where everyone who shows up to work has a fair shot at success.

As Harvard-based educators and advisers with decades of collective experience, we have worked with organizations failing to meet this objective and taught M.B.A. students how to negotiate difference, preparing them for a work force more diverse than ever. In our experience, many organizations working on D.E.I. goals are getting stuck at the diversity stage — recruiting difference without managing it effectively — and generating frustration and cynicism about their efforts along the way. They are now at risk of stopping in the middle of a complex change journey, declaring failure prematurely.

Inclusion, as we define it, creates the conditions where everyone can thrive and where our differences as varied, multidimensional people are not only tolerated but also valued. A willingness to pursue the benefits of D.E.I. — the full participation and fair treatment of all team members — renders organizational wholes greater than the sum of their parts.

At a time when some organizations, feeling the politicized ripple effects of affirmative action’s repeal, are at risk of abandoning the objectives of D.E.I., our experiences suggest that to do so is bad for individuals, organizations and American society writ large. Persuasive scholarship has identified the ways in which we become more effective leaders when we collaborate skillfully with people who don’t already think like us — people with different perspectives, assumptions and experiences of moving through the world.

Read on the New York Times.