DEI and its Impact on Corporate Environments

Posted By: Topher Jensen Human Resources, Workforce Development,

DEI and its Impact on Corporate Environments

An interview with Gas South’s DEI Manager Aisha DeBerry

Q: A focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has created a significant buzzword over the last few years—what role does DEI play in the corporate world?

A: It’s been proven that engaging strategically and intentionally with DEI provides a return on investment (ROI) for companies. Studies show that if employees feel like they are important to the company, that they can speak freely and be themselves, then people will stay in the job longer and engage in activities that create a better workplace. Apart from generating ROI, a focus on DEI also creates a positive social impact and is just a good thing to do.

Q: What are corporate DEI practitioners and what do they do?

A: The corporate DEI practitioner is a relatively new profession, but generally has been individuals experienced in “people-work” fields, such as human resources, law, academic and nonprofit. It is imperative that companies looking for a DEI practitioner consider individuals with the right background and passion for the career rather than just recruiting the nearest unrepresented person in the room.

Q: What impact can DEI practitioners have on a company?

A: DEI practitioners cannot change a culture. You cannot force anyone to recognize someone else’s identity or make someone feel like they belong. However, DEI practitioners can be consultants to those who are in a place of power and set the tone within a workplace. If the leadership of the company is committed to DEI, even if that person isn’t an expert, it greatly increases the odds for DEI initiatives to be impactful and effective.

Q: What is the difference between equality and equity?

A: While they are often used interchangeably, there are key differences. Equality affords everyone with the same resources regardless of need, whereas equity meets people where they are, considers their specific and unique needs and provides individualized resources. Both internally and externally, DEI practitioners must ensure equity. When it comes to Gas South and how we recognize equity externally, it can mean evaluating whether we sell to people equitably, if we are diverse in our vendors and if we consider cultural and language barriers in our outreach.

Q: Where have you seen your efforts most reflected at Gas South?

A: I’m incredibly proud of the mentorship program we have developed, pairing lower- and middle-management mentees with upper-level management mentors. It has had a positive impact for both groups, providing new perspectives for the mentees and bridging communication gaps for the mentors. In addition, we run a cultural think tank known as the justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) council, where employees can freely voice needs and concerns they want leadership to address.

Q: What is the next step for DEI in corporate America?

A: The next step is to train leaders to be inherently invested in DEI. As much as I love my job, the end goal of DEI initiatives is to not longer need DEI practitioners, because if we execute these plans correctly over time, diversity, equity and inclusivity will be automatically and seamlessly integrated into our workplaces. That is undoubtedly a lofty target, but I’ve been encouraged by the work so many companies are doing in this space and am excited to continue working to make Gas South an example for others to follow.