Exactly one year ago today, I wrote an article entitled DEI= Dead End Initiatives. I guess it was a premonition, but somehow I knew that organizational efforts to eradicate systemic racism in the workplace were performative, had no accountability, and were destined to fail. Over the past week, my gut was confirmed. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts in the workplace are on life support, with little to no chance of survival. Here’s why:
DEI roles are disappearing faster than non-DEI roles.
An article published last month states, “DEI roles increased by 55% following demands for broader racial equity and justice after [George] Floyd’s murder.” However, three years later, as the economy churns, these roles disappear faster than non-DEI roles. I predicted this would happen as these roles and departments were created without giving these leaders budgets, autonomy, or commitment from leaders in non-DEI roles.
Diversity is the blame for bank failures.
The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed Columnist, Andy Kessler, who wrote a piece on the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) failure. Kessler claimed the SVB failed because they were “distracted by diversity demands.” The bank has 1 Black, 1 LGBTQ+, and 2 Veterans.
On Wednesdays we wear green!
If you’ve seen the movie Mean Girls, you know the line, “On Wednesday’s we wear pink!” A year ago, I couldn’t help but see all of these influential women on my timeline donning green sweatshirts with a gold embroidered “Chief” on them. I just had to join them! However, after a few people nominated me for the organization, I was told I didn’t qualify due to some excuse I would later find out to be a lie, as many members needed to meet the criteria that excluded me from this exclusive community. When I wrote about my experience of being denied membership on LinkedIn, I was finally invited to join after my supporters rallied around me. I then handed over thousands of dollars to finally wear my green sweatshirt. That was the most expensive sweatshirt I had ever bought! Now that I was “in,” something about being a part of this exclusive community didn’t sit right with me. So, earlier this year, I canceled my membership, and I’m glad I did. Many Black women have shared their experiences of being denied membership for trumped-up reasons or not feeling a sense of belonging if they were extended a membership. As a Black woman, not only are you not paid your worth, but you can’t even pay for your worth to be recognized.
I Guess Black Lives (Don’t) Matter.
The murder of George Floyd was a catalyst for many organizations to start or reevaluate their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. Floyd’s murder led to widespread protests and increased public awareness of systemic racism and police brutality. This increased awareness led many organizations to reevaluate their policies and practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. As such, many employees called on their employers to take action and implement these DEI initiatives following George Floyd’s murder. This pressure came from employees affected by racial inequality and allies who wanted to support their colleagues and create a more inclusive workplace culture. Many of these “allies” that were once posting BLACK LIVES MATTER have forgotten that systemic racism against Black Americans ignited this movement and are now claiming that these efforts were not centered around the Black experience at work.
It pains me to say this, but the recent actions of organizations and allies have shown that we have returned to the pre-COVID era of being unseen, unheard, and undervalued at work and in the community. The failed efforts of organizations to make good on their DEI promises and the backpedaling of White allies are dangerous and can lead to several negative consequences. The most dangerous of these consequences is the impact on the mental health of its Black employees. Here’s what can happen:
- When DEI commitments fail, Black employees may feel devalued and excluded from the workplace. This can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression and can negatively impact mental health.
- Black employees may experience increased stress and burnout if they feel they must work harder to overcome systemic barriers. This can lead to feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and disengagement.
- Failed DEI commitments can contribute to imposter syndrome, which is the feeling of being a fraud or not deserving of success. Black employees may feel like they are not valued or appreciated for their contributions to the workplace, which can lead to feelings of self-doubt and anxiety.
- Failed DEI commitments can erode trust and safety in the workplace, which can negatively impact mental health. Black employees may feel they cannot speak up about their concerns or experiences without fear of retaliation or dismissal.
- Black employees may experience secondary trauma due to ongoing racial discrimination and inequality in the workplace. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anger, and despair and can negatively impact mental health.
In summary, failed DEI commitments can significantly impact the mental health of Black employees, leading to feelings of devaluation, stress, burnout, imposter syndrome, lack of trust and safety, and secondary trauma. Organizations must prioritize effective DEI initiatives to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture supporting all employees’ mental health and well-being.
The Natasha Bowman Consulting Group would love to work with you and your organization to cultivate cultures of mental wellness and psychological safety. Contact us today to get started!