Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging—A Business Strategy that Works

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging—A Business Strategy that Works

I recently participated in an “Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging” (EDIB) webinar that featured two panelists recognized as experts in human resources, who are also academics at one of the most recognized post-secondary institutions in the world, that promoted the idea of EDIB in the workplace at a time when the noise around anti-EDIB seemed to be getting legitimized.  An event like this should have left everyone with a plate full of knowledge to indulge in and think about, but that did not seem to be the case because there was no acknowledgement of the anti-EDIB noise that has seen countless businesses and their employees get harassed.

The act of promoting EDIB in the workplace now seems to involve swimming upstream and against anti-EDIB currents that seem to have come out of nowhere and are powered by something referred to as “anti-woke”.  So, how do we drive home the value of EDIB strategies in the workplace so that we can help people transition from the “bad thinking” around the ‘idea of anti-woke’ to the “better thinking” around the importance of our interconnectedness, the fact that different groups are likely to inherit circumstances due to no fault of their own and largely by the way of ‘historical outcomes’, and how everyone has a story and it is up to all of us to ensure that other people have better stories?

Ultimately, the only way to stop the attack on EDIB in the workplace is to explain what each letter stands for and its significance in the grand scheme of things, which is also the only way to counter the main points behind the “anti-woke uprising”.  Not by ignoring the problem.  That means getting down to the core meaning behind each of the four letters, and only by doing that is it possible to clear up the confusion around EDIB in the workplace and to deconstruct the ‘idea of anti-woke’.


Equity can be defined as the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically.  In the business world, equity in the workplace would attempt to provide all employees with fair and equal opportunities.  Opportunities based on their individual needs, recognizing that not all employees are afforded the same opportunities and so addressing the imbalance of those opportunities.  In practice, a company may decide to expand their recruiting strategy to include lesser-known post-secondary institutions instead of just recruiting at highly recognizable post-secondary institutions, and by making upskilling opportunities available across their organization, not just for an exclusive group of employees.

In layman’s terms, think of equity as having something to do with the realization that imbalances exist, like the abundance of talent throughout the world that is negated by the absence of opportunities, and which sees endless amounts potential go unrealized.


Diversity recognizes and promotes the idea that people across all lines of difference deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential and to be all that they can be despite the differences that exist between all people.  These lines of difference can include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, and sexual orientation.  They have historically resulted in biases being projected onto others about how their minds work, thus disregarding all that they were otherwise capable of.  A trickle-down benefit of having a diverse workforce is that the multitude of perspectives and personal experiences will allow an organization to better prepare for the vulnerabilities, uncertainties, complexities, and ambiguities they may face, whether internal or external, and can serves as a competitive advantage.

Inclusion and Belonging.

Inclusion is simply the act of including others.  Much of it comes down to how a workforce experiences the workplace, and whether they feel that they can make meaningful contributions.  This is strongly influenced by an organization’s culture.  What makes this somewhat of a challenge is that a certain component of inclusion comes down to people feeling heard, so even if an organization’s culture was immaculate and they did everything “right”, there is still the potential for challenges to arise if someone is left feeling unheard.

The remedy for addressing a person that feels unheard comes down to managing expectations around their feelings, which can sometimes border on being unrealistic or unreasonable.  One of the ways to manage expectations is to be transparent with workers when it comes to their expectations.  This might involve going over what power an organization has to address societal challenges or governmental matters, and then potentially discussing what might be in the realm of possible for the organization.

Belonging is the latest addition to the EDIB framework, and it has to do with employees being made to feel that they are able to be their authentic selves at the workplace.  This is somewhat similar to inclusion because of how it is influenced by an emotional state in addition to an organization’s culture.  The simplest way a sense of belonging can be built is by ensuring that workplaces are free of any bullying, aggressive or violent behavior, other forms of harassment, and by recognizing employees for their contributions.  Promoting a sense of interconnectedness within an organization is only possible if there are healthy interactions between all employees and where differences are not seen as a bad thing, but rather accepted and embraced.

Throughout it all, the context created around the different interactions that occur throughout an organization needs to be such that it creates room for honorable compromise where people can agree to disagree, but where shared values rise above differences in thought and continue to permit everyone to work side-by-side and toward the ultimate goal of the organization.

Deconstructing the “anti-woke” attack on EDIB

When it comes to the criticism and attacks on EDIB strategies in the workplace, it is important to be clear that they have nothing to do with the actual principles behind any of these four letters and everything to do with business decisions that organizations make, such as the products they decide to sell and the events they decide to sponsor.  These might be outcomes that some members of the public disagree with.

The difference between an organization’s EDIB strategy and how it conducts business should be viewed as two distinct and parallel lines: people decisions and consumer decisions.  While these two distinct and parallel lines can also overlap on some outcomes, it is to be expected that there will be some people who will not be able to connect with every product and sponsorship decision, but there is no arguing that organizations achieve more when they extend opportunities wherever talent may exist and that organizations experience greater success when they operate in unison instead of silos.

Every organization is susceptible to making a poor business decision, nor does it take much to offend people these days, but a poor decision is not the end-all, be-all that they are often made out to be.  The response to what some people perceive as a poor decision has resulted in those people misdirecting rage toward companies that may well champion workplaces that embrace the best that our society has to offer.

Equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging are neither woke nor anti-woke.  These four words combine to create a business strategy that works, and it is why EDIB is often a cornerstone of successful businesses.

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