Learnings from Participating on a DEI Committee, Part I

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Let’s start with a backstory. Almost two years ago I signed up for a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee within a worldwide CX organisation, CXPA. This is two years ago when DEI was coming more into the spotlight. Learning and making an impact were the main reasons for this decision. Furthermore, I felt my experience within corporate and non-corporate organisations, as well as living in multiple countries could help with this effort.

What we’ll cover:

Let me also admit, I believed my millennial-ness would be an asset. Yes, cue the eye roll. As a creative who is highly aware of cultivating diverse thinking, perspective and backgrounds, it seemed like a logical assumption. Let me tell you, this is a topic more complex than any I worked on in the past and my millennial-ness was only a minor benefit.

As a project-based learner, I am someone who learns by doing. This usually means self-educating on-the-go, and uncovering missing pieces of information along the way. It’s like a never-ending night of improv. However, this was different from trying to tie up my existing understanding into a neat blog post. Like many others, I am figuring out how to better address diversity, equity and inclusion day-by-day, and learning my shortcomings in the meantime.

My false sense of ‘millenial-ness’

As one of the younger and more creatively in-tune members, it seemed like a topic I could easily discuss. It’s been a conversation across all aspects of life - from work to friend groups, podcasts to Instagram feeds. For sure ideas and self-reflections would just roll off of my tongue with the utmost brilliance. I know some of you are thinking - is she a millennial? Yes, but at least I’m a self-aware millennial.

This was not the case during our first meeting. During our kickoff, each of the nine committee members described their reason for joining the committee, and their backstory. Many worked at well-known, global companies and had stories of personal hardship around the topic. Even after rehearsing my little monologue while walking through the streets of Amsterdam, mine came off a little trite. I could feel myself judging myself as I spoke as I said such things as, ‘creating a future I want to live in’. This is completely true, but when you hear yourself say it and cannot come up with a better phrase, it’s a bit cringe.

I recognised that I needed to better understand my stories and interactions to help others. Learning, internalising and taking action are all different phases within development. My knowledge might be solid on the topic, but my experiences and those of others not internalised. This meant I could not take action to improve the system without understanding my own experiences. This was a wake up call to how surface level my understanding was. Now this might sound a bit harsh, but that’s how I felt.

Big tasks are hard at first

Additionally, going about changing a system to be more diverse and inclusive is way more complex than it might seem. Organisation and businesses of all sorts struggle indeed to untangle their structures, services and communities to identify tangible change. Unlike other committees that are more focused, for example an Onboarding Committee, DEI can affect every crevice of your organisation. Where to start? Well, nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

One difficult aspect that arose was available data. Not every organisation has been collecting data to understand the baseline or where we were starting from. Additionally, it wasn’t even clear what were key metrics or goals that are industry-wide. This is probably because we are all trying to figure this out in parallel. Hopefully as more success happens and case studies become more apparent, we can better suggest how to go about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in companies and organisations.

As mentioned before, our committee is full of very smart people who have done CX transformations or changed organisations. Though we have approaches to use from CX, somehow we had to rediscover it as we looked at our own organisation. We mulled over quick wins versus researched strategies and assumed changes versus community input. I knew we could do better, and this was something that came with time. It took almost a year to create our CXPA statement around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as an example.

So what did I do?

For a year - wow, it was actually two - I started reading, participating in easy projects and attending meetings. When looking back and being honest with myself, my involvement was quite casual and at times distant. Even with the experience, my expertise and authority still felt quite basic. We all know imposter syndrome is a thing, but there is a real difference when it is imposter syndrome around a life-changing topic. Put me in a room any day with a group of distracted CEOs and new design presentation, but I never want to be unprepared with people’s feelings.

It was two years into my committee participation when a project came across my email. A leader was needed for the DEI Playbook for CX publication. I didn’t think I was qualified nor prepared. However, I was inspired by a recent TechFleet experience, where everyone was doing agile together for the first time. I thought, ‘this was the project I had been waiting for to learn more about DEI and become more engaged’.

There are some people who will have more confidence in this subject than others. In my case, it took time to find the right project and have enough confidence from listening for two years to then jump in. If you’re in a similar spot, don’t get discouraged. Keep listening, keep learning and keep an eye out for that potential opportunity to contribute.

Let’s summarise

  • Almost two years ago I joined a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
  • I realised how surface level my understand was within DEI
  • It took time for our organisation to unravel such a large subject
  • Imposter syndrome felt more real when dealing with a life-changing topic
  • When the right project came around, I was more engaged