Revisiting DEI in Turbulent Times

Recent events have caused some people to question the value of DEI — diversity, equity and inclusion. My fundamental belief in the value of DEI to the nonprofit community has not wavered.
DEI isn’t just a broad concept. It’s about creating a culture of mutual trust and respect, which is crucial to effective nonprofit management. Mutual trust and respect is at the very heart of diversity, equity and inclusion.

DEI is integral to running a successful nonprofit today. An organization that’s well-managed will almost certainly be diverse. I became aware of this during my tenure as CEO of Applied Materials from the late 1970s. Our values were (i) Close to the Customer, (ii) Mutual Trust and Respect, and (iii) World Class Performance.
We fostered a diverse workforce comprising various races, cultures, and nationalities, all unified by a culture that prioritized mutual trust and respect. This approach laid the groundwork for DEI as a company priority, long before it gained the recognition it has today.
Diversity is also essential for effective nonprofit boards. Engaging with people who only share your perspective and your views can lead to a dangerous echo chamber, blind to potential problems and opportunities. DEI is a blessing for nonprofits, bringing to boards a wide range of cultures, experiences and insights that would have been rare even a decade ago.
It’s important to listen to and understand the criticisms of how diversity, equity and inclusion programs are created and how they are implemented. There is always room for improvement. But I don’t believe that the current controversy should sway nonprofit leadership from its commitment to according mutual trust and respect to all people, and to ensuring that their organizations are diverse, equitable, and inclusive, of all races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.
  • Does your organization support principles of diversity, equity and inclusion?
  • How can you focus on those principles during the current attacks on DEI in the workplace?
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