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April 25, 2023

Five Common Reasons Why Many DEI Initiatives Fail

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)  have long been buzzwords in our institutions and professional organizations. As our collective consciousness grows and expands, it is our duty to acknowledge a legacy of oppression and continue to uplift the perspectives of marginalized people. 

Despite the best of intentions, committing to center diversity, create an inclusive work environment, and operationalize equity are not easy tasks. Here are some reasons as to why DEI initiatives fail and how your organization can work towards operationalizing equity.  

  1. Lack of buy-in from leadership: Embedding DEI practices, policies, and procedures within an organization are a full time job (or more than one!). There is a level of intentionality that is necessary when shifting the culture of an organization, and often that results in additional time, resources, and money. Operationalizing DEI can not be done without a full commitment from leadership and accountability structures throughout the organization. Additionally, it is necessary that leadership is able to identify the “why” behind the DEI initiatives and communicate the purpose to employees throughout the organization. If there is no awareness around the initiative, it is difficult to cultivate the desire to make the change. 
  2. Unwillingness to change: Incorporating DEI initiatives into an organization involves analyzing the current culture, policies, practices, and procedures that have upheld the organization. Often, we do not realize how inundated our institutions are with White Supremacy culture and patriarchy. Because of this, it might feel uncomfortable to do something different. It’s crucial to remember that no one truly benefits from these oppressive practices. 
  3. Valuing data over lived experience: Addressing disparities and inequity within an organization often means utilizing workforce data and interviews to identify issues within the organization. While the data is necessary and allows for the creation of goals and benchmarks, valuing the lived experience of marginalized people is invaluable. If your organization is serious about DEI initiatives, trust must be built so there is adequate space for marginalized employees to speak the truth about their experience without fear of retribution. 
  4. Equity efforts are not intentionally embedded early on: To fully operationalize equity, it is necessary that equitable practices are embedded as early as possible. If not, the focus shifts from operationalizing equity to mitigating harm. Equitable practices and policies take extra time and intentionality, but what is gained in the process is well worth it. 
  5. Becoming discouraged when there isn’t a quick fix: Dismantling systemic oppression will not happen overnight. These societal issues are more than 400 years in the making and systems of oppression are continuously changing and pervasive. As an organization, there will be missteps and opportunities for growth. Remember the reasons for committing to DEI initiatives and operationalizing equity. Dismantling systemic oppression is the only way toward collective liberation. 


If your organization is serious about DEI initiatives, Converge Consulting, LLC is equipped with the skills and expertise to help your organization operationalize equity. We use our Racial and Intersectional Equity (R.I.S.E.) framework to analyze all policies and practices with an organization. The support of a social justice consultant, such as Converge Consulting, is the first step to operationalizing diversity, equity, and inclusion within an organization.