During Covid and at the height of the BLM movement, all attention was on DEI. Companies wanted to know what they could do to react to the social and political narrative. They wanted to understand and get in front of how these things related to respective company cultures. Now, less than three years later, as the pandemic eases but the economic outlook reverberates into corporate budgets, many DEI offices are feeling the resources drain…again. The encouraging momentum we were seeing has begun a marked deceleration and, in some cases, efforts seem to have completely halted. This is, unfortunately, not an unfamiliar pattern.
DEI Burnout (according to whom?)
We are also hearing from our colleagues in DEI that their efforts are being met with resistance…people, especially male leaders, are burnt out with respect to DEI training and they are voicing that they need a break. If only it were that simple. I have regular conversations with my friends in DEI, who include women of color, men of color, folx from the LGBTQIA community… THEY don’t have the luxury of “giving it a rest.” Simply by virtue of who they are, it is a 24/7 endeavor.
Unexamined Privilege in Plain View
I need to call something out here and as a white, cis-gendered male, I have a multitude of privileges that allow me to say this: DEPRIORITIZING DEI IS AN EXAMPLE OF UNEXAMINED PRIVILEGE FOR ALL OF US TO SEE. Succumbing to DEI burnout is also a demonstration of unexamined privilege. It would be easy and convenient to “give it a rest” and just focus on getting business done. But sometimes the easy way isn’t the best way. Sometimes we have to do hard things because they result in better things. I am calling attention to this current (and familiar) retrenchment and asking men to step up.
So what can you do?
Being an ally and inclusive leader is also a 24/7 endeavor. You can’t turn on and turn off your commitment to allyship and to advocating for others. Is it tiring? Yes. Is it difficult? Indeed. Is it necessary? Absolutely. ESPECIALLY in times like these. If you think this is a tough time for you, think about those who don’t have all the privileges you have – and use yours to make their lives maybe just a little bit easier.
As we emerge from the pandemic, there is still a tremendous amount of uncertainty. People are still processing loss and doing their best to adjust to the new normal. Now, with the current economic uncertainty, people are afraid. People are unsure. People are stressed and burnt out in general. As an ally and inclusive leader, embodying empathy and compassion is tantamount to your own journey, especially now. You don’t need a DEI department to remind you of this.
If you are a leader with position, power, and budget, advocate don’t abdicate. And if you don’t have the budget, modeling allyship and leadership is free. There are numerous avenues to pursue and support allyship – one of the least costly ways is to send some of your men to the Better Man Conference.