It's easy to focus on the "D" in DEI: focusing on building employee resource groups (ERGs), acknowledging Black Lives Matter, and maybe even starting a social justice book club. That's noble work, but it's only the beginning.
DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) isn't just about race and gender. Diverse employee populations include different age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, family size, religions, educations, sizes, and ethnicities. Each of those categories comes with its own concerns and needs.
Want to go all-in on your DEI strategy? You'll need to think about how your employees' experiences inside and outside of the office impact who they are and what they contribute—and then think about the factors in your control that can make their lives better.
This is a very non-exhaustive list of DEI concerns and questions that go beyond the basics.
I chose not to cover diverse recruiting in this post because it's a nuanced topic that goes far beyond this very brief explanation of things you might not have thought about and I want to do it justice.
Accessible workplace environment
Unfortunately, many offices are built to accommodate thin, able-bodied employees—and that's it. Is your office built for people with disabilities in mind?
Is there an elevator or other solution for employees with limited mobility?
Do the chairs support larger employees?
Are there handicapped stalls in the bathrooms?
Is your office near public transport?
Is the street and neighborhood well lit at night?
Inclusive work-from-home experience
While many companies only had a few days to pivot to fully-remote, we've had a year to improve that experience. Is your remote environment considerate of blind, deaf, and neurodivergent employees?
Is there a camera-on policy for video calls?
Are neurodivergent employees' needs accommodated regarding recordings and camera-on rules?
Are sign language translators available for company calls?
Has your company invested in live closed captioning for video calls?
While employee-led DEI committees are often seen as a forward-thinking solution for DEI issues, it rarely works out as planned. DEI committees are often populated by well-intentioned people without enough expertise to effect change. For these committees to work, they need guidance from a trained DEI advocate, budget, and visibility.
Are employees who work on commission compensated for the time they spend working on DEI?
Are the employees creating DEI policies trained to do so?
Are C-level executives aware and supportive of the DEI committee?
Are employees allowed to unionize?
Parents' and caretakers' needs
COVID and the quick move to WFH gave employees an inside looks into their teammates' homes and living situations. Employees who may have been silently carrying caretaker and parenting burdens now had those on full display, alongside those new to parenting and caretaking struggles. For your company to be inclusive of parents and caretakers, there need to be supportive policies in place.
Do you offer flexible hours for parents and caretakers?
Does your health insurance policy cover all employee dependents?
Can employees take time off during the day for family doctor appointments and other critical needs?
In the United States, higher education is prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to many. While it may be less expensive outside of the States, there's still discrimination surrounding where and what a person studied, how long it took them to finish their degree, and what their scores were.
Do you require college degrees for employees?
Do you only consider candidates from certain higher education institutes?
Do you offer to pay for higher education for employees?
Especially in tech, employees are often assumed to be wealthy to some degree. However, that's often not the case. Many employees come from low-income backgrounds, support extended family, owe big-time student debt, or just...don't have a lot of money right now.
Do you offer financial counseling?
Do you cover employee expenses or are employees supposed to pay and file for reimbursement?
Do you offer 401k matching?
It's unbelievable, but some companies still have dress codes.
Are women, nonbinary, and trans employees impacted more than cis men?
Are employees allowed to style their hair as they please?
While giving employees gifts is a lovely gesture, if they aren't planned carefully, they can do more harm than good. Sending alcohol to an addict's home, for example, can trigger a relapse; sending sugar to a diabetic's home can make them sick.
How do you address dietary needs, sobriety status, and clothing sizes when giving gifts?
Can employees opt out of gifts that make them uncomfortable?
WFH office setup
Tech company offices are known for their perks, like meals, fancy coffee machines, air conditioning in the summer heat. When COVID hit and we were all sent home, employees who were used to do those suddenly had to fend for themselves.
Do you cover internet, heating/AC, and other costs for WFH employees?
Are WFH employees provided with a meal card or budget?
Do employees have to furnish their own space or does the company provide necessary equipment?
How do you support employees whose homes aren't WFH-friendly?
Though discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity may be illegal in the US, that doesn't mean your workplace is inclusive.
Are parent leave, pregnancy, and partner benefits inclusive of all employees?
Are bathrooms safe for trans and gender non-conforming employees?
What genders are listed on company forms?
Are hormones and gender confirmation surgery covered by insurance?
Non-native English speakers
For companies whose language of business in English, it's critical to make sure all employees speak and read fluently.
Do employees have company-sponsored access to language education?
Are translators available for company events?
That was the tip of the iceberg.
There's so much more to think about and endless work to do, but this is a start.