We’ve recently switched from using the term DEI to EDI as a point of clarification around our strategy. DEI—diversity, equity, and inclusion—is more widely used, but EDI—putting equity first—is gaining traction, and for good reason. EDI has made the difference for us in framing our efforts in a digestible manner. The old acronym contributed to internal confusion and even contention around equity, diversity, and inclusion. 2020 presented challenges that made scrapping impactful efforts in favor of short-term reactions very tempting.
In 2019 Test Double added DEI to the list of accountabilities for the company’s leadership team. Prior to that, folks wanted to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. But there was debate over how to proceed and who—if anyone—should own it. Later that year we hired Vaya Consulting—a culture, management strategy, and diversity + equity + inclusion firm—to train everyone on DEI, and to work with leadership to understand that leadership had to work as a team to make DEI a strategic priority.
In January of 2020, Kompass Advisors helped us to create our first strategic plan for the business involving all leadership team members. This plan included DEI objectives and metrics. By March, Test Double had adopted the Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Benchmarks: Standards for Organizations Around the World (GDEIB), created by experts at the Centre for Global Inclusion, to guide our strategy and measure progress in managing diversity and fostering inclusion.
Everyone’s best laid plans quickly fell apart as COVID-19 spread across the globe. When George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, another crisis moved to the forefront. Many people and companies wanted to get involved in supporting Black lives. Black boxes on social media, public statements denouncing racism, and other public short-term reactions became popular for many organizations. Many of those same organizations did little to nothing to address the inequity within themselves.
In a time of crisis, one can fall into a reactive vs. proactive pattern more readily than they otherwise would. We react by putting black boxes on social media and hope that public displays of solidarity are useful. Equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives are extremely important and require great care. But the pressure to react quickly and publicly, especially if we think everyone else is doing it, can be so great that we lose sight of our goals. Test Double was not immune to this.
The panic-induced quick-fix idea we faced was to put all of our efforts into finding and hiring folks who aren’t cis-hetero white men and women in order to fix DEI. It’s an obvious solution, right? It is also short-sighted and harmful. Here are a few reasons why.
Recruitment is not diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our recruiter is awesome and sources from many different types of communities in order to bring many different types of people to our team. But she can’t solve everything, and she can’t retain people.
Yes, changing the hiring pipeline can help, but our systems must have the ability to uplift everyone, especially those tech marginalizes most. For us, that meant making some big changes. Most notably, we completely redesigned job titles and advancement paths for consultants, and created salary bands. It seems noteworthy to include that we are now iterating on these processes to improve them further.
Fixing the pipeline alone does nothing to solve the systemic issues within a company. If Test Double wants to be made up of different kinds of people, then different kinds of people have to want to work here.
White men generally believe they are going to get equitable treatment at a company, and they are probably correct. They expect an equitable salary, job responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, etc. We need to be able to show our work in order for other folks to see themselves working and progressing here.
Focusing only on diversity recruitment strategies has the very real danger of putting the burden of improving DEI on those most marginalized. Ignoring equity and inclusion absolves the most privileged folks of doing the work to set up many types of people for long-term success. It relies on marginalized folks being publicly forthcoming about what they want and need, hoping others will listen even though they lack any real authority within the company, and being treated as the tokenized representative for their entire marginalized group.
Test Double pressed on with strategic 2020 objectives that included diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Yes, the pipeline was part of the plan, but it did not become the whole plan, even during the moments when the quick fix would have instantly appeased tensions within the company.
Some employees were not on board. Understandably, they were upset that we hadn’t gone farther with our diversity efforts in the past. They, too, saw other companies making public gestures and felt the pressure to join them.
It was very tempting to abandon our objectives in a time of crisis. We did make adjustments to our plans, but we never abandoned our approach to focus on all three areas—equity, diversity, and inclusion—in favor of just one. This isn’t because we’re smarter or better, it’s because we listened to experts including Vaya Consulting and The Centre for Global Inclusion.
We’ve built upon our foundation with 2021 EDI objectives. We will again in 2022, 2023, and so on. It’s a journey, and we get there by doing the work every day, every month, every year. We realized that we can do better EDI work when we focus first on equity.
Of all of our values, inclusion is our most aspirational. We now use the term EDI as a reminder that this work goes far beyond recruitment or public displays of solidarity.
Our equity efforts continue to increase our team’s diversity. Our team’s diversity helps us become more inclusive. That’s the company we want to be.