What is DEI?

This post is part of a series of posts on Questioning DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion). Please see the link for an introduction, a disclaimer, and a list of the initial posts in this series.

What is DEI? The Equity Committee of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) uses the following definitions (source):

Diversity: The full range of human and/or organizational differences and similarities, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, (dis)ability, physical and mental attributes, religion, values systems, national origin, political beliefs, parental/family status, and cultures.

Equity: Equity is ensuring fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of communities most affected by systemic oppression.

Inclusion: Inclusive environments are places in which any individual or group is and feels welcomed, respected, supported, valued, and able to fully participate as their authentic selves. An inclusive and welcoming culture embraces differences, offers respect in words and actions for all people, fosters a diversity of thought, ideas, perspectives, and values, strives to create balance in the face of power differences.

I had experience with “diversity and inclusion” when I was working. Most of my career was with the Farm Credit System. The Farm Credit Administration (FCA) is the federal agency that regulates the Farm Credit System. FCA published a rule in 2012 that required all Farm Credit System institutions to incorporate diversity and inclusion into their annual operational and strategic business plans. The definitions in that rule (77 FR 25577) are not inconsistent with the above definitions.

The concept of “equity” as it is used in the DEI movement was new to me. The following graphic from the National League of Cities explains their definition of “equity” by contrasting it with their definition of “equality” (source: REAL 100 Webinar slide 28):

The text says:

Equality = Sameness. Equality provides the same thing for everyone. This only works when people start from the same place, history and set of circumstances.

Equity = Justice. Equity is about fairness, and providing people with the resources and opportunities they need, given their history and set of circumstances.

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