Accountability in DEI: Where Action Meets Intention

Much of the current dialogue on issues related to social justice centers on accountability. Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), members of the LGBTQ communities and others from historically oppressed populations are making it clear that surface-level signals of “support” or “allyship” are not enough.

So how do organizations hold themselves accountable for demonstrating stated commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)? And how do the communications professionals who support these organizations tell the story of that work?

A statement by Aspen Skiing Company offers some interesting insights. It is an example of the candor, self-examination and intentional action communications professionals should encourage both internally and externally regarding DEI. It is worth noting that the statement comes from an organization existing within what is often considered one of the least inclusive athletic and recreational spaces. Here are a few takeaways:

  • Embrace difficult conversations. When it comes to bias — both conscious and unconscious — as well as systemic racism and other forms of injustice, we all live in a space of great discomfort. Approaching these conversations with humility and mutual respect is key. When people say they must navigate the world quite differently than we do because of their race/ethnicity, gender/gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability or other “difference,” we should believe them.
  • Exclusion isn’t limited to overtly exclusive language. As communications professionals, we should ask ourselves how a particular population might process our messages by considering their culture and daily experiences. Can people from various communities see themselves in the images we use to convey those messages? Do our messages communicate a sense of acceptance and respect? If not, why not?
  • Set clear benchmarks for evaluating your DEI efforts. There will be short-term and long-term goals. To track your progress, attach metrics to the intended outcomes and share those benchmarks internally and externally. Evaluation of DEI efforts needs to be transparent and open for feedback or change.
  • Perfection in DEI is not the goal. It very likely doesn’t exist. There is no real finish line DEI work. It’s an ongoing process that must evolve and adapt. Simply continue to do the work by engaging diverse audiences, exchanging experiences, listening and acting. The growth will happen and speak for itself.