“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” – Audre Lorde

Summer 2020 sparked many organizations to take a deeper look at their DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) initiatives, or for some, introduce themselves to the conversation for the first time. There was a significant response to social injustice: from the creation of Chief Diversity Officers to increased DEIB budgets and Mission Statements that claimed organizations were not only allies, but fearless advocates of this work. That moment, now forever etched in our history, shed new light on work that was already being done, but on a smaller scale.

Fast forward to 2024.

We are approaching four years since that turbulent time in our nation and our world. Many of the challenges we faced then, we continue to face now, with new difficulties presenting themselves. Chief Diversity Officers are stepping down due to their roles not having the organizational power needed to enact transformation, DEIB budgets are being slashed to keep up with the ongoing economic highs and lows, and Mission Statements that were once touted as the answer have now become lost on a webpage and not fully lived out by the organizations that created them. The passion we once saw is wavering, as marginalized communities continue to navigate many of the social justice issues brought to light in Summer 2020.

Despite some of the pushback we have seen towards DEIB initiatives, the work has not come to a full stop. Where hope may seem to be lost, it is important for organizations to remember that the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is a marathon, not a sprint. The race is long and arduous. Because of this, no matter how long one has been in the race, the goal is to simply keep moving.

To help advance the impact diversity brings to an organization, the question becomes:

How do we continue to move the needle on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging without feeling as though the work is leading us to a dead end?

What better month to consider an answer to this question than April, which is also known as Celebrate Diversity Month. Celebrate Diversity Month was first recognized in 2004 to honor the unique identities, cultures, heritages, and backgrounds around our world. To inspire new diversity efforts and build upon existing accomplishments, there are three words that can help organizations celebrate and embrace diversity in the ongoing face of uncertainty:

Reevaluate. Reengage. Remember.

Reevaluate. Organizations should look at the priorities they have set for increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. How have priorities shifted over the last four years and beyond? The world continues to evolve, even when current events seem to slow things down. Can the same be said for your organization? If the answer is yes, continue to evolve. Continue to push past performative action to drive authentic and meaningful change. If the answer is no, this means your organization must lean further into change management so thatis celebrated and achieved may be created.

Reengage. Many employees within an organization have been working to push diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging forward for a long time – years before recent events we have seen. Due to this longstanding work, many employees, if not all, are burnt out.

Organizations must consider a different approach to reengage these individuals so they may continue to contribute to short-term and long-term DEIB goals without sacrificing their personal and professional energy. This also creates a wonderful opportunity to engage new employees who may have been on the periphery, waiting for the “right moment” to get involved. The “right moment” is always now and to help ensure the work is sustainable, all hands must be on deck – from members of marginalized communities to the allies of these communities and, most importantly, leaders who can and want to champion for the voices of communities that cannot be heard at the tables in which they have a seat.

Remember. Take a moment to reflect on why your organization is engaged in DEIB work. It is easy to get defeated by the number of daily tasks we must complete or the list of people in crisis we need to support so that we forget why we even started down a particular path in the first place.

Regardless of how overwhelming the work may be, it is critical to remember the why. Take hold of the why, even when the road becomes much too bumpy. This also amplifies the importance of the human side of DEIB work.

Lean into the joy and excellence DEIB initiatives can bring. Just as people are complex and layered, DEIB work mirrors those qualities to serve as a reminder to move forward with grace and patience.

The Path Forward

The work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is hard and takes time for its impact to be seen and felt. As barriers emerge, it is important to remember that the responsibility of this work is not just on the shoulders of leaders and Employee Resource Groups, but all employees and entire organizations. When everyone reevaluates priorities, gets reengaged, and remembers the why, DEIB initiatives can move forward and change culture.







Dr. Joanna Thompson (she/they) is a Black, Latina, and Queer female who serves as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for One Workplace. Her work is informed by her background as a criminologist and 12 years of working in higher education. Dr. Thompson seeks to raise awareness of social justice issues through education and scholarship while promoting intersectional community organizing by facilitating grassroots and systems-based connections.