Reflections and Tensions on Business Growth and DEI Work
By Dr. Nika White
President and CEO, Nika White Consulting, Best Selling Author of “The Intentional Inclusionist®” and “Next-Level Inclusionist: Transform Your Work and Yourself for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Success”
As an entrepreneur and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant, I often find myself torn between the two worlds. In one world, capitalism, productivity, and constant growth are often at odds with diversity, inclusion, and equity. As I reflect on my journey, I realize there are a few aspects of being an entrepreneur and DEI consultant that conflict. Here’s how I reconcile the worlds of business growth and diversity, equity, and inclusion:
I remind myself of how valuable DEI is in the business world
It’s no secret, DEI is work. It takes time and energy to look inward, analyze where our businesses have knowledge gaps, and pull out actionable steps to create a better company. I find that in the business world unless something makes money or is considered “productive”, it’s undervalued. As much as I love DEI and find value in the work, many companies don’t. Some executives may ask, “how can DEI make us money or help us innovate a better product?” For some, looking inward to build a better company dynamic and using new DEI frameworks for their employees isn’t valuable. I have to constantly remind myself that DEI is the backbone of good business to fuel my mission to get people on board with the work. We as business owners need to see DEI as a tool for growth and productivity in our companies. We should understand that if we want to build a better company, product, and grow, we have to work from the inside out. And that means working on how we see and implement DEI in our businesses.
I focus on growing my business without compromising my DEI values
I often feel conflicted between growing my business and seeing it flourish, while also staying true to my DEI values. Many of which include supporting my staff to avoid burnout, creating a diverse workforce with many lived experiences, and keeping clear communication at the forefront of the business.
I’ve always believed in my work as a consultant and how NWC helps others grow, but I’m also conscious of how supporting growth has trade-offs with real impacts on my staff’s mental and emotional needs. In a highly productive business world, growing a company often means disregarding the mental, physical, and emotional needs of the people who work with you.
That’s a mistake. At NWC, I’ve made it a focus to always keep DEI values at the front of the work I do. I stay focused and mindful about the mental and emotional needs of my staff and myself and grow the business with those values guiding the way.
I understand that even my DEI consultancy still has work to do
I often see businesses that think DEI is a magic pill or something they can do once that can solve their problems overnight. But I’ve come to learn over the years that DEI is a journey, not a destination. It’s important to have realistic expectations about how DEI can influence a company and how much DEI work is needed to make real change.
For example, some companies and individuals may think that my DEI consultancy is perfectly aligned one hundred percent of the time with every DEI best practice and have no DEI issues of its own, but that’s an unrealistic expectation. No business is perfect, and even a DEI consultancy like mine can have multiple identities that conflict, challenges with communication, and social dynamics that privilege some while disadvantaging others. It’s humbling to know that even though your business is on a path to improve DEI, so are we at NWC. We’re on this journey together and it’s powerful to reflect on how NWC supports businesses in reaching their DEI goals while also being transparent about our inner work, too.
I understand DEI work is personal
As we help companies grow and reach their DEI goals, the staff at NWC often have their own personal feelings and reactions to the work we do. Many of us including myself hold complex identities and may feel triggered while supporting another business’ initiatives. It can be challenging to work through systemic issues around race, gender, disability, or class and not feel some emotional response in the process.
It’s no secret that DEI work is personal, for your business, employees, and all of us here at NWC. Holding space for others can be a challenge when we’re working through the same challenges in our personal lives. But we’re human and we do our best to show up fully even when we’re feeling complex emotions about the work.
As a consultancy, we, too, experience growing pains around DEI and productivity. Whether we’re experiencing the very thing we’re supporting your business in solving or we’re feeling the work is undervalued, we still find the drive to come back and continue on. We know there are tensions in business and DEI but that’s the great benefit of the work. We can sit in the discomfort of the work and still show up every day to help our businesses do better.
It’s our purpose and joy to be present for the good and bad and come out resilient. We know DEI isn’t easy for anyone but as long as we continue to sit in the discomfort and find a healthy balance between business growth and DEI, we’re confident that our business and yours will thrive.