#DEICT: The advantages and excuses for 'belonging' in diversity conversations

Wichita professionals are debating whether a new DEI initiative is a good idea or not.

#DEICT: The advantages and excuses for 'belonging' in diversity conversations

The Wichita Business Journal #DEICT group is not one to do homework very often.

On Wednesday, however, members were required to read an article from the New York Times about how "belonging", has become a component of some companies' work on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

It is important to try to avoid the "victim" or "villain" mentality and to bring more people to the conversation, so that they feel like everyone belongs. Critics say that it is a strategy to make white people more comfortable or allows businesses to concentrate on getting along instead of dealing with ongoing issues.

John Ford, the HR director of GLMV Architecture saw recently that B was used to spell out D-E.I.B at a conference he had attended. He wonders whether belonging is the start of a separation of a context.

"Is it the beginning of trying to separate context between the two?" Ford stated that CRT (critical racial theory) is the basis of equity and inclusion for so many people. "Is that the divide we are now creating?"

Ford was asked whether belonging is the next logical move.

"I believe we complicate things," he said. It would be fine if, at the end of it all, we treated each other as human beings. There's too much political wrangling and pressure to cover one side, so we can't reach the truth."

Amy Williams, Spirit AeroSystems director of global culture, and DEI, agrees that the effort is overcomplicated.

Williams stated, "There is a part of me that thinks 'belonging’ waters it down just a little." "I think belonging is a result of inclusion. If you feel inclusion is stigmatized by DE&I, I'm willing to play both sides of the coin. If you feel you have to be included, then I would rather you come to the table. Call it what you will, but just make sure you are clear about what you mean.

Amanda Mogoi is the owner of M-Care Healthcare in Wichita. She told the story of a young bi-racial boy who was once told by a white friend that he had "baked too long in the oven". Mogoi, a white woman, said she chalked up the incident as a child being silly. Her older bi-racial child, however, immediately saw it as racist.

Who are we listening to?" Mogoi stated that we are trying to placate white people who have enjoyed their white privilege. We're only placating it back if we don't listen to the voices that we should be listening to in order to create a more diverse, equitable environment.

Teresa Houston, the director of Envision’s child development centre, said that “belonging” was a compromise for those who did not want to be a part of DEI's work.

Houston stated, "I believe it's a way of getting more people who do have these barriers up and trying to trick them into coming to the table." Just call it what you are. Just call it DEI. "They either come to the negotiating table or not."

Audra Dinell from the Thread and Carx Cox from AGH discussed the importance of taking steps to bring leaders into the discussion -- whether that means adding "belonging," as part of DEI's acronym, or finding another way.

Cox stated that the buy-in for DEI investments varies among levels of leadership. Therefore, any effort to get top-level executives more involved can be beneficial.

Cox stated. "But, if I am working with a leader of a company, the HR people need to sell this concept to him. That's where we get stuck." We need to remove any barriers to allow this to happen. If we call it "belonging" instead of another term, or we refer to it in the group as a "talent retention/attraction problem", we don't even mention the letters. We need to do these things to get people to stop being defensive."