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DE&I and JEDI: What's with the catchy acronyms?

We all know that 2020 was a heck of a year. The worldwide COVID19 pandemic shutdown forced most of us to stay at home if we were fortunate enough to be able to do so. The pause all of us were forced to take allowed other things to come into focus such as social injustices and inequities. Who can forget the harrowing video of George Floyd calling out to his mother while took his last breath. It was as if the world finally understood what Black Americans have been saying for decades about the unjust use of force and brutality by law enforcement when it comes to members of the black and brown communities. Americans now had time to watch and see this, and other injustices, come into focus.



Almost overnight, companies and organizations jumped on the "Black Lives Matter" bandwagon by changing their social media posts to black screens and declaring their support of the movement. We have seen this reaction before. We asked ourselves the uncomfortable question: "Is this support fleeting until the next big thing happens?"

Younger generations have stepped up and are demanding that these companies and organizations be held accountable. Demonstrate HOW you support DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion). What does your leadership look like at the top? How diverse is your workforce? Are employees allowed to show up as their authentic selves? People are demanding that companies provide receipts indicating if their commitment to social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion is real.

I was presented with an opportunity to earn a certificate in "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace" offered by the University of South Florida. This 7-week program focused on the following topics: (1) Emotional Intelligence (2) Stereotypes & Biases (3) Understanding Your Organization (4) Future of Your Organization Through DE&I (5) Recruitment & Retention (6) Community Outreach; and (7) Sustainable Business Model.

According to the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business, this DE&I program was created to "help companies become more inclusive by imparting knowledge and developing tools to perform organizational self-assessment and plans for inclusive change." This is one way of helping companies to become more accountable.

Prior to my participation in the program, I asked myself how this would be relevant to what I do as a consultant and Public Relations professional. I quickly came to the conclusion that this DE&I certificate program would provide knowledge and a foundation of cultural awareness and sensitivity as well as the ability to effectively communicate with diverse audiences, stakeholders, and clients. The hallmark of any great communicator is the ability to be able to tailor your messaging for the particular audiences you are trying to reach. The standard approach of a "one size fits all" message is obsolete. Professional communicators know that being culturally sensitive, paying attention to certain nuances, and being aware of your own implicit biases will go a long way towards success. Now, we all need to view how we conduct business and live life through the lenses of DE&I and JEDI and make the needed adjustments that will last a lifetime.

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