April’s C3MD virtual meeting was a continuation of our March Coffee & Collaboration discussion around stakeholder orientation. A great group of both familiar and new faces gathered together over their lunch break for a deeper dive into Stakeholder Orientation with guest speaker Danielle Marshall of Culture Principles. A racial equity strategist and executive coach focused on helping organizations advance their DEI conversations and initiatives, Danielle graciously introduced us to her Equity Alignment Lens and walked us through the benefits of using an equity lens as a way to make more inclusive business decisions.
Danielle opened the meeting by posing this question: “What do you think the importance of using an equity lens in your company may be?” While some were unclear on what exactly an equity lens is, everyone had an idea that it involved taking others’ perspectives into account when making decisions that affect a majority of the organization’s stakeholders.
“You’re wasting a lot of opportunity when not everyone’s voice is being heard and what their contributions may be,” said C3MD President Liz Richardson.
Danielle explained that an equitable and inclusive workplace is ultimately good for business. “Today, we’re thinking about it in terms of how we bring an equity lens to practice and as a regular part of business. We’re not only thinking about the talent we can bring in and how to grow our business as part of stakeholder engagement but also, how do we do it in an equitable way so no one group is disadvantaging another group in the process?”
Danielle pointed out that those in charge of making the major decisions at an organization who are often a part of the leadership team already may not always take into account the perspectives of those who may be most affected by their decisions. People such as the frontline workers, the clients, and the vendors with whom the company already does business — these are stakeholders of the company. Sometimes these folks are excluded from the decision-making process because they’re not part of the narrative that we tell ourselves, i.e. the leadership team “knows best.” Or doing something to save the company money and protect the bottom line is always the best decision in the end. However, when we choose to play into these narratives, we ignore the possibility of the unintended outcomes that can result from our narrowly devised decisions.
So what exactly is an equity lens?
“It’s simply a way to be more intentional in the ways you’re thinking through your decisions at your company.” – Danielle Marshall, Culture Principles
“A true equity lens is a framework,” explains Danielle. “A way of looking at the world from the perspective of inclusion and equity. It also encourages people to view situations from multiple perspectives, considering the diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, and needs in society.” In the workplace, “equity lenses are often used to examine policies, practices, or processes to identify potential biases or disparities that could cause inequity among different groups.” And, while they don’t necessarily provide you with a clear-cut answer at the end of the process, they can help you examine more deeply the way you approach equity in your business. “It’s simply a way to be more intentional in the ways you’re thinking through your decisions at your company.”
What questions should you be asking?
The Culture Principles Equity Alignment Lens is designed with a circular framework. You, the decision maker, can begin evaluating the equity process at any point of your process. Each section of the tool offers some questions you may consider along your journey, encouraging you to delve deeper into the perspectives of others and recognize the false narratives you may be telling yourself. It’s also important to try to anticipate some of those unintentional outcomes that could occur.
Some of the questions you may ask throughout your process are:
- Can your decision benefit one group and disadvantage another?
- Are you thinking about all of the stakeholders that need to hear your messaging?
- Do you have the right team collaborating on your processes?
- Have you made the communication accessible and relevant?
- How are you getting feedback?
Then in evaluation:
- What have you learned and how are you documenting this info?
- What elements will you keep in place?
- How will you use the feedback to increase DEI?
How do you start implementing these practices within your business?
Danielle encourages leaders to put these questions into practice. It may seem overwhelming, but just finding small moments and pockets of time to delve deeper into some of these questions – like at weekly staff meetings, debriefings, and adding them to your project protocols – is a good place to start.
“You get to ask these questions and normalize them in your business practices.” Also, she suggests having a hard copy of the guide accessible to share with staff. “If you have the tool and it’s something that you keep on your desk, it’s visible.” Interested in using an equity lens to better inform your business decisions? Visit the Culture Principles website to download a copy of the At-a-Glance Equity Alignment Lens Guide here.
––Wendy Baird, C3MD Board Member
Thank you to C3MD Board Member Wendy Baird for this meeting recap post. If you are interested in submitting a guest blog post please reach out. We want to hear what you have to offer!
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