A group of diverse staff members sit a a large conference desk

Creating a Workplace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee – Where to Start

Please enjoy this sponsored post brought to you by our HR Consultant and client, Jeff So, HR Manager at Indochino


So in 2021, it’s become more common for organizations to say there’s a “need” to have DEI given the rise in social movements like BLM, Stop Asian Hate, and Every Child Matters. You have so much to navigate and so many topics to tackle but none of this matters if the committee ends up being performative or virtuous for the sake of brand awareness.

For me, as an HR leader, it’s relatively easy to lead any initiative that betters those around you, especially when it comes to our colleagues and coworkers. But know this, not every HR leader is necessarily a DEI expert but you may asked to wear that hat for your organization because honestly, who else would? On the other hand, just because you aren’t a DEI expert doesn’t mean it’s impossible to champion inclusion and foster a respectful workplace for all!

Here’s how I did it (and by no means is this the only way).

Before you start any committee, it’s important to have buy-in from the top (ie. Executive, Leadership, Senior Managers) so the committee you are chairing has the support necessary to action items. As the saying goes, talk is cheap. It’s important the representation of the committee is purposeful and gives voice to all the organization’s members. Include a mix of different staff and managers from various departments and members also a couple seats for your organization’s Leadership.

Let your committee members know that you appreciate them lending their voices for your colleagues and that they should be proud of the responsibility and embrace the opportunity be impactful.

Next, again, just like any committee, there are housekeeping items. These were my general expectations/ground rules that I wanted every committee member to follow especially since we all have busy schedules and want to be respectful of everyone’s time.

  1. Must be able to attend meetings regularly and be an active participant (ie. Camera ON, asking questions, sharing thoughts)
  2. Try to give at least 24 hours’ notice if you can’t attend a meeting so you can reschedule if there isn’t a strong attendance – it happens!
  3. Most importantly, have consistent bandwidth to action and support committee initiatives without sacrificing regular work performance.
DEI Sign

It’s your first meeting – no need to freak out!

For me, I emphasized that I was very much on this journey of learning and appreciation with the committee and the entire organization. I admitted that I would likely make mistakes along the way as a way to reassure others to know it’s OK to do the same. The committee will support one another and will work to build each other up – it starts with this group – this is your group of DEI Champions.

Tip: If you don’t have a committee secretary, have the responsibility for note taking on rotation amongst the committee.

Here’s an idea for a first ‘agenda’.

  1. Start by inviting the committee to join you in conducting a Land Acknowledgement. Land Acknowledgements are statements that recognizes and inserts awareness to the traditional territory or territories of the Indigenous peoples who called the land home before the arrival of settlers. It is an ongoing commitment to and appreciation for the land we are in a direct relationship.

For me here in Vancouver, BC – I wish to acknowledge the traditional territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in which we live, work and play. 

If your committee works remotely or in different regions, open the floor up and encourage your committee members to do an acknowledgement from where they reside. There’s no pressure, especially if Land Acknowledgements are new, but always encourage each person to research their geographical territories and perhaps even share at a future meeting. Focus on the growth.

DEI Meeting
  • Next, do a round of introductions so everyone can get to know each other a bit better. Again, preach comfortability.  For a fun ‘twist’, I asked each committee members in 60 seconds or less to share with the group their role in the organization WITHOUT mentioning job titles.
  • Work together on coming up with a VISION STATEMENT. What goal will your strategies and meetings work towards? Here’s a sample: “To create an inclusive culture that fosters productivity, comfortability and creativity while representing the community we serve to attract and retain top talent.”
  • Depending on what DEI resources available to you, you may need to prepare some research beforehand to introduce a diversity topic like gender pronouns, glass ceiling, generational gaps or unconscious bias. If you have a DEI Expert/Consultant/Material – this could be used as a presentation time. Save some time for Q&A and follow-up too.
  • Take notes for a follow up segment to strategize and come up with a list of possible action items.
  • Before you end your first meeting, consider having an ‘open floor’ time to share your thoughts, feeling and your colleagues’ thoughts and feelings. This time is reserved for discussing ideas and initiatives as well. Essentially, this will help us chart your committee’s deliverables and set achievable internal goals. This is a GREAT time to share any personal anecdotes within the group.
  • At the end of the meeting, make sure everyone receives a copy of the minutes followed by key takeaways (for those who may have missed the meeting). Don’t forget to thank everyone for their time!

Lastly, remind each other to be kind to one another on this journey. Be inspirational, be vulnerable, be open minded.

Let me know if you found this post insightful and be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn to read more on my upcoming HR perspectives: www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreycys.


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