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VIEWPOINT: With DE&I, Delaware can compete into future

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Did you know that in 2044, Delaware is projected to be a majority-minority state? This is according to researchers at the Center for American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution. And by 2060, New Castle County is predicted to be one of the most racially and ethnically diverse counties in America, according to USA Today.

Raina Allen | PHOTO COURTESY OF UWDE

For Delaware, the challenge is not, “Are we ready to compete in this new future?” The real challenge is, “Are we doing enough, fast enough, to transition our workforce?”

These demographic shifts must be an impetus for business leaders to rally their resources toward establishing workplace cultures that embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and mirror the diversity of all customers and clients. Unless business takes a leadership position regarding DE&I, nothing will happen. But if force is applied, the pace of change will pick up movement.

Why do the work to ensure DE&I?

Advancing DE&I in the workplace is more important than ever. Attracting and hiring a diverse workforce is only the first step. Ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to grow, contribute and influence the workplace is equally important. And maintaining an environment of inclusion requires an effort to ensure that everyone feels respected, valued, safe and fully part of the business environment.

Keeping an employee is far more cost-effective than recruiting and training a new person. Research by workplace culture think tank Great Place to Work suggests that employees are five times more likely to remain in their positions if they feel welcome and valued. Likewise, employees who are treated fairly, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age, are nearly 10 times more likely to look forward to going to work, and 6.3 times more likely to have pride in their work. A fair and caring workplace is one of the top drivers of revenue for small and medium-sized companies. Diverse and inclusive companies are 44% more likely to drive above-average revenue growth. And the all-important consumers – themselves a diverse group – are intentionally taking their business to companies with demonstrated DE&I policies and practices.

How to begin?

The Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative (DRJC), powered by the United Way of Delaware, was established in 2015 to dismantle systemic racism in Delaware. Using its collective infrastructure and resources to amplify and support community-based initiatives, the DRJC fights to enable racial equity and social justice for all.

The DRJC comprises more than 200 individuals from nonprofits, community organizations and businesses across the state. Specific DRJC initiatives promote DE&I advancements in education, wealth creation, criminal justice, health equity and more. This work is fueled by community participation and developed in partnership with grassroots leaders, civic leaders and community organizations.

One of the DRJC’s most ambitious initiatives is the Fusion Alliance. This partnership with the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Delaware is designed to advance business growth by offering practical, effective, affordable ways for small and mid-sized businesses, governments and nonprofits to incorporate DE&I strategies in their operations, with the goal of making DE&I part of each organization’s DNA.

Fusion Alliance participants work with a DE&I consultant to conduct a DE&I landscape analysis. From there, they define, develop and implement action plans based on self-selected goals that will help grow their operations and transform workplace cultures. DE&I programs fare best if senior management commits to an equitable workplace and then leads from the front in implementing those policies and practices that foster greater diversity and inclusion.

Each organization’s DE&I journey is different, depending on their readiness, capacity, and resources. And each journey takes time, commitment, planning and research. To aid organizations in the early stages of their DE&I journey, the DRJC created a free DE&I toolkit that can be found at UWDE.org/DRJC. This guide can help inform meaningful and purposeful DE&I conversations and also foster new understanding of DE&I strategies.

The DRJC has opened a dialogue. We invite all Delawareans to join us in the movement. Our goal is to move the equity dial faster and more effectively toward our majority-minority future. With your help, we can realize a future where Delaware’s business community is more diverse, inclusive and equitable. This work is not just important, it’s vital to the future of Delaware’s economy.

Raina Allen is the director of the Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative.

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