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Assess Your DEI Maturity to Determine What’s Next

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Associations looking to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at their organizations often wonder where they stand and where to go next. This is where assessing your DEI maturity can come in handy. Experts offer some tips on figuring out where you’re at so you can get where you want to go.

The phrase “meet people where they are” comes up a lot in the realm of training. It helps explain that not everyone starts with the same base of knowledge, and therefore you have to start where they’re at and move forward based on their needs. The same is true in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion: Associations are all in different places in their DEI journey.

Discovering where they are can help them make good decisions about what to do next, and there are a few steps associations can take to assess where they’re at.

For example, the Association of Corporate Counsel Foundation created a DEI Maturity Model to help legal departments and other organizations figure out where they are and where to go next.

“It’s for organizations that are interested in improving their DEI policies, but they’re not necessarily sure where to start,” said Jennifer Chen, director of the ACC Foundation. “The maturity model really provides a straightforward step to just get a program off the ground.”

Nathan Victoria, executive director and CEO of the Society for Personality Assessment, said doing an assessment is a great place to begin.

“Recognizing where you are regarding that journey and evolution is an important first step,” he said. “It’s a journey, and it’s about moving from where you’re currently at to the next step. You have to recognize where you’re starting. If you are an organization that has never said the word ‘whiteness’ before, that is where you’re starting, and your journey may be a little different from another organization that is open about race but now looking at social justice.”

Honest Assessments

For that initial assessment to work and provide a path to change, it’s crucial to be honest about your organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

“If you’re an organization or department leader and you’re willing to take an honest look at your policies, the maturity model can help you quickly identify areas and steps to where you can change and improve,” Chen said.

Victoria agreed, adding that the honest assessment—warts and all—will help associations better figure out what must be tackled in order to make progress.

For an assessment to work and provide a path to change, it’s crucial to be honest about your organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s harder to look internally to your internal actions, your leadership, et cetera,” Victoria said. “I would argue those are the more important things to focus on first. You’re just going to maintain the same structures if you don’t figure out how internally you are perpetuating some of these systems.”

Some of the work organizations will be doing in assessing their maturity may be about data collection—or just recognizing where they have deficiencies in data.

“You can take a systematic look at diversity, from a numbers-management view, but if you don’t have that in your database, you can’t really do that,” Victoria said. “You have to look at how are you capturing information.”

Constant Evolution

Chen and Victoria agree the DEI journey is a continuum that is itself constantly evolving. What is mature today might be just intermediate 10 years from now.

“As we move and evolve throughout time, there might be things that are considered currently intermediate that might move to an early stage, as we continue to advance with programs and our metrics,” Chen said.

Recognizing this, Chen ACC’s maturity model is intended to be an evolving project that will be regularly updated and improved so that it remains a useful resource for the industry.

Wherever you are on the continuum, Victoria notes that it is important to think about DEI issues so you can carry out your mission.

“Equity and access are key to what we do because we’re a membership organization,” he said. “If you do not come with a diversity and inclusion lens and don’t think about it every day and don’t think about how it impacts the different demographics you work with, then you fail to serve your members.”

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a senior editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips.

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