When hosting meetings that are rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusion, the principles matter. Having a DEI mindset moves the needle toward equal opportunities for all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or ability.
Beyond these principles, meeting planners should strive to get an authentic yes from stakeholders on DEI efforts. Without buy-in on DEI from the board, staff, venue, vendors, keynote speakers, and others, your events will never be as welcoming as they can be.
“It’s business 101 to take into consideration as many stakeholders as possible to ensure that you’re addressing the needs of all of those stakeholders,” said Alexis Nicole Mootoo, associate vice president for employee experience: culture, employee relations, and equal opportunity at the University of South Florida. “And if you’re doing it with DEI embedded in your thought process and in your principles, you are much more likely to be successful.”
Mootoo, whose professional experience involves DEI in the workplace and how to effect change in organizations, lays out three key steps for meeting planners to get stakeholder buy-in from a DEI perspective.
“The first step is to look inward and to be clear that you as an individual embrace all of the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, because when you bring them all together, you have this sense of belonging,” Mootoo said. “And when you do that, you start to understand your client base, your vendor base—all your bases.”
Ask yourself questions—Mootoo used the word interrogate, underscoring the rigor required for this sort of self-reflection. Recognize that you may not know everything, and use the resources available to you to fill knowledge gaps.
“If you embrace DEI, then you start being curious about things that you otherwise wouldn’t have known, and you stop making assumptions about people,” she said. “Because when you make assumptions about people, you’re just generally being rude.”