By Aryenish Birdie | October 11, 2018

The evidence is clear: racial diversity—without emphasis on equity, inclusion, and belonging—is ineffective. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Let’s start with some definitions: “Diversity” tells us who is in the room, “inclusion” means those in the room are heard, and “equity” means those in the room have the things they need to thrive. Thus, the term “DEI” = diversity, equity, inclusion. And to be clear, equity doesn’t mean equality.

To borrow from a commonly used metaphor, equality is when everyone in the room gets a pair of shoes, equity is when everyone gets a pair of shoes that fit and meets their needs and style. In this sense, you can see that equity is far more powerful than mere equality.

So what are the “shoes” needed for advocates of color in the farmed animal protection movement? There are many. And that’s why Encompass is taking a multipronged approach to tackling the DEI issue in the farmed animal protection movement by empowering both advocates of color individually and organizations institutionally.

Organizations reach out to us for a number of needs. The most frequent request is for support on how to hire more people of color (POC) to organizations and the second most frequent request is for diversity training. While we appreciate this enthusiasm, we firmly believe that before we start addressing these kinds of questions, we need to start intentionally, humbly, and deeply addressing the culture at our organizations.

Why we prioritize culture change over filling the pipeline (for now)

It’s true that we have a “pipeline issue”—a lack of POC who are interested in the available jobs at the large farmed animal protection groups—and thus a representation issue. In addition to the lack of interest in these positions by POC, even fewer POC make it through the application process (which may have unconscious bias gaps).

As of April 2018, Encompass found that only 38 individuals out of approximately 330 people identify as people of color across 11 of the largest farmed animal protection organizations.

However, rather than focusing on the top of the pipeline (i.e., simply trying to get more POC to apply for existing jobs), Encompass wants to first dig deep and get to the root of the problem. We want to help reframe the issue from: “Let’s figure out where to post our jobs so we get more POC into our organizations” to “How can we remove systemic barriers so that POC apply for—and get—these positions?

The latter requires much more work—it requires courage, persistence, and time. But if we want to ensure that we bring advocates of color into our organizations, propel them up into leadership roles, and substantially change the way we work, then we need to ask these questions. Forbes contributor Sebastian Bailey writes, “Organizations that are brave enough to address inclusion as a cultural issue will reap enormous benefits.” 11

We acknowledge this work will be slow and less tangible, but it doesn’t make it any less worthy of our time. As Harish Sethu puts it, “What is measurable is not entirely indicative of inherent value and, certainly, short-term efficiency is not necessarily indicative of long-term value to the movement.” 12

If we want something we don’t have, we must be willing to do something we’ve never done.

Why trainings aren’t our first step

Because Encompass’ efforts are rooted in holistic culture change, we will not be conducting trainings for organizations until an intentional effort is first in place—at the leadership level—to dig into DEI concepts and learn how they manifest within their organization.

Based on extensive research 13 14 15 16 17, trainings without additional, more substantive efforts, can backfire and hurt marginalized groups. They can also have the opposite intended reaction and actually promote racial prejudice and bias. The culture and tone of an organization is set at the top, so Encompass starts at the leadership level to ensure these concepts are inculcated before working at the staff level.

Encompass’ approach

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are hot topics right now, and that’s a good thing. We believe organizations—and the people who run them—have good intentions. However, we must now shift from good intentions to being more intentional, to examining our systems, and to holding ourselves accountable, and that means starting at the root. Encompass is a thought-partner and we work with organizations that are interested in doing this deep culture change work. Here are the types of services we offer:

  • We solidify the organization’s commitment to DEI at the executive level with the goal of elucidating a deep understanding as to why we’re engaging in this work together and why racial equity is central to the organization’s success.

This work is also often needed at the board level. We can provide consultation with regards to the board’s culture and also help shift the demographics to create more representative boards.

  • We work jointly with organizations to craft a “strategic imperative” document for why DEI work will help your organization’s bottom line.

This doubles as an internal document to help hold the organization accountable, as well as a tool to fall back on when things get challenging (and they will).

  • We apply a DEI analysis to formal and informal policies and practices. This includes, but is not limited to, reviewing recruitment and hiring systems/practices and reviewing internal systems for bias.

It’s important to note that embracing DEI means we are clear not to expect POC to conform to the existing formal and informal norms and standards currently in place, as they may be unintentionally biased and are largely exclusive to white culture.

  • With the strategic imperative and assessment in hand, we help implement DEI recommendations and create an accountability process throughout the organization. We also include measurement metrics throughout the process.

To be clear, this isn’t work that’s done once and crossed off a list. The goal of DEI work is to integrate this way of thinking to organically permeate everything that the organization does, which takes time and intention. The initial process listed above can take many months to many years and will depend on a number of factors such as the existing cultural competency of the organization, the enthusiasm of the executive team to dive in, and more. Cultural transformation requires commitment, engagement, and consistent actions over time throughout an organization (from every leader and each employee) to actualize our shared vision. 18

Finally, while Encompass does work at the foundational level, we don’t believe the conversation has to be all or nothing. Encompass empowers organizations to bolster their talent acquisition and engagement prowess, and we are especially keen to help ensure that POC are advancing up through organizations into leadership positions.

Realizing our vision

When we say we want people of color in our workplaces, we need to be ready to ask ourselves: How do we need to change the culture of our organizations to better foster a sense of belonging for people from all backgrounds? Encompass aims to engage, elevate, and acquire talent, but this alone can’t be the focus. For what good will our efforts be if we bring excellent minds into our organizations only to have them cycle out because we aren’t prioritizing a culture of equity, inclusion, and belonging?

In addition, our organizations face a serious lack of representation. As of January 2017, POC at the large farmed animal protection groups made up ~10% of our movement (by contrast POC make up 38% of the U.S. population). This harms both the POC who work in these organizations and the animals because it means we’re not as effective or efficient as we should be. The animals deserve us to be operating at 100% and nothing less.

Encompass takes a holistic approach and we rely on everyone in the organization to show up and recognize that this is our collective work in the quest for animal protection. DEI work can’t be done just by Encompass, a few motivated people, or even a few organizations. It requires all of us to bravely stand up, make mistakes, and struggle together—because when we win we will have done it together.