DEI Councils 101

Following current events in 2020 and 2021, your organization may be stepping up its diversity and inclusion game, including creating a diversity and inclusion advisory board. This is an important step in a company’s journey that can help create sustained organizational change and focus your DEI efforts through the lens of your overall business goals, vision, and mission. Here’s what you should know about these groups. 

What is a Council? 

A D&I council is a group that provides representation from different backgrounds within an organization. This group meets on specific cadences to discuss what’s being done regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, whether it’s working, and how to proceed in the future. 

3 Step to Forming a Council 

  1. Invite members to participate

Spend time assembling your group. We recommend inviting people to volunteer rather than requiring participation because it engages those who have sincere interest and passion. Assess your council members’ experience with equity, and inclusion. It’s common for there to be a range of backgrounds and experiences. 

You should also strive for multi-leveled and cross-functional representation, which will ensure your committee has insight into what’s happening with your organization as a whole and aim to mirror the diversity of your organization without appointing members or requiring participation. Ensure that participation in council activities is recognized as accomplishments and contributions during performance reviews and bonuses. 

  1. Engage your company’s leadership 

Having executive buy-in while creating your board (or doing anything inclusion-related) is essential. This shows that DEI is important to those at the top and shows the entire organization that these values align with the vision, mission, and commitment. Additionally, engaging leadership is often essential when it comes to removing barriers and roadblocks (particularly financial) that impede your council’s efforts. 

  1. Define your board’s mission, norms, and engagement strategy 

This can be the hardest part of creating a council. Once you have the group…what do you do with it? Here are just some of the topics you can explore together: 

  • Draft a charter and mission statement
  • Outline potential short and long-term goals 
  • Gather preliminary DEI data about your organization
  • Discuss operational items for the council 
  • Define communication and interaction norms 
  • Examine how to secure buy-in and support from key teams and personnel in the organization
  • Brainstorm how to establish your council’s presence and progress 

What Are Characteristics of Effective Councils?

If you want to create a DEI advisory, make sure you check all the following boxes. 

  • Support from senior leadership 
  • Direct link to the overall business
  • Reinforcement of the business case for diversity and inclusion 
  • Diverse membership 
  • Metrics to track progress
  • Clearly communicated goals and outcomes
  • A long-term strategy that drives short-term initiatives and outcomes 

Final Thoughts

As you begin to build your diversity board, you may begin to feel overwhelmed. Include a DEI calendar as a reminder or help the stress of feeling overwhelmed. Your journey can branch off into so many different directions, and there’s no specific “right” way to do something. The guidelines above can help you get off to a great start and maximize your impact on your organization. You’ve got this!