A very short story of how our diversity, equity, and inclusion journey began
Diversity and inclusion is not a project, it is a long-term commitment…or at least this would be my first reaction if someone told me that they were initiating a project to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organization. There is no on/off switch. Committing to D&I is more like embarking on a life-long journey than a hundred-meter sprint. Still, this does not mean that we have to move forward like Alice, following a white rabbit down a hole with no clear goals or direction. D&I is not a wandering in the hope of getting back home in time for tea. It requires intentionality, planning, and coordination. The temptation to hit the trail as quickly as possible might be strong, especially when we know that a long journey is ahead of us. Yet, it would be a very bad idea to set out on the road without knowing exactly where we are going, with whom, and which intermediate milestones we might need to reach before arriving at our destination. I found that in several cases, the problem is not to agree on abstract D&I statements, but rather on details such as “how do we get there”, “what needs to be changed”, “how” and “by whom”.
At first, discussing the business and the moral case for diversity and inclusion in our organization gave us the opportunity to understand why advancing D&I should be such a crucial priority for the Center. Once all stakeholders got set into their commitment, however, establishing a formal project aiming at improving FZJ diversity and inclusion capabilities allowed us to create a framework to turn our vision into action while maximizing cooperation across organizational functions, units, and interest groups – at least for this first leg of our D&I journey together.
Before launching the project last January, we spent most of our time defining project goals and benefits, key performance indicators, timelines, product descriptions, and reporting structures. It took us about four months to get everything ready and as much as I love planning, spreadsheets, and flow diagrams, it is difficult to convey in a blog post how exciting it felt to see senior stakeholders and executives come together and agree on a shared plan to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization. Not only they agreed on making D&I a priority on paper, but they also took responsibility for leading change. A formal Board chaired by FZJ Chairman and Vice-Chairman was created to facilitate project implementation and maximize impact. Executives and senior leaders signed a contract detailing what was about to happen and by when key milestones were to be reached. Resources within organizational units were made available. Further, the Board approved the creation of a Sounding Group composed by over 25 employees from a variety of functional areas and backgrounds tasked with overseeing product development and counseling senior leaders, project and team managers regarding employees´ needs and perspectives.
The project is expected to assess FZJ current D&I capabilities, develop a data-based D&I strategy, and implement the strategy proposed within a 4 year framework. A second assessment stage will follow implementation to evaluate project impact and benefits. Project deliverables include:
- The development and implementation of a D&I communication strategy to share the Business Case for D&I with internal stakeholders
- The development of tools to regularly assess and monitor the status of D&I at FZJ
- The development of a D&I report
- The development and implementation of a D&I strategy and measures
- The creation of essential D&I structures and infrastructure
- The integration of D&I within most relevant processes, policies, and projects
Through this process, we ensure that we do not sprint ahead in our D&I journey but take one-step at a time for long-term changes