Dei Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right

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Dei Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right

Dei Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right

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Achieving any of these requires a strategy that dismantles historical inequities and meets people’s unique needs.” Move too slowly? You’ll be facing the right direction, but an onlooker will still see you going the wrong way. You’ll be earnestly, vigorously, and even haughtily moonwalking toward inequity. But that's a quibble. This is probably a good resource for human resources/leadership/etc. who really do want to engage with DEI but perhaps don't know where to start or want to take it beyond 101, etc. That said, this should not be the only resource but may be another useful tool in the toolkit. Zheng identifies several DEI failure modes through five questions that fail to get asked in this space, and then spends the rest of the book answering these questions based on their experience: While the exact dimensions of identity and social status affected by discrimination and inequity differ across the world, discrimination in the workplace is a global phenomenon.

Everything about how I approached diversity, equity, and inclusion changed in 2016 when I first read an article in the Harvard Business Review (it’s not every day I mark a period of my life with a business article but still, bear with me). The article? “Why Diversity Programs Fail,” by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev. Both sociologists argue that companies’ command-and-control deployment of diversity programs, hiring tests, and grievance processes have failed to move the needle on the representation of women and non-White racial groups in the US. Their data are hard to argue with. I’ve seen these outcomes myself, whether from the perspective of a workshop participant or in helping organizations do damage control after another practitioner’s clumsily executed training. Even if we do DEI work each and every day, it’s wishful thinking to believe that the trajectory of the world will take us automatically toward equity and that all we have to do is ride the current to get there eventually. There is no such thing. If we achieve DEI, it is because all of us have put in the thoughtful, intentional effort to do our best and do things right. Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum says it well when she uses the metaphor of a moving airport walkway, or a conveyor belt, to describe racism; I believe the metaphor applies effectively to other systemic inequities, too. Zheng's words here are valid and empowering— society calls for a sincere, significant, and long-lasting approach to DEI.


criteria-based membership community for chief diversity officers and senior-level DEI leaders at large Lily is clearly an expert in the DEI field (hint, hint: there’s not many DEI experts regardless of what your Google searches return). I found a lot of “DEI” to take a middle of the road approach to said topic. I understand that we shouldn’t try to further entrench DEI skeptics in their beliefs, but it’s 2022, and talent has a plethora of options outside of companies that don’t see the value of DEI. Our job isn’t to educate DEI naysayers, it’s to push them out (IF a firm is truly sincere in its DEI efforts).

Inclusion Revolution: The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequity in the Workplace” by Daisy Auger-Domínguez Chapter 1: Intentions Aren’t Enough lays out the case for why common approaches that intend to make organizations more diverse, equitable, and inclusive fail—and what we all need to learn if we are to understand and deploy effective alternatives. You’ll get a lay of the DEI ecosystem, become familiar with the challenges we set out to solve and learn about the DEI-Industrial Complex—the informal relationship between DEI and organizations that perpetuates an inequitable status quo. For years, I sought out answers to these questions, and what I saw indicated that dubiously effective or even blatantly harmful practices were entrenched into widespread understandings of what “the work” looked like—including my own. As I’ll explore shortly, the “gold standard” of DEI work and interventions was too often just fool’s gold: shiny, exciting, but ultimately disappointing and of little value. I’ll share why this is the case and how to identify these “fool’s gold standards” so we can build an understanding of how those of us intent on effective work can do better. (Fool’s) Gold Standards

Equity is the achievement of structural success, well-being, and enablement for stakeholder populations, including employees, customers, institutional investors, leaders, and local communities. One of the brightest minds in DEI work today brings us a 'how-to' for inclusive leaders. You'll be amazed at how Zheng's straight talk and clear thinking are so deeply grounded in research. You should 'book club' this one in your business; it offers the path for avoiding 'performative allyship.'" The definitive comprehensive and foundational text for critically analyzing and applying actionable DEI techniques and strategies, written by one of LinkedIn’s most popular experts on DEI. I make it a point not to talk down to the folks in my practice, and readers of this book are no different: you are grown adults with the ability to think and engage critically with content, and I’ll treat you like that. Whatever experience and expectations you bring to the table, keep in mind that practicing these skills as you read the book will enhance your experience: Inclusion is the achievement of a felt environment that stakeholder populations trust as respectful and accountable.

So who am I? I’m someone who deeply and personally feels the imperative of making better organizations and a better world. I’m someone who wants to use their understanding of the world, of organizations, systems, and people, to fix things that have been broken for a long time—perhaps even within our lifetimes. I am radically impatient and uncompromising when centering those negatively impacted by systems. I work to understand the structures, cultures, people, and processes that constitute systems to help people make better ones. I rely on data of all kinds to understand, justify, process, and enable change. I believe that people can change and grow, that systems can adapt to undo inequity rather than perpetuate it, and that we can both build and fight our way to a better world. In medium-trust environments, there are two core tensions, “the tension between legitimacy and power and the tension between stakeholder patience and intervention effectiveness.” Zheng recommends leaders with formal power put skin in the game by making commitments with consequences, and creating and empowering stakeholder groups to hold them accountable. Then they can follow the high-trust playbook, but start with small wins to build trust between the accountability groups and the formal leaders. In chapter eight, Achieving DEI, Zheng instructs readers to consider what they would tell new DEI leaders, prompting readers to “imagine that you’re advising a new leader on how they might move the needle on DEI in your organization. What advice would you give them on how to proceed? What are some pitfalls you want to make sure they avoid and some hidden opportunities you can bring to their attention?” (p. 233).

Table of contents

Recently, for example, a colleague with no previous exposure to corporate DEI shared with me a story of sitting through a mandatory DEI training, led by a person who was not White, in which the facilitator referred to different racial groups as “Negroids, Caucasoids, and Mongoloids” before listing a long list of racial stereotypes to the unwitting audience. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing—a racial classification system developed in the 1780s still deployed in 2021. The training deeply confused and upset the audience. “What is wrong with DEI practitioners?” demanded my colleague afterward, and all I could do was shake my head and apologize on behalf of a person I had never met. What is wrong with DEI practitioners? But Lily, our company has a racial justice commitment”—racial justice outcomes are more important than statements of commitment. Chapter 4: Real Change looks at modern discontent when organizations promise to change, summed up by the popular phrase performative allyship. You’ll learn why the era we find ourselves in post-2020 represents a turning point for accountability, stakeholder trust, and organizational change, and the new, higher standards that consumers, communities, employees, and investors have for organizations when it comes to their role in an uncertain and inequitable world. Performative Allyship: Zheng identifies the problem with allyship being more performative than leading to actual change. Zheng examines the criteria for performative allyship, asking, what makes an action performative? “If an action is intended to gain social media clout or make a person look good, those are dead ringers for performative allyship” (p.87). Critics point to these factors as reasons why the DEI industry does more harm than good, and some go so far as to claim it is past saving, suggesting that those who care would be better off disengaging from it completely. The most idealistic advocates brush off these factors as slight complications alongside an otherwise unproblematic and hopeful upward trajectory. Both have a point, but both mischaracterize the path ahead of us.

Using their signature decisive and direct voice, Lily Zheng delivers an accountability-centered and immediately actionable road map to building a more equitable and inclusive modern workplace."Why you should read it: This book enables readers to assess where they are as an ally today, then helps readers move forward by exploring their reasons for committing to DEI work. Kim shares hard questions you can ask to test your commitment to DEIB, which can help you guide your organization to get real results in this area. You are someone who wants to do DEI right. Maybe you’re a full-time practitioner looking for a solid companion guide to inform the messy work you do as part of your day-to-day. Maybe you’re an internal employee advocate or volunteer looking to beef up your passion and interest in this topic with a crash course of know-how and actionable advice. Maybe you’re a mid-level manager or leader who wants a more comprehensive understanding of what DEI looks like as a real organizational commitment in action rather than a collection of inspirational speeches. Maybe you’re an HR leader, chief diversity officer, or another executive tasked to lead on DEI and want to know what that actually means.

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