Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility

Senior leaders, managers, and employees should have an interest in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives.

What is DEIA?

Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are a combination of concepts essential to preventing bias and various types of discrimination. DEIA is a new way of thinking about what constitutes a model workplace; a way to fully realize the abilities and contributions of all workers. The following provides the definition of each element:

  • Diversity is the practice of including many communities, identities, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, cultures and beliefs.
  • Equity is the consistent and systematic, fair, just and impartial treatment of all individuals.
  • Inclusion is the recognition, appreciation, and use of the talents and skills of employees of all backgrounds.
  • Accessibility is the design, construction, development and maintenance of facilities, information and communication technology, programs and services so that all people, including people with disabilities, can fully and independently use them.

Why Advance DEIA?

Generally, a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible organization fosters professionalism,  effectiveness of personnel and may aid in the establishment of a well-trained and highly skilled workforce. The following are some areas in which organizations can find measurable improvements by advancing DEIA efforts.

  • Diverse perspectives and talents enhance performance, productivity, and results across an organization. Diverse organizations are better able to serve diverse customers and communities.
  • Organizations that embrace and support DEIA initiatives attract, acquire, and maintain top talent. A study of more than 1,300 full-time employees found that an inclusive culture is key to both hiring and retaining talent, and 80% of respondents said that inclusion is an important factor in choosing an employer. Nearly a quarter of all respondents left jobs due to lack of diversity and inclusion. An inclusion strategy is key to retaining a diverse workforce.
  • Employees in organizations that foster a culture of inclusivity and accessibility are more engaged with each other and their work, and they are more committed to the mission. A BetterUp study found that a sense of belonging is linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days.
  • DEIA fosters creativity and innovation. Employees who feel respected and valued for their individual perspectives are more likely to bring forward new ideas and approaches to problem-solving. Leaders who give diverse voices equal attention unleash value-driven insights, and employees in a “speak up” culture are 3.5 times more likely to contribute their full innovative potential.

How to Advance DEIA Initiatives?

Commitment from senior leaders, managers, and employees, is critical for sustaining a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible work environment and workplace.

Senior leaders and managers can engage in and encourage their staff to participate in advancing DEIA initiatives by:

  • Demonstrating support for DEIA initiativesFostering engagement, assessing, and implementing DEIA Work Group efforts. Integrate DEIA into decision-making and performance measurement.
  • Enhancing DEIA competence through methods such as speakers, videos, and sharing DEIA Work Group products with staff.
  • Using data and technology to share information and leading practices

Employees can volunteer to establish or support existing DEIA efforts within their office, such as helping with newsletters, DEIA events, surveys, training, and awareness campaigns.

Malissa Lewis serves as the Chief of the Loan Repayment Branch in HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW). She leads a team of nineteen analysts who work to strengthen the healthcare workforce and build healthy communities through the administration several workforce loan repayment programs.

Prior to the Loan Repayment Branch, she served as a section chief in the Division’s Scholarship Branch. Malissa has over 11 years of public health experience and leadership experience.

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