The Origin of DEI

The Origin of DEI

Happy June! Can you believe we are halfway through the year? Time is flying, but nonetheless, we are excited to continue sharing more news, tips, and awareness. If you are not aware of this by now, more and more companies are looking for talent to fit their DEI needs. This is an excellent opportunity for the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, women, people with disabilities, and more. But what exactly is DEI, where did the idea come from, and how did we get here? If you are like us, you may have wondered this. So in honor of Juneteenth and Pride Month, we thought it would be a great idea to discover the origins of DEI.

What is DEI?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are the three pillars that promote fair opportunities, treatment, policies, procedures, and more of all people in and outside the workplace. Diversity, equity, and inclusion primarily represent those often overlooked, historically underrepresented, and discriminated against because of their background, identity, etc., including the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, women, people with disabilities, senior citizens, the youth, pregnant women, and more.


Each pillar represents an essential value organizations seek to establish through the DEI framework. Although each value is different, they are all related and work towards the same goal. Other countries use different variations of DEI. For example, Britain swaps equity for equality. Their variables are EDI, equality, diversity, and inclusion. Other variations are justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI), inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA), and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

As mentioned, all pillars represent different values but are all related. Diversity promotes the variety of people, identities, races, ethnicity, class, religion, disability, age, background, and more in the workplace or organization. Equity focuses on fairness, justice, societal disparities, and “allocating resources and decision-making authority to groups that have historically been disadvantaged and taking into consideration a person’s unique circumstances, adjusting treatment accordingly so that the end result is equal.”

Where Did DEI Originate?

Diversity and equity education began in the 1960s in correspondence to the plight of the Civil Rights Movement. It was an avenue created to combat racism between the BIPOC community and white people. During this time, many social and educational practices were challenged, and anti-discrimination legislation, including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, were passed. Although these legislations were passed in the 1960s, many attribute 1948 Executive Order 9981, signed by President Truman, as the first equal employment legislation. It was first introduced to Congress in 1943 to desegregate the armed services. 


With new laws put in place, some companies and organizations started diverse training programs to help employees adjust to their new work environment. In the early 1980s, Lewis Brown Griggs coined the words diversity and equity. He continues facilitating DEI conversations while coaching white males to enhance their diversity consciousness. Diverse and equity training has become increasingly apparent and essential to break any biases against underrepresented groups and toxic workplace culture. 

Over the years of integration, employers began to see more work needed to be done, so they began to focus on making the workplace more inclusive. In 2009, the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was formed by Lester A. Lefton, the president of Kent University, which facilitated the University Diversity Action Council.

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DEI Today

In 2003, MIT professor Thomas Kochan stated companies were spending about $8 billion annually on diversity initiatives. According to McKinsey & Company, companies spent about $7.5 billion on related DEI resources, and the industry is projected to double to $15.4 billion by 2026. Still, at this current rate, it will be another 151 years until the global economic gender gap at all levels is closed. 


Undoubtedly, more work must be done and more conversations to be had. We are happy to continue the discussion, so come back next week as we discuss ways companies can increase their DEI efforts.

The Origin of DEI

The Origin of DEI

The Origin of DEI

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