I recently had a priceless interaction with my daughter that evoked relevant parallels to the current societal and geo-political landscape. With the rising backlash and anti-DEI legislation, it may seem like fervor for DEI has died down, but that is not the case. While you won’t see or hear as many explicit references to “DEI,” even from the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA), it is not losing momentum. Here’s why.

As I was helping to fill in the blanks in this cute book of 50 affirmations for my kid’s teacher, we came across prompt 12: If you were a superhero, your superpower would be (fill in the blank). She filled in the blank with “cloaking.”

It’s an advanced term for a five-year-old, but she loves superhero-villain sagas. Despite my attempt to steer her toward simpler language suggesting "making yourself invisible," she stood firm on her choice.

The first parallel I drew was that as the need for the communicator’s strategic expertise increases exponentially, we must remain diligent in saying exactly and authentically what we mean, much like my little one choosing the right word for her affirmation and audience. She’ll make a great writer one day - succinct, and straightforward. Upon reflection, cloaking was apt, stripping away the negative connotations of invisibility (i.e. unseen and unheard) as portrayed in Ralph Ellison’s acclaimed novel, Invisible Man, where the main character remains nameless.

This led to my second revelation: I’ve seen cloaking wielded as a superpower for one of two contrasting reasons - to hide or protect. 

Anti-DEI efforts have a hidden agenda

Advocates for healthy, inclusive cultures are currently facing challenges that are characterized by hidden agendas:

  1. Permissive headlines falsely shape a defeated DEI narrative
  2. Widespread termination of diversity leaders; most predominantly, Black women in the U.S.
  3. The disarming of the acronym DEI, diminished to an abstract, all-encompassing, and disparately defined ideology.

We learned a lot from a recent example of the far-reaching implications of an anti-DEI crusade. The spilling of details was bound to happen; I’ve found it true that everything in darkness comes to light (Luke 12:2-3). Even the villainous Darth Vader returned to the light side before he met his end.

The exposé detailed the anti-DEI strategy and became a testament to Sun Tzu's enduring guidance in The Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

Champions of fostering unbiased workplaces now have a timely upper hand. We now know that the extremists orchestrating this anti-DEI crusade hide behind insidious motivations of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and anti-LGBTQ sentiments shared among a minority of like-minded bigots. Cloaked in secrecy, those working to dismantle DEI intend to hide, not wanting to publicly own up to their intentions. Moreover, their efforts lack any tangible benefit save to maintain the comfortable status quo amid an era of global advancement and the most diverse population in history.

DEI advocates seek to protect our future

The thing about utilizing stealthiness to do good work instead of using it to cower in hiding is that the opposition can do nothing to subvert it.

In the same vein that CEOs and chief sustainability officers (CSOs) are navigating ESG backlash, DEI may not be emblazoned everywhere anymore. Still, the work to dignify all perspectives and ensure workplace equity is ubiquitous, urgent, and inescapable. The death of an acronym is not a loss; we know words are a small percentage of how we communicate.

Leading companies like Conagra, NASA, and Prudential, have expanded their DEI teams. 91% of respondents from the C-Suite Survey Report, indicated that their companies have not deprioritized DEI. With most companies forging ahead, DEI possesses an invincible omnipresence. Honest intentions and irrefutable benefits render it unstoppable as it permeates corporate cultures with sustained “momentum,” the DAA word for 2024.

DEI in communications

By way of her leadership and service to our profession and the community, power is the personal word of the year for our new board chair, Soon Mee Kim. She referenced Martin Luther King, Jr.’s conviction about the necessary combination of power, love, and justice from his compelling 1967 speech, Where Do We Go From Here? This is the DAA’s fifth anniversary of convening PR and communications leaders around industry-wide representation and inclusion goals.

I like the idea of my daughter channeling the girl power of Invisible Woman, co-founder of the Fantastic Four, when she made cloaking her word of choice!

What can communicators learn about "DEI" from a kindergartener’s perspective?

1. Empathy is humanizing and barrier-breaking. 

"I hope you get to relax this summer."
“Thanks for putting up with my bad days - sorry."
“It is super cool when you pretend to be me.”

2. Active listening goes a long way when framing your perspective or understanding someone else's.

“Thanks for listening when I talk.”
“You were totally right about breakfast.”
“The best thing we’ve done in class is learn.”
“The best thing I’ve learned from you is 'talk to each other'.”

3. We share the human experience, are more alike than different, and want to help each other.

“I am so you that I love you.”
“It makes me smile when you help Leo.”

Your leadership legacy is rooted in positively impacting those around you.

“You inspire me to be me.”
“You make our school a more happy place.”
“The way you explained math was just the best.”

If I could choose a superpower, I personally would read minds, but together our collective momentum can transform our world.

Carmella Glover, is president of the Diversity Action Alliance and VP, head of DE&I, at Page

About the Diversity Action Alliance
The Diversity Action Alliance (DAA) is the Public Relations and Strategic Communication profession's only non-profit coalition combatting the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the field as measured by recruitment, retention, and representation. The DAA brings industry leaders and organizations together to drive and support transformative change toward shared workforce representation and inclusion goals, focused primarily on those most harmed by racial exclusion.