Inclusive DEI efforts cover a broad spectrum of diversity, including class and socio-economic status. To effectively integrate class into your initiatives, follow these three crucial steps.
1.Get clear on definitions.
Class/socioeconomic status can mean different things in different contexts. To effectively bring class into your inclusion endeavors, you first need everyone on the same page otherwise solutions may be stalled due to confusion. As your starting point, ensure you have a shared definition of what class means, what class-based inequity is, and how it shows up in your organisation’s context.
- When defining “class” and the inequities people from lower class backgrounds face consider social and financial aspects of class.
- Be careful with terms like “social mobility” when talking about class/socio-economic status as it implies class/socio-economic status is a changeable state. This idea can be used to blame and shame people of lower class backgrounds.
2. Make Cultural Dynamic Visible
Beyond addressing representation, delve deeper into the cultural fabric of your organisation as this is where classism and class-based inequity can show up. Recognise that organisational cultures often reflect middle-class values which may not be accessible to people from lower-class backgrounds. By analysing your company’s culture through a class lens, you will be able to uncover bias for middle-class culture and work toward inclusivity.
Interrogate cultural assumptions:
- Identify behaviours and ways of being connected to class that are considered superior in your workplace.
- Assess expectations regarding knowledge and experiences (eg. travel, food, education) to ensure that class position does not restrict people’s access.
3. Evaluate policies and processes
Financial considerations play a huge role in class dynamics and this is often reflected in organisational policies and processes such as expense policies that require employees to pay up-front and expense later. There may also be expectations of working outside of normal hours for events or socials but some employees may require second jobs or not be able to meet dress-code expectations. Rebuild these policies to allow full access for employees regardless of their class background.
- Implement travel-for-work processes that proactively cover expenses rather than burdening employees from lower-class backgrounds.
- Analyse event plans in advance (considering location, time, dress code, etc) to ensure financial barriers do not exclude anyone.
By implementing these three steps, you can actively address class-based inequities in your DEI endeavours to create a more inclusive and equitable organisational culture.