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DEI Initiatives Include You, Whoever You Are

Like sidewalk curb cuts, DEI initiatives can help everyone.

Key points

  • The terms diversity, equity, and inclusion involve everyone.
  • DEI initiatives do not have to be a zero-sum game or a fixed pie.
  • DEI programs that align with best evidence and practice can improve workplace experiences for all workers.

When presented with DEI initiatives like diversity training, mentorship, and employee resource groups, people sometimes believe these programs are designed to benefit them (other people) and thus mean less for me. Many people worry that organizational opportunities and resources are part of a fixed pie, that the pieces will be consumed and there will be none left for us. This kind of fixed pie or zero-sum belief can create resistance or even backlash to DEI efforts. But well-developed, evidence-based DEI practices are intended to do the opposite; they are meant to expand the pie to ensure there is enough for everyone.

The terms diversity and inclusion are meant to apply to everyone. People differ in age, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical abilities, religion, socioeconomic status, mental health experiences, and other meaningful characteristics. Of the 340+ million people living in the United States in 2024, 50 percent are over age 40. Approximately 59 percent of Americans are White and 41 percent are non-White. Approximately 6 percent identify as transgender or nonbinary and 7 percent identify as LGBT. More than a quarter of Americans have some functional disability and about the same proportion reports experiencing mental health challenges. Many Americans (70 percent) identify as Christian, with smaller groups of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu faiths, and many others (22 percent) who have no religious affiliation.

All of these differences comprise diversity, and all of these differences are inherent to experiences of inclusion. And effective DEI programs strive to support everyone.

We think about these issues using the example of curb cuts. Curb cuts are ramps cut into street corners to allow access between the sidewalk and the street. Curb cuts are helpful to people with mobility challenges, people pushing baby strollers, people in wheelchairs, people pushing large carts for deliveries, and kids riding tricycles to the park. Curb-cut initiatives help pretty much everyone who uses them.

Similarly helpful initiatives can and have been used in organizations nationwide. Increased natural lighting in office spaces can improve visibility and mental health. Eliminating speeded tests for jobs in which speed is not necessary can improve accessibility for neurodiverse people and reduce stress for others. Flexible work arrangements and extended leave options help people with caregiving responsibilities ranging from newborns to elderly parents, in addition to people managing chronic health conditions. Providing gender-neutral restroom options can offer choice and comfort to all employees. Expanding font sizes and using closed captioning for meetings and presentations can improve accessibility and understanding. Such organizational curb cuts represent genuine efforts toward inclusion for all people.

At best, such initiatives improve the productivity and well-being of all workers. At worst, they help some people and harm none. For these reasons, DEI does not have to be a zero-sum game and there can be enough pie for everyone.


Pew Research Center (2021). How religious composition has changed in recent decades. Accessed online:…

United States Census Bureau (2024). Quick facts.

Jones, M. (March 13, 2024). LGBTQ+ Identification in U.S. Now at 7.6%. Accessed online.

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