Walking on the dark side of the moon

A day in the life of a dei manager

Smaranda Boros

By Smaranda Boros

Professor of Organisational Behaviour

Andreea Gorbatai

By Andreea Gorbatai

Professor of Entrepreneurship

Claire Godding

Senior Expert on Diversity & Inclusion and Societal Needs for the financial sector in Belgium at Febelfin

Katrien Goossens

Head of Diversity Equity & Inclusion at Engie

01 October 2023

In recent years (especially after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020), companies have stepped up their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) awareness and practices. We see more and more job openings for DEI managers. When we talk to DEI professionals, we see that the DEI team has often moved from a voluntary entity to an integral part of the organigram – with KPIs, strategy, budget and paid workload for its members.

At the same time, in the wake of new economic crises, we read more and more in the news of DEI functions being reduced or axed altogether. Earlier in 2023, Ellen McGirt reported on the findings from Revelio Labs that “a 33% churn rate for DEI-related roles at more than 600 companies engaged in layoffs, compared to 21% for non-DEI roles”.

No wonder then that on 15 May 2023, when we met 22 members of the Diversity Managers Association of Belgium (DMAB), from 20 companies across over 12 different sectors (from public transport and finance to distribution and pharma, including DEI managers for non-profits) on our Brussels campus, to talk about the wellbeing and career sustainability of the DEI manager, naming the workshop “the dark side of the moon” turned out to be very appropriate.

Most DEI professionals are doing what they do because there is a personal story fuelling the passion. Often enough, they have the experience of ‘difference’ and ‘otherness’ - either relating to themselves or their family. Which means that what we do is not a job; it has real stakes. On the bright side, this brings passion and resilience. On the dark side, it brings disappointment when change is slow, pain when you can’t make the difference you set out to make, and guilt when you are too tired to carry on. Social justice is not an empty noun. It is personal.

With this white paper we invite you to take a walk on the ‘dark side’ of DEI implementation challenges, and explore together with us the challenges of such projects, and identify specific actions that DEI managers and organisations can take to address the complexities of DEI strategy execution.

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Jonathan De Grande

Jonathan De Grande

Sustainability Connector