Belonging: What is DEIB?

Jun 26, 2023 | All Blogs, Belonging, Belonging Series, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Welcome to the first post in our blog series about belonging. In these three articles, we’ll explore what it means to add “Belonging” to DEI work, how we define belonging, how we know when we belong, and what happens when belonging is absent.


According to a recent article in the New York Times, DEI “isn’t working.” Companies have found DEI work to be “divisive” and “exclusionary.” We, not surprisingly, have some questions about why. In these companies, how are identity and difference valued? How are emotional agility and cultural competency being cultivated? How are safety and vulnerability supported?

The article continues, “Some companies are amending their approach to D.E.I., even renaming their departments to include ‘belonging.’ It’s the age of D.E.I.-B.”

Sometimes, instead of digging deeper, we problem-solve by casting a wider net. If all we know that something isn’t working with DEI, we might add to our scope of work–belonging, justice, and accessibility–to try and include every group. Adding terms can also be rooted in perfectionism. If the work is messy, uncomfortable, vulnerable, or just hard, we can be tempted to fix the process instead of engaging in it.

But adding terms isn’t going to address the many real reasons why DEI doesn’t work.  

DEI doesn’t work without structure. 

DEI doesn’t work without accountability.

DEI doesn’t work without trust.

DEI doesn’t work without thoughtful compensation.

DEI doesn’t work without high standards and clear expectations.


What We Call Our Work

When telling people what we do at Leverage to Lead, we often use the term “DEI.” People are familiar with it, but “DEI” isn’t an expansive enough term to encompass all we do. 

We help leaders and organizations build cultures where people can do their best work and be their most creative selves. We impact cultures by helping create equity and inclusion through structures, accountability, transparency, compensation, expectations, and more. 

If people don’t feel they belong, then no, DEI isn’t working. But over the next few weeks, let’s dig in together about what belonging really means, how it’s experienced, and what it does or does not do. More importantly, let’s examine how we can create the conditions for belonging, with the understanding that we can’t make anyone belong. Because belonging isn’t something that’s given to anyone. It’s not a state that can be offered to you. Belonging is an act born out of our own agency. 

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