DEI Steering Committee/Council - Part 2: Sustaining Your Efforts

DEI Steering Committee – Part 2: Sustaining Your Efforts

In Blog, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by Erika Powell

Creating a DEI Committee is an essential step in demonstrating your organization’s commitment to bringing forth and prioritizing changes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. You may have already read our post about 3 Steps to Forming an Effective DEI Committee.

However, a committee is not self-sustaining, and just forming one is not enough– the work must be nurtured over time. The work that a committee does must be viewed as a long-term, continual effort that is both strategic and vital to the future of your organization. To sustain your committee’s efforts for the long haul consider taking these actions:

Establish a Cadence and Agenda

In many organizations, there is a lot of initial fanfare and celebration once a committee or council is established. However, over time, committee meetings start to lose focus and/or eventually meetings completely drop off member’s schedules. To maximize impact and success, the work of a committee must go beyond the initial enthusiasm and celebration of setting up a committee. Additionally, it must be seen as more than just a one-and-done effort or another item to tick off on the quarterly checkbox. 

While it sounds like a no-brainer, with so many business priorities and projects constantly competing for your attention, establishing a meeting cadence and having an agenda is a top priority to sustain the work of a committee. These simple yet effective actions set the tone that this initiative is important and a priority. They also serve to focus and position your committee to build and sustain momentum moving forward on the DEI front throughout its journey. 

As your committee is initially forming, it’s often helpful to set aside at least one hour per week to meet to get set up and clear about your mission, norms and engagement strategies. Then, with time and as your mission, vision, and purpose become more clear, prepare to adapt your meeting cadence for longer or shorter timeframes as needed (i.e. every other week, monthly, or quarterly).

While every organization’s committee agenda will vary based on their unique purpose, focus, and organizational culture, some components that should be prioritized in your meeting agendas include:

Area/Topic Purpose/Function 
Welcome & Check-In
  • Keeps your meetings people-centered and centers their humanity rather than their productivity. Here are a few pointers and suggestions to get you started
  • Provides time to introduce and welcome any new members
Committee Updates
  • Keeps the committee informed of any changes or matters that they should be aware of
  • Provides time for committee or subcommittees to report out on progress or important developments
  • Is a space to celebrate accomplishments and progress towards goals
Executive Orders, Legal Developments, or Regulation Impacts
  • Gives the committee an opportunity to gain awareness and discuss any policy developments that would have a cross-functional impact on your wider efforts or organization’s DEI efforts
Planning, Actions, & Decisions
  • Creates time and space for the committee to provide input, problem-solve, to share power, and to decide on best course of action collectively
  • Helps committee members identify areas of overlap, risks, and wider organizational impacts
  • Increases synergies and enhances the impact that the committee can have on the organization
Feedback (Positive and Negative)
  • Keeps the committee’s work relevant and impactful
  • Fosters a growth mindset, motivates members, focuses their efforts, and encourages the group to continually improve and make an impact
Reflections, Final Thought, Next Steps
  • Ensures that all voices have been heard
  • Provides an opportunity for the members to reflect on their collaboration, meeting flow, and outcomes
  • Brings closure to the gathering and helps the committee recap charted next steps

Create Focus, Scope, and Infrastructure

One of the most valuable things that your committee can do to ensure its success and sustain momentum over the long haul is to create focus, scope, and infrastructure that will support its success. Towards the beginning of your DEI Committee’s formation journey, you should decide on whether you want to be a strategic committee that focuses on organizational strategy and holds various functions accountable for achieving the organization’s wider DEI goals or whether you want to take on more of an advisory role by keeping executives abreast of DEI needs within the organization and providing advice on plans or efforts. Making that decision around focus and scope impacts how you committee functions and how it also interacts with and impacts the wider organization.

Once you’ve created a focus and a scope for your committee, it’s important to set up infrastructure that will support your efforts and enable successful, smooth, and efficient operations. Depending on your organizational culture and, possibly, industry, your committee may grapple with how much structure and formalization to add to your efforts and collaborative flow. At the very least, make sure you chat through basics such as those listed below: 

  • Logistical Considerations: 
    • Where will you house meeting minutes and notes?  How will you ensure that they get updated with the most current information in the designated space?
    • Who will send out calendar invites and/or updates?
    • How will you communicate the committee’s accomplishments & progress to the wider organization? 
    • Who are the key departments or individuals that can help you craft the message, get the word out, and amplify it?
  • Wider Committee Organization:
    • Depending on your organization’s size and your committee’s focus, would it be beneficial to organize into subcommittees or specialized task forces?
    • How will you share power around decision making as well as administrative tasks & responsibilities?
    • What type of governance structure would be a good fit given your organization’s culture and your committee’s mission?
    • Are there special roles and responsibilities that will make your committee more effective (i.e treasurer, chair, co-chair, etc.)?
    • What are membership and tenure norms?
    • Who are the departments or individuals that should be tapped to help you obtain key data points or information about the organization and help track or measure progress?

As your committee’s DEI journey continues, revisit these questions. Don’t be afraid to adjust or tweak based on your organization’s culture and shifts.

Sign up for our newsletter to be notified when Part 3 of this series is live. We’ll dive into how to begin to track support and measure the success of the efforts of the committee.