How to start a discussion about DEI

AboveBoard | Apr 05, 2023

Practical tips to unlock essential conversations.

Discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion can have us walking on eggshells at times. But it doesn't have to be that way.

These all-important conversations do not have to be awkward or confrontational. In fact, it's entirely possible to approach diversity discussion topics with authenticity, openness, and empathy. These qualities will contribute to more honest and productive conversations around D&I discussion topics, offering people a safe space to learn and ask the diversity discussion questions they're wondering about.  

Ahead, we'll outline important D&I discussion topics, share pointers on how to ask DEI discussion questions, and offer a list of diversity and inclusion discussion questions to get you started.

D&I discussion topics to explore

Diving into diversity discussion topics is more than simply asking questions like, "What does diversity mean to you?" or "How do you practice inclusivity in your own life?" Sure, DEI discussion questions like these have their place. Still, there's a more optimal approach that prioritizes creating a safe space for honest conversion. And it starts by simply getting to know the person you're talking to.

Ask about others' experiences and perspectives

Talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion can feel incredibly personal. These matters are often shaped by each individual's personal experiences, their family of origin, education, politics, and much more. Before diving into the nitty gritty DEI discussion questions, spend intentional time getting to know the person in front of you. You don't need to uncover everything there is to know about them, but simply sharing and learning from one another can contribute to a sense of trust and authenticity as you move toward a future conversation involving deeper diversity discussion topics. Questions at this stage include:

  • Tell me about your family. 

  • What were your early career and/or higher education experiences like? 

  • Do you enjoy keeping up with the news? If so, what resources are your favorite?

Uncover the different facets of diversity

Diversity encompasses everything from generation and education level to race, ethnicity, and gender. One of the hallmarks of diversity is the innovation and collaboration that can happen when a variety of perspectives and experiences collide. But for this to happen, we need to create and contribute to inclusive work environments that truly value diversity. To learn more about the diversity of  individuals on your team, ask questions like:

  • How does your diversity impact how you show up at work? 

  • What is something you wish others knew or understood about you?

  • Have you ever been the only [woman, person of color, person without a degree, etc.] in a meeting? What was that like? 

  • Are there any values from your generation that you take into work with you? And why are they meaningful to you?

Dig deeper into diversity discussion topics

Next up, there are the D&I discussion topics that tend to be top of mind when we first thinkin about initiating a conversation about diversity. On the one-on-one level, we recommend diving into these topics after learning more about someone's story. That way, you already have a common ground of understanding from which to discuss these often complex, more nuanced subjects. For group settings, it may be necessary to dive in right away. And that's OK too. The important thing here is to create a safe environment for an honest and open discussion. 

Diversity discussion topics to talk about in the workplace include:

  • Workplace diversity efforts 
  • Representation, including gender, age, disability, and LGBTQ+  diversity
  • Diversity and inclusion within the industry at large
  • Stereotypes 
  • Privilege
  • Implicit or unconscious bias 
  • Microaggressions 
  • The wage gap
  • The Motherhood Penalty

How to ask DEI discussion questions 

The key to having a fruitful diversity and inclusion conversation begins with asking DEI discussion questions in a way that is itself inclusive. For starters, ensure each diversity discussion question is asked in an open-ended manner. This means inquiries that begin with words like: how, why, describe, tell me about, in your own words, etc. 

Next, it's not just which DEI discussion questions you're asking, but how you're asking them. Ensure the tone of your inquiries displays genuine curiosity and compassion rather than judgment or shame. Taking a moment to remember the purpose of your conversation and to center the person you're talking to can help you cultivate an open, healthy space.

Diversity and inclusion discussion questions 

We've briefly covered D&I discussion topics to explore. Next, let's outline some questions that can help you with these essential conversations.

Questions about diversity in the workplace

  • How do you feel about where our office is in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion? What do you wish we did more? What do you wish we did less?
  • On that note, where could our industry at large improve in terms of DEI?
  • Where do you think our workplace could be more representative of the community we are in or the population we serve? 
  • What is your comfort level with discussing salary and salary transparency?

Questions about stereotypes and privilege

  • Have you ever experienced being stereotyped, whether in a positive or a negative light? What did you wish that person knew about you? 
  • In which arenas (such as film, art, work, etc.) do you wish there were more representation of people who looked like you? 
  • What resources or opportunities shaped the person you are or the career you have? 
  • Tell me about the mentors, connections, and experiences you're grateful for.

Questions about implicit bias and microaggressions 

  • Have you ever completed an implicit or unconscious bias training? What did you learn from it? 
  • Are there any forms of microaggressions that you wish more people were aware of? 
  • Have you ever seen or experienced discrimination in the workplace? What happened next? 
  • Do you think our diversity policies in place contribute to a safe, inclusive work environment?

Move from diversity discussion topics to diversity decisions with AboveBoard

Asking DEI discussion questions is an important step toward cultivating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace. Hopefully, these questions can lead to ongoing conversations about how to foster a workplace where everyone can meaningfully contribute and feel valued, respected, and heard. 

That's why AboveBoard exists. We're on a mission to advance diversity in C-suites and boardrooms around the globe. We believe that in doing so, we'll be contributing to healthier workplaces where diversity discussion topics can be drivers of real, lasting change. And that all starts at the top. Thanks to AboveBoard's two-sided executive recruitment platform, we're changing the face of global leadership one diverse hire at a time. 

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