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Demystifying DEI: Building Bridges, Not Barriers

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has been politicized, but it’s not partisan. It’s practical.

It’s about creating the type of future we all want for ourselves. A future where we can work alongside others who trust, respect, and believe in us. Where we are supported with all the resources we need to reach our full potential. Where we can contribute something meaningful to the world.

At it’s core, DEI is about valuing people. It explores who we are to one another as classmates and colleagues and neighbors. It invites us to come together and collaborate across our differences to build better solutions as we face the challenges ahead. It helps us engage every intellectual asset we have to navigate contemporary society and develop relevant, high-quality products and services that benefit as many people as possible.  

And yet, across our nation and where I live in Nebraska, there’s a big question on the table about the value of teaching DEI in public college and university settings. Do these institutions of education need DEI? Let’s examine the most relevant facts.

The demographics of our nation, our states, and our communities are changing rapidly.

  • Generation Z (those born 1997-2012, ages 12-27) are the future of work, and they’re more diverse than ever.

  • Gen Z is made up of 48% People of Color, and by the early 2030's they will be the majority of our US workforce.

  • 1 in 5 Gen Z'ers identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • 83% of Gen-Z respondents say they consider an employer's commitment to DEI when deciding where to work.


In addition, EY says this next generation is leading us into an era of radical transparency around formerly sensitive subjects like sexual orientation, gender identity, race, class and mental health.


Deloitte predicts that entire businesses and industries will rise and fall in the wake of Gen Z – and we’re not ready for it.


A focus on DEI matters for the sustainability of our state’s population growth and economy.



Our communities, colleges and companies must welcome, develop and engage a wide range of people if we want to grow and prosper.


What does DEI actually teach and promote?

  • It reminds us what we stand for - reinforcing ethical principles rooted in compassion, dignity and unity.

  • It helps people communicate more effectively about tough topics – with civility and respect.  

  • It aims to create spaces where we can trust each other and tell one another the truth.

  • It uses neuroscience to examine and help us overcome our unintentionally harmful thinking patterns.

  • It guides us to design ways of working and decision-making that are fair and objective.

  • Ultimately, it helps us shape the kind of environment where all of us can thrive.


Why is DEI so important in higher education? Many of us have grown up in places with less social and cultural variation. We arrive at college and experience significant diversity for the first time - and we need the skills to understand and manage those differences positively. Educational institutions must upskill people with cross-cultural competence and help them develop the social and emotional skills to cooperate across differences and succeed in real social environments.

DEI training is not only important in educational settings, it is in high demand from employers across the state. Why?


This much is clear. Diverse, equitable, inclusive companies make more money.


Here are 3 of the biggest reasons why DEI good for business:

Intellectual advantage. Diverse teams make us smarter. Broad perspectives lead to more innovation. A diverse team’s comprehensive worldview creates a deeper understanding of the marketplace and builds access to more culturally relevant ideas. Forward thinking companies are preparing for a more diverse future with teams that actually come from and think like the communities they serve.

Better decisions. Decision making drives 95% of business performance. It's the most important thing managers and executives do at work. But making decisions in isolation doesn’t produce the best outcomes. Groups make better decisions than individuals 66% of the time. Diverse teams make better decisions than homogenous teams 87% of the time. Ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in decision-making processes creates a significant quality advantage.

Accessing full potential. We all want to be part of a workplace that treats us respectfully and values what we have to offer. When we are surrounded by people who believe in our potential, who invite our unique opinions and ideas, who trust us to do our best work, and who inspire one another to create new possibilities for the future, it engages us and energizes us to give our best. DEI is good for people in a deeply meaningful way, and it’s also good for business outcomes.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental, virtue-based principles aimed at creating productive spaces where all individuals can thrive, contribute to progress, and lead fulfilling lives. The purpose of DEI is rooted in the universal and ethical values of human dignity, fairness, and interconnectedness. DEI is not just an ideological concept; it's a practical and essential tool for building stronger communities and thriving businesses.


The value of DEI is clear. By continuing to invest in this work, we can bridge the gaps between us and set ourselves apart as a united community that will succeed in an increasingly diverse future.



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