Countering Arguments Against DEI Through Metaphors

Encountering resistance to your firm’s DEI efforts? A recent article in Fast Company offers ways to dismantle arguments while reinforcing that DEI can build everyone up, not just under-represented groups.

DEI work has been eyed suspiciously of late. Some of that revolves around misconceptions of what DEI seeks to accomplish, as some see it as a threat to meritocracy, a fear of reverse discrimination, a distrust of political ideology and correctness, and a belief in some of the misinformation promoted about DEI efforts, asserts writer Amira Barger, who suggests using metaphors to reframe the issues.

Threat to Meritocracy – Critics say diversity goals compromise the evaluation of individuals. “Some argue that hiring or distributing promotions based on demographic characteristics rather than abilities and qualifications is a threat to meritocracy,” the article states. The author’s metaphor involved a white man and Black woman starting a race of the same distance, yet the white man had a free path and the Black woman encountered numerous obstacles in her way.

Fears of Reverse Discrimination – Some claim that addressing inequities results in unfair treatment to those in the majority group. The metaphor could be centered on curb cuts, which were modified in the 1940s so that veterans could more easily transition between the sidewalk and the road, the article said. The new curb cuts benefited everyone, including those with bikes and strollers.

Political Ideology and Correctness – Critics say DEI is an intervention of politics into the workplace, government or schools. The metaphor could relate to windows and doors. “The mirrors and windows framework asks, ‘What are you creating so that others can see themselves represented in the spaces they’re in with you?’ These are mirrors. It also asks, ‘What are you doing to create meaningful opportunities where people can look into and learn from the lived experiences of others?’ The author continued, “Both mirrors and windows are needed to create inclusive spaces.”

Misinformation and Misunderstandings – People commonly misunderstand three elements of DEI: equality, equity and systemic change. A monkey bar metaphor can explain the differences. If two children fall off the monkey bars and one scrapes his knee and the other bumps his head, yet both receive bandages, that’s equality but it’s not helpful to the second child. If one gets a bandage and the other an ice pack, that’s equity. If the monkey bars are considered unsafe for all and are replaced by different playground equipment, that’s systemic change.

Learn more from the Fast Company article on common arguments and how to navigate criticisms.


Recent Posts


Sign up for the IPA INSIDER: a bi-weekly news round up sent directly to your inbox.

Related Stories