Jan 23, 2024

Making Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Accessible through Book Clubs

As a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) leader, I've faced a common challenge, inspiring a genuine interest in DEI concepts and bridging the gap between awareness and action. Ever wondered how a simple book club could become the key to unlocking the mysteries of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)? Imagine a space where the fear of saying something wrong or feeling out of depth dissipates, replaced by a shared journey of learning and understanding. In this blog post, we'll explore the transformative power of book clubs as an entry point to make DEI more accessible. We will delve into the unique role that book clubs play in breaking down barriers and making the exploration of DEI a communal and enriching experience.

Book clubs offer a comfortable starting point for tackling new and potentially intimidating topics. Consider forming a book club with a group of employees dedicated to creating a safe space for sharing perspectives and learning together. In the realm of DEI, one of the most significant fears is the apprehension of saying something wrong or not knowing what to say. Book clubs play a crucial role in making the learning process less daunting by creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their familiarity with DEI, starts on an equal footing. By bringing together individuals who are new to the material and open to learning from each other's perspectives, the expectation of being well-versed in DEI becomes less overwhelming. While the topics within the chosen book may be unfamiliar, the familiarity of the book club setting itself offers a reassuring and proven approach to learning.

Participating in a book club supports growth in DEI related competencies in three ways: 

  1. Community building: book clubs offer the unique opportunity to break out of silos and come together to talk about a shared experience. This community of people will foster interpersonal connections, shared experiences, and a safe place to learn. By uniting with others on a common journey, relationships deepen, a sense of belonging thrives, and collective support blossoms, nurturing the health and wellbeing of every member. 
  2. Practicing the art of disagreement: In DEI it is so important to learn and practice how to express your perspective without necessarily always agreeing with the majority perspective in the room. Voicing personal truths contributes diverse perspectives, fueling innovation and idea generation. Welcoming candor not only enhances the depth of discussions but also ensures a sense of belonging, even when opinions diverge from the mainstream.
  3. Incorporating external perspectives into your growth experience: Book clubs offer a unique avenue to assimilate external viewpoints into personal growth experiences. As members absorb insights not only from the book but also from the diverse composition of the group, belief systems are expanded, and the profound impact of others' experiences on decision-making processes is acknowledged. The collective wisdom becomes a catalyst for reshaping future decisions, enriching the growth journey for every participant.

Book clubs are a transformative gateway to DEI competencies, revealing the power of shared learning, community building, and constructive disagreement. Within the supportive environment of a book club, we dissolve the fear of saying something wrong and celebrate diverse thought. These communities prove that a simple book club can unlock the mysteries of DEI, offering a shared and enriching experience that shapes the growth journey of each participant. Let's embark on this collective adventure of understanding, reshaping perspectives, and fostering a sense of belonging—one book at a time.

About the Author

Meet Emily Gambacorta, a People Development and Culture leader with 15 years of expertise in talent management, organizational development, and DEI. As the Director of DEI and Engagement for a New York utility company, Emily has become a driving force behind transformative initiatives that propel both individual and organizational growth. She partners with companies to create innovative approaches that align their people, culture and mission in order to advance equitable organizational objectives. She is committed to aligning individuals towards their purpose, allowing their unique talents to drive organizational success. Beyond her professional endeavors, Emily invests her time in learning, sharing, and exploring new cultures and ideas through food, podcasts, and travel. Emily appreciates the beauty in cultural practices, arts, and expressions, viewing them as the universal language of belonging.