Why Humanitarian Work and DEI Efforts Go Hand-in-Hand

The United Nations’ World Humanitarian Day was celebrated on August 19 to honor volunteers, professionals, companies and crisis-affected people who help deliver basic needs such as food, shelter, water and medical assistance to those who need it. 

While the day has passed, it’s important to acknowledge humanitarian efforts year-round while joining in to offer a helping hand as needed, whether it’s to people in your local community who have just experienced a natural disaster or to people in another country affected by a violent war. 

Humanitarian efforts likely touch many aspects of your business, including your diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and your environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts. If you search through the Featured Partners section of DiversityInc.com, you’ll find many examples of this, but here are just a few things DiversityInc partners are doing to promote human welfare: 

Kaiser Permanente is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company. Cigna is No. 24 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, Humana is No. 9 and KeyBank is  No. 18.

Racial Bias in Humanitarian Efforts

While people and companies are trying to help those in need to the best of their ability, racial biases can sometimes cloud people’s judgment, and those who need support and resources might not be getting it. 

The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is the most recent example of this. As reported in our 5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: August 18, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing that the war in Ethiopia was not receiving much attention because of racism. 

Calling it the “worse humanitarian crisis in the world” and leaving six million people without basic services, the Director-General questioned why the tragedy was not getting the same attention as the war in Ukraine. 

“Maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people,” he said. 

This lack of attention could be brought on by media coverage. In a DiversityInc article from March, we examined how racial biases impact media coverage of the Ukraine-Russia war. 

One issue is that the majority of employees in U.S. newsrooms are white men. 

“When these white men see Ukrainian men who look like them fighting for their country and see women and children fleeing who remind them of their loved ones, it becomes harder to remain unbiased and not let unconscious racial biases seep into coverage of the war,” the article states. 

Overcoming Implicit Bias

After reading this, you might be asking yourself what you can do as a company to ensure you are participating in inclusive humanitarian efforts. 

Start out by taking a page from our “The Impact of Implicit Bias During the Hiring Process” webinar recap. Panelists discussed how to reject bias and embrace diversity to allow for new thoughts and ideas to thrive in the workplace. 

Lisette Martinez, EVP and Chief Diversity Officer at Jefferson Health and Thomas Jefferson University, said companies can’t “continue to replicate people who see the world like we do” or they will “lose diversity of thought and people, and this is what contributes to systemic racism.”

Diversity of people and thought is what leads to change in a company. That can lead to a shift in the company’s humanitarian efforts and thus, impact the way those efforts bring about change in the world. 

Subscribe to DiversityInc Best Practices to watch the full webinar.

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