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EDI? DEI? However the letters are ordered, too many rattle them off without thinking all that deeply about what they stand for. For some, they simply represent an organizational framework that has historically prompted a lot of talk and little action.

But the words matter, and so does their order. Robust and successful Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion — or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — practices deliver results.

Consider this:

  • The most racially diverse companies outperform their least diverse peers by 36%, according to a 2020 McKinsey & Co.’s report on diversity.
  • Organizations with female directors who are included and integrated into decision-making processes enjoy 10% higher stock returns, the Harvard Business Review reported in 2022.
  • Among human resources directors in Canada, 82% say inclusive workplaces make for better corporate culture and 68% say they spark more creativity and innovation, especially for younger generations in HR, according to a 2023 survey by the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources.

But building workforces like these where everybody has the very same opportunity to achieve, contribute, and drive success, takes intentional work. And that includes thinking deeply about the meaning of the three words behind those ever-popular acronyms — and, as we’ll suggest — adding a fourth. Words have power, and we’re more likely to build equitable workplaces when we understand exactly what we’re working to achieve.

Emphasis on Equity

DEI may be the most common iteration of the acronym — and grammatical convention in English may be to blame. DEI lists the words diversity, equity, and inclusion in alphabetical order, and some may find it difficult to say EDI instead.

But the word “diversity” comes with baggage. For more than three decades, corporations, organizations, and educational institutions have been purportedly “doing diversity.” Perhaps they’ve filled some junior roles with people of color or hired a female executive or two. But they have difficulty actually retaining them because they haven’t done the hard work to build a more equitable and inclusive experience.

That’s why, at Governance Solutions, we strongly believe that EDI is the right order of words — placing an emphasis on equity. Without equity, as we shared in a recent corporate governance course, diversity and inclusion efforts will only touch the surface.

Why so much emphasis on equity?

Equity resonates globally. Every day the world seems to get smaller. Immigration is everywhere. People with all kinds of backgrounds and perspectives are moving all the time for a variety of reasons. This global push for equity and real-time connectivity expands the purview of what has traditionally been understood as diversity-based efforts.

Equity can be embedded while diversity is only representative. Authentic and deeply integrated equity-based work goes far beyond typical diversity aims of employee engagement, hiring, or representation goals.

Equity deserves to be side-by-side with equality. Equity and equality are similar — but they are two different concepts that work together.

In fact, in our recent corporate governance training, we argued that not only should we call these efforts EDI, but we should add another letter to make it EEDI, or Equality, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Power of EEDI

Understanding and appreciating the differences and nuances of equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion is critical for any board director pledging to build a workplace where everybody has the same opportunities to achieve. It can be helpful to think about each word along the lines of Why, How, Who, and What.

- The Why of EEDI: Equality

Equality is the reason “why” we’re doing all this hard work to achieve equity, diversity, and inclusion. Equality is what we want to attain — a future state where everybody needs the same resources and support to succeed.

- The How of EEDI: Equity

While equality is the goal, we’re not there yet. Not everybody in today’s world is on an equal footing. In Canada, women earn 89 cents for every dollar men make, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. People of color comprised just 10% of board directors in Canada while making up 23% of the population, according to Diversity Leads 2020.

That’s why equity is the “how” of EEDI. Organizations must identify what’s required to ensure everybody has equal access to success. When they do that, they will eventually ensure all people are treated with fairness and justice and afforded the same opportunities, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race and other characteristics.

- The Who of EEDI: Diversity

For decades, plenty of leaders have believed that if they hire people who look differently than them, they’ve reached the goal — a truly diverse workplace. But populating a workplace with diverse individuals simply means bringing in the “who” that can help us achieve that goal. If you don’t commit to the other parts of building an equitable, inclusive and, ultimately, equal workforce, simply hiring a few underrepresented employees won’t get you far. In fact, it’s likely they’ll leave once they realize you’re not committed to making the organization welcoming to all.

- The What of EEDI: Inclusion

Inclusion determines specifically “what” we can do to approach, support, encourage, and engage a diverse workforce. This ranges from recognizing those who may have been traditionally marginalized to the proactive provision of equitable opportunity, access, resources, support, and other intangibles like respect, honor, understanding and grace. Inclusion is impacted by and through leadership levels, styles, engagement and policy setting. It is challenging to build a truly inclusive workforce that’s nurtured through mutual trust and respect, but it’s possible. We’ll cover the Inclusion Challenge in next month’s newsletter.


So, we have the Why, How, Who, and What of EEDI. We’ll finish off with the Where and When — and that’s at your organization and now. There’s a strong and obvious business case for equitable and inclusive work environments; they breed more innovation, productivity, and success. And, as a majority of HR leaders said in the 2023 survey by the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources, it’s also simply the right thing to do — ensuring every worker has a chance to thrive.



Are you ready to take your leadership to the next level?

Our 6-week Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Board Certification Program is designed to equip you with the knowledge, tools, and strategies needed to drive impactful change in your organization.

Starting this journey is not just about doing the right thing; it's about legal compliance, meeting the expectations set by governments and regulators, and understanding the business case for fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion. Yet achieving EDI excellence is no simple feat; it requires education, understanding, and an unwavering commitment to fostering an inclusive culture. Successful implementation demands leaders equipped with EDI education, training, determination, patience, perseverance, and a touch of grit.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Board Certification Program
April 11th to May 16th 

Noon – 1:30pm (ET), every Thursday                                                                 

Learn more at

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