(Photo by SDI Productions/iStock by Getty Images)

The terms diversity, equity and inclusion have been blended together so many times that many people don’t know the differences between them. Daisy Auger-Domínguez, chief people officer for Vice Media Group, has a way of clearly break them down and telling you the role each value needs to play in the workplace.

“Diversity asks, Who is in the room?” said Auger-Domínguez, referring to a framework originally designed by the professor Dafina-Lazarus Stewart. Equity asks, Who is trying to get in the room, but can’t? And inclusion asks, Have everyone’s ideas been heard? While equity responds, Whose ideas won’t be taken as seriously, because they’re not in the majority?”

Auger-Domínguez has worked two decades in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); most recently she published Inclusion Revolution: The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequity in the Workplace, designed to equip managers with the knowledge, skill set, and courage necessary to build lasting change. She joined TIME magazine staff writer Raisa Bruner for a fireside chat at From Day One’s May virtual conference on coaching and recognition to talk about her book as well as explain why “support scaffolding” is crucial to overcoming racial inequities in the workplace.

Inclusion Revolution, Auger-Domínguez emphasized, was designed for managers. “There wasn’t a book that spoke to the employee life journey, and tried to be practical in the day-to-day,  but also inspiring, bold, and get up and do something.”

Author and Chief People Officer Daisy Auger-Domínguez, right, in a fireside chat with Raisa Bruner, staff writer for TIME magazine (Image by From Day One)

How can managers build such “support scaffolding” within workplaces? The first step: listen to employees. The second step: take accountability for change. “When you ask why there’s not enough diversity in the workplace, you’re placing it on individuals as if that scarcity is someone else’s job,” she said. “When you ask, What are the conditions we’ve created so it’s a predominantly white institution?, you take on that responsibility for yourself.”

Consistent questions from leaders to the people they manage–like, “What is holding you up right now?” and “How can I help you overcome those challenges?”–are crucial, Auger-Domínguez  said. And white leaders have to get used to conversations that might make them uncomfortable at first.

She spoke to her own experience at Vice Media Group, which she joined two years ago following reports of workplace sexual harrassment. In her effort to rebuild the culture, which coincided with the murder of George Floyd and the racial reckoning that followed, she and Vice CEO Nancy Dubuc conducted a listening tour among hundreds employees. “We went boldly into what we were asking, we talked directly about white supremacy,” she said.

Employees strongly desired pay equity and more career-path clarity, they told the two leaders. Employees with marginalized identities wanted to feel less isolated, and more protected, by the company. Auger-Domínguez rolled out a “people and culture strategy” including a pay-equity study, which led to a redefinition of the company’s compensation philosophy and recurring “compensation health checks.”

The company made an investment in upskilling managers to better support their teams, as well as building “global job architecture” to bring transparency to different roles and career paths. Finally, a DEI Dashboard was made easily accessible for employees to check on ongoing projects, the company’s DEI philosophy, and four pillars of the work. The progress, including the growth of the female workforce to 56% of the staff, has been noteworthy.

Auger-Domínguez emphasized that “managers have the power to drive change.” The more they embrace DEI, the more it’s normalized within the workplace and contributes to a larger culture shift. “It should be integrated into our recruitment, interviews, onboarding, project management,” she noted.

“Building inclusion—it’s not like this magical unicorn that’s going to show up at your door one day,” she said. “It’s just about doing the work every day.”

Emily Nonko is a Brooklyn, NY-based reporter who writes about real estate, architecture, urbanism and design. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, Curbed and other publications.