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The Difference Between DEI and "Wokeness"

Updated: Jul 5, 2023


A coffee cup and newspaper

What’s Going On?


If you’ve been near the news of DEI lately, you’ve probably heard the term “woke” or “wokeness.” Headlines are beginning to confuse DEI initiatives with being “woke,” and FIG couldn’t disagree more.


👁️ Are you Woke?


While “Stay Woke” originally meant to stay alert against police brutality, the term gained popularity in 2020 to mean a socially conscious person. While being socially conscious is still the basic meaning of woke, conservatives use it in a context that means against whiteness, and others criticize its performative and gatekeeping aspect of it.


This article by Vox explains the origin and upbringing of the term better.


So what does Woke have to do with DEI?


Great question – it doesn’t. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. DEI, aka diversity, equity, and inclusion, is about creating an environment where everyone is included, and diversity of thought is appreciated. It’s about breaking down barriers that might exclude certain people- whether it’s the gender pay gap, racial discrimination, or ensuring students of all colors get the education they deserve.


That sounds a lot like wokeness. The difference between being “woke” and DEI is that DEI doesn’t exclude anyone- including the privileged. DEI acknowledges and educates diversity's different issues, but it’s about finding the middle ground where everyone can be supported in their unique needs.


No, your favorite company is not going “woke.


In a business sense, DEI looks like culture transformations, better employee retention, diverse talent, diverse target markets, and combatting hiring biases. Not only does diversity help the business profit in internal and external ways, but it also helps the local community. If DEI is done right, it should support the company’s values and mission in an impactful way.


So, if you’re mad about your favorite company, including “DEI initiatives” and going “woke,” remember that it’s for the better of the company and the community. And no, they’re not woke.


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