What is EDI?
Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is about creating an even playing field for everyone. Some may think of it as a zero-sum game, meaning that there are not enough resources to go around. In reality, EDI is about examining the challenges faced by specific groups and designing environments, products and services that work better for everyone. Take the example of The Curb-Cut Effect in which people in the disability-rights movement, specifically those who use wheelchairs, advocated for cities to build curb cuts into sidewalk infrastructure. Today, curb cuts are common and benefit many groups - people using strollers, delivering goods, riding bicycles, pulling luggage, and more. This is an example of a solution that initially worked better for one group, but in reality, serves everyone better.
EDI at OIT
All OIT employees play an important role in making sure EDI practices are part of how we work together, whether they are an analyst, developer, project manager or work in any other area. This ultimately impacts how we serve all Coloradans. When it comes to technology, EDI isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s strategic. It helps us understand how to best serve all Coloradans equitably and how to provide the most engaging experiences for our workforce.
EDI work is not a one-time decision or act. Like planting a garden, you don’t just plant seeds in hopes that they will bear fruit. It requires preparation and care for the soil. You have to water, weed, check on things over time, and this is the approach OIT takes with our EDI initiatives.
Tip of the Month
Honoring Experiences of Those Born Outside the U.S.
Of the many ways power and privilege can be displayed in our society, citizenship and immigration status are often overlooked. According to the United States Census Bureau, nearly 14% of people in the U.S. between 2017-2021 were born in another country. This number includes many of our colleagues at OIT. Since country of origin, first language and citizenship status are all identities where marginalization historically occurs, it is important we exhibit words and behaviors that promote inclusion for our co-workers born outside the U.S. These are some of the general guidelines recommended in the University of Iowa's Immigration Style Guide:
- Focus on the person’s achievements, leadership, etc., rather than their immigration status.
- Familiarize yourself with the range of categories that can describe a person’s citizenship and immigration status, including families with mixed statuses.
- Use terms that are legally accurate and avoid racially and politically charged labels.
- Use illegal only to describe an action, not a person.
Additionally, acknowledge that being multilingual is a real skill and asset. Remember that at one time or another, a majority of our country’s residents have family members who were immigrants to the U.S. (not including Native Americans and American Descendants of Slavery). If you haven’t already, sign up for a Cultural Humility training session from our EDI Team to learn more about working with folks whose identities differ from yours.
What we’re doing
We’re on a learning journey at OIT and know that we have a long way to go. Here are some of the exciting things we’re working on now:
- An annual EDI plan that centers on reducing burnout and increasing accountability, psychological safety and belonging for all employees.
- A Wildly Important Goal (WIG) focused on employee engagement that features EDI as a core component.
- We’re scaling up the training and coaching offered to all OIT employees and managers. We’re also setting up employee resource groups to create a sense of belonging for our employees living with marginalized social identities.
- Group coaching is offered to managers every quarter so they can meaningfully contribute to achieving our employee engagement WIG and follow through on performance goals related to inclusive leadership.
- We use data to objectively monitor progress, such as through EDI organizational assessments and demographic analysis of employee engagement data.
EDI Action Alliance
We have a robust group of employees who are passionate about taking steps to institutionalize EDI work at OIT. The group includes subcommittees focused on internal workplace culture and training. Among many projects, they are responsible for analyzing employee engagement data by demographics to understand how employee experiences differ, and hosting quarterly webinars on a variety of EDI topics. Check out the team charter.
Accessibility & EDI: Two sides of the same coin
Accessibility and EDI work go hand in hand. Accessibility is a commitment to providing equitable access to services and is the responsibility of each state employee and not a single person, team or agency. In 2021, legislation (HB21-1110) was passed that strengthens protections against discrimination on the basis of disability. Among other things, it requires state agencies and local governmental entities to meet web accessibility standards and establishes OIT as the authoritative body to help agencies put those in place. Check out OIT's Guide to Accessible Web Services and Accessibility Law for Colorado State and Local Government to learn more.
- We’re building employee resource groups based on social identities so that employees with marginalized backgrounds have a safe place to meet others with similar lived experiences and know that they belong at OIT.
- While still in the early stages, we’re crafting EDI guidelines that affect the technology solutions we build at OIT and make decisions about how our technology impacts those we are serving.