Tag Archives: DEIAB

The Art of Denial

Am Not!

Picture two siblings, perhaps eight and six years old. The argument may be over a toy, or a game, or who sat on whom, or any other rival-based competition. It may go like this: “You’re a liar!” “Am not! You are!” We used to say, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, bounce off me and stick on you!”[1] In other words, the original perpetrator of the crime turns the truth around and accuses the accuser of whatever act they just committed.

Did Not

In the same theme of denial, the success of the act of denial is dependent upon the denier’s credibility, or when that is lacking, their ability to persuade whoever is listening, that they are telling the truth, while denying it. I have had many dozens of perpetrators of discriminatory conduct patently, intensely, convincingly deny their culpability. This was always a challenge, although there were several occasions when I actually had the ‘smoking gun’ (in the form of a video or audio recording, an email or other evidence) in my hand while the perpetrator and liar vehemently argued their innocence. This allowed us to proceed with appropriate disciplinary action against the violator of the law.

You May Not

Denial takes many other forms as well. Denying someone access by not providing ramps, ASL[2] translators or closed captioning; denying someone service because of their race or gender expression; denying someone’s right to justice and equity, denying someone else’s right to even exist, are all too common and have a wide-reaching destructive impact on our world.

You Are Not

My dear friend, Derrick Kikuchi, who has extensive experience advocating for peace and social justice responded to my last blog post, “Peace Talks” by reminding me that there are those who not only refuse to come to the table to reconcile differences, but deny others the rights and protections that they enjoy. Specifically, he cited the many times when fighting for marriage equality as a gay man, that people would literally walk out on the conversation and argue that his right to marry his incredible husband, Craig Wiesner, somehow infringed on their rights. That if Derrick and Craig won equal rights, those opposing that progress actually lost something as a result. I agree that peace talks are not possible if both parties are not willing to sit down together and talk and believe in the possibility of reconciliation. I agree that as long as an individual believes (has been convinced or brainwashed to believe) that our humanity – our very existence – costs them anything they will not be able to come to the table and participate in the process of reconciliation. I have had quite a few people storm away from the reconciliation table as a result of this during my career. This sounds so simple and yet is so complicated. How do we get people to sit down with us to work on reconciliation and living together in peace if they have been convinced that our humanity takes something from them?

Is Not

The 100 billion dollar question: What do we do with the segment of our society whose intractable beliefs are predicated upon others being less than them or not existing at all? That science and facts and history are hoaxes and experts and intellectuals are the enemy? The group that I reference above do not fit into the argument for both sides-ism. Hate in all of its disgusting guises has no place in that discussion.

There are many white, ‘straight’, ‘Christian’, ‘middle class’, individuals (sorry about all of the quotation marks, but all of those words need qualification) who struggle with BLM, Act Up, peaceful protests and other acts of constitutionally protected speech that have been the vehicle for progress and advancing equity and inclusion for centuries. That is because they are exposed, on an extraordinary basis, to disinformation and misinformation. They are emotionally exhausted by the onslaught of negative input. (As we all are.) This makes it easier to manipulate them, trigger them, and herd them into division and resentment.

I am encouraged by those who sit through mandatory DEIAB training silently and experience an awakening, a transformation when a spark is lit, a seed is planted and their empathy and understanding of the value of diversity takes root. Often, these participants in my sessions will contact me privately after the session ends to share their transformation and tell me what they are thinking and feeling. We will discuss how to get past the discomfort inherent in difficult conversations so that they can participate in self-growth, acceptance instead of denial. I am focused on those individuals, people who are not avowed haters of diversity—fascists and white supremacists—but who are being influenced by them.


My father, a tri-racial Puerto Rican, embodied internalized racism in ways that impacted me profoundly, and still does decades later. His denial of his heritage was evidenced by his regular proclamations that his blood was pure Spanish, not mixed with African blood or Taíno (indigenous Caribbean) blood. The implication is that his European white ancestors were of more value than his African and Taíno ancestors. Many BIPOC individuals struggle with this legacy of race-based slavery and colonialism. Centuries of being told that white people are superior because they held the power. My father was taught to be ashamed of who he was and how he looked. He passed those lessons in self-denial on to his children.


Denial is one word. A word that we need to give careful consideration when we refer to ourselves as ‘good communicators’ or ‘people’ people. Who are we envisioning when we imagine how good we are at communicating? Who comes to mind when we think of the people we are comfortable with? What are we denying about our own barriers to inclusion? How might we address that denial? One word at a time.

Antidote to Denial

In my previous blog post, the word that I shared was peace. I endeavor to facilitate experiences where people can come together and engage in constructive conversations about painful and difficult subjects. The methodologies that I employ to help participants to have peace of mind while embarking on this process include anonymous surveys, focus groups, online anonymizing tools that help people to be fully heard without feeling at risk of judgment and the resultant guilt that may accompany it.

These methods create opportunities for individuals to face the facts that they have been taught to deny. One conversation, one word at a time.


Wendy Amengual Wark
June 28, 2024
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

[1] We did not say “bounces off of me and sticks on you” even though that would have been grammatically correct.

[2] American Sign Language


How and Why DEIAB?

How and Why DEIAB?

            The vast majority of the attacks on diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging (DEIAB) initiatives and programs, use anecdotal examples of poorly executed workshops or other strategies to dissemble and discredit the entire field and its raison d’etre. This is an old (see ancient Greece) and frequently effective technique for destroying one’s political nemeses. The mountains of data that we haul out to prove the efficacy of competently implemented DEIAB initiatives is not going to be examined by those who are the intended audience of these smear campaigns, as they do not read the same periodicals, follow the same influencers, or travel in the same circles that DEIAB experts do, that is the point of these tactics—do not worry about being asked for the receipts—make the slanderous statement and wait for the spiral of mis and disinformation to do its work.


            Before I embark on how to counter this onslaught, let’s examine why it matters. There have been many studies[1] during the past few decades that establish the following DEIAB benefits: diversity makes us better, better workers, thinkers, writers, people; equity not only affirms our commitment to a democratic society, but helps us to understand what the rules of engagement are which in turn, helps us to navigate our relationships and roles; inclusion, especially for so many humans who have historically been excluded as a result of bias, creates a safe, nurturing environment where we can bring and be our best selves—productive and innovative; access is necessary for all humans to fully participate via a ramp for wheelchairs or closed-captioning during a zoom meeting; and belonging, inspires us to want to be somewhere—be fully engaged and giving 100%.   

            Now, nothing that really matters is easy. Nothing that really makes a difference is ‘one and done.’ [think: diet and exercise – sorry!] For many years I have been telling potential clients that we do not do training—we provide interactive education on the cause and effect of DEIAB. For example, we might examine the history of sexism and its ongoing impact on society or the impact of racism and its perpetual institutionalization in organizations. Then, we can work on developing ways to counter these systemic problems.

How: Listen.

The reason that we conduct surveys, interviews and focus groups or listening sessions, as well as reviewing a clients’ policies, protocols, and various communications (including job descriptions and marketing materials), is that we need to know where to begin. Every organization has a unique culture and subcultures based on its mission, vision, goals, and strategies. If you listen, the members of your organization will tell you what matters to them, how they are being treated, and if they feel included. You do need to listen on a regular basis, so that you can notice shifts, hints, and indicators of problems before they escalate. That means conducting assessments at least on a biennial basis.

How: Discern.

            Once you have this very valuable information, you have to decide what it is you will do with it. If nothing, then stop here. If, on the other hand, you believe that knowledge is power, the power to change say your diet based on a diagnosis of diabetes, then, let’s get to work. That diet will need to be customized and long term. What are you able to commit to? What resources do you have? What resources do you need? What are your limitations? Board approval, budget restrictions, political pressure? Those limitations need to be identified before they can be addressed.            

How: Communicate.

            Share the results of your assessment with your employees. Follow that basic communication rule and share what you heard to make sure that you got it right. Many employers have told me that they are not comfortable sharing the results of a DEIAB assessment with employees because that information might be shared with the public and result in a negative perception about the organization. If a person has cancer but does not have a diagnostic assessment conducted to determine if they have cancer, does the cancer cease to exist? No. Also, if your organization has problems with DEIAB a fair percentage of your employees already know that. They just may be uncomfortable to tell you to your face. So, share your DEIAB assessment results and discuss what those results indicate. What caused the negative outcomes in the first place.

How: Educate.

            Use the knowledge that you gained during your assessment to determine what competency and skill gaps exist—especially with your leadership and managerial staff. My observation is that the majority of leaders and managers in organizations have not developed critical—fundamental leadership skills. These gaps exacerbate DEIAB challenges because a lack of cultural awareness on top of poor communication and delegation skills create environments that, at least diminish engagement, productivity, and staff longevity, and at worst, result in hostile work environments and potential EEO violations. A 3-hour online seminar on effective management is a waste of money and time. Invest in education. Every manager and leader should participate in ongoing, long term development as well as coaching, and team feedback such as 360 assessments and reciprocal performance evaluations.

We customize our leadership and manager educational programs to meet organizations and individuals where they are. We conduct preparatory surveys to find out what education and training individuals have had and what their response to those experiences is. We also use those surveys to find out what their particular challenges and concerns are surrounding DEIAB. This enables us to fine tune our educational programs so that they are effective and relevant. Separating leaders, managers, and non-managerial staff is an important part of creating a safe space where participants can speak freely, share concerns, and learn from their peers. By using an anonymizing tool during sessions we help participants to safely address these issues and engage in meaningful discussions without fear of judgment or repercussions.

How: Prioritize.

    Using the feedback gathered during our sessions, we are able to help clients develop sustainable, tangible DEIAB strategies in a collaborative manner. These strategies must be part of the organizational strategic plan, core mission, vision, values, and goals—not an add on. It is easy to criticize initiatives that get second thoughts and leftovers in terms of resources, whether financial or human. So, if DEIAB is a priority, treat it as such.

            If an organization is committed to DEIAB, then, you need to put your money where your mouth is. People, your employees, clients, customers, constituents, and community members know the difference between talk and action. The level of disillusionment[2] that is, in part a response to a lack of trust in what leaders communicate versus what they do, is contributing to high employee turnover rates[3] during the past several years as well as quiet quitting[4] and general disengagement.

            The most effective DEIAB strategies are also reasonable financial investments for organizations. Our most successful clients have ongoing structured mentoring programs which contribute to more inclusive working relationships, more effective managers and leaders and increased employee engagement and retention.

            Investing in education, employee mentoring, ongoing assessments, and strategic planning are not new approaches to DEIAB, I have been preaching and practicing these for many years. It is the integration of these actions that create a resilient and pivotal foundation that can withstand the onslaught of voguish attacks on DEIAB when they pop up.

            If your organization is struggling to balance the benefits of DEAIB and your core values against the politicized myths being used in an attempt to polarize people and diminish those values, please give me a call. I would love to discuss how we can support you during these very challenging times.


~ Wendy
May 09, 2024

Wendy Amengual Wark
Founding Partner
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

[1] Standing firm against the escalating assault on equity, diversity, and inclusion   https://www.apa.org/topics/equity-diversity-inclusion/standing-against-assault-equity-diversity-inclusion

[2] UN General Assembly “As ‘Intense Frustration and Disillusionment’ Brew amid Raging Global Conflict, Economic Uncertainty, Revitalizing General Assembly is Increasingly Critical, President Says”  https://press.un.org/en/2023/ga12560.doc.htm

The ‘Caudillo Syndrome’ is spreading around the world as economic disillusionment pushes voters to bet on populist strongmen https://fortune.com/2024/02/28/caudillo-syndrome-spreading-world-economic-disillusionment-voters-bet-on-populist-strongmen-politics/

Despair makes young US men more conservative ahead of US election, poll shows

[3] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: JOB OPENINGS AND LABOR TURNOVER – MARCH 2024  https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jolts.pdf

[4] Forget ‘Quiet Quitting’. In 2024 Employees Want Employers To ‘Quietly Manage’