Sofia Geocadin
Sofia Geocadin

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion aren't just buzzwords—they're vital elements of thriving businesses. As a consumer, I've noticed a change in how companies prioritize DEI, consistently showing that consumers appreciate organizations that genuinely embrace diversity and inclusion. As a young PR professional, though, I know that simply paying lip service to DEI isn't enough.

It's easy to spot whether a company's commitment to DEI is genuine or merely performative. While it might be tempting for businesses to skimp on their dedication to DEI for the sake of reputation, consumers are increasingly adept at recognizing insincerity. Just as companies face backlash for neglecting DEI, they're now under scrutiny for their lack of proper understanding and action.

In my personal experiences as an Asian woman, I've witnessed firsthand how companies sometimes use individuals like me to portray a facade of DEI without taking meaningful steps to foster inclusivity. Rather than implementing tangible initiatives, they opt for superficial photo shoots and buzzwords, failing to address the deeper issues at hand.

This surface, performative approach not only fails to address the root causes of inequality but also normalizes tokenization and invites charges of "diversity washing." By merely showcasing diversity for optics without genuine commitment, companies undermine the true essence of DEI and diminish its potential impact on both organizational culture and societal advancement.

Working in PR, I’ve come to recognize the essential tools needed to grow and nurture reputations. A necessary aspect of nurturing reputations in the public eye is authenticity. When you demonstrate genuine care for a deeply important and politically relevant topic such as DEI, you’re well inoculated against backlash. However, recent instances of diversity washing make me question if DEI is being treated as just another PR-flavored box-ticking tactic.

Effective DEI initiatives require more than just a few actions to tout on a website; they demand genuine ongoing commitment. It’s not a trend or an action that can be done purely out of convenience—DEI needs to be treated with sustained dedication. For professionals in the communication space, we need to ensure that there is absolutely no gap between what we say and what we do when it comes to DEI. Continuous action speaks louder than words. True dedication to DEI gives companies a true moral compass and shapes policies and procedures that make a real difference.

After graduating from college last year, my job search opened my eyes, helping me understand that DEI has become embedded into the DNA of successful communication structures. From the start, I recognized that Milk & Honey was founded on principles of fairness, with values such as bravery, passion, respect, energy, and collaboration at its core. These principles influence our business operations, prompting us to consider diversity across various dimensions, including race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, and socioeconomic status. This conscientious approach has led to more informed decisions and better content, thanks to the diverse perspectives we embrace.

But DEI is more than just creating a warm and fuzzy atmosphere—it drives tangible beneficial results. A recent McKinsey study shows that companies with diverse teams are more likely to outperform their competitors by 35 percent. And it makes sense—when people from different backgrounds and experiences come together, you get a broader range of ideas and solutions. Deloitte research further suggests that diverse teams can be up to 20 percent more innovative.

Embracing diversity isn't just about ticking boxes or meeting quotas; it's about recognizing the richness that different perspectives bring to the table. I’ve noticed in my workplace that it's led to more nuanced discussions, more thoughtful decisions, and, ultimately, better content that resonates with a broader audience. As a communicator, I’ve recognized that commitment is at the core of achieving these results.

At the heart of our commitment to DEI lies education and open dialogue. Education is foundational, providing a deep understanding that prevents misconceptions and promotes sincerity. Transparency in sharing goals and approaches counters misperceptions, using data and real-world examples to highlight the importance of diversity. Open conversations are essential, fostering trust and mutual understanding, even with skeptics. By listening and collaborating across ideologies, we build the foundation for impactful and authentic DEI initiatives.

As communicators, fostering a workplace culture that genuinely embraces DEI and encourages open discussions about its positive impact isn't just a recommendation—it's a necessity. Effective communication requires strategic planning and genuine consideration to craft stories that are credible, noteworthy, and compelling. DEI isn't something that should be superficially adopted. In my experience in PR, I've learned how to shape and present stories to capture interest. However, when authenticity is lacking, it's evident to everyone. Genuine PR involves actively integrating DEI practices, being open to learning and evolving and striving to dismantle barriers to accessibility. Wholeheartedly demonstrating care for DEI eliminates the potential for backlash because it is driven by genuine thought and concern.


Sofia Geocadin is client executive at Milk & Honey.