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Trends in Workplace Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

NextUp’s Karen Jones discusses the importance of advancing these values
Angelina Bice
Trends in Workplace Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
An appealing workplace is one that creates a sense of belonging and is values-based.

Karen Jones, VP of learning and partner solutions, came to NextUp with 25 years of experience and endless testimonials to her insight and grace. She was a diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B) expert before “diversity” was a buzzword, and before many companies cared what the world thought about how many women and people of color sat on their boards. 

Jones now leads NextUp’s learning and development team, and personally conducts dozens of DEI&B workshops every year with companies all over the country and beyond. In this wide-ranging interview, Jones discusses what she’s heard in searingly honest conversations inside some of the largest corporations in the world, the work we all still must do to reach equity, and what’s on the horizon in the DEI&B conversation. This article is excerpted from the full interview, which can be read at

Angelina Bice: What’s in the air right now in DEI&B? What’s bubbling up in the DEI&B education community and the wider conversation about women going back to work? 

Karen Jones: It’s how we re-engage women, or what the engagement of women in the workforce is going to look like moving forward. And I have to say, the reality is that we’re never going to fully go back to the way we were before COVID-19 hit. It caused people to self-reflect about what would be meaningful to them when it comes to work. It caused people to become intolerant to mistreatment. We must ensure that we do not try to bring people back to the traditional forms of work, which clearly weren’t serving women. And for women of color, on top of the intolerance for the style of work, there is intolerance to going back to how we were treated prior to the pandemic.

The workplaces that are going to become more appealing are those that do create a sense of belonging and are values-based. 

As we talk about our approach and what we can do for our partner companies, we can help you through leadership development, as well as through understanding more about inclusion and getting those values in place. Building a principle-centered workplace creates high engagement.

AB: Absolutely. Anything else that just jumps to mind that’s a growing trend?

KJ: I can tell you, the biggest thing from talking to other DEI&B and our practitioners is what I see as a healthy restlessness and a healthy impatience. ... The glacial pace of change must accelerate. ... We’re hearing from employees that it’s time to make equity happen, or that employees have options outside of the corporate sector. They’re more willing than ever to just go start their own company or do something else if they can’t be fulfilled inside their organization.

My prediction is that those organizations who don’t evolve over time to meet their employees’ needs and deliver equity will see themselves with less and less employee engagement — and failure, honestly.

AB: On the heels of the many employee walkouts that have happened over the last couple of years, as well as the “Great Resignation,” it seems that people are really losing patience with corporate culture and are less tolerant than ever for behavior they feel violates their values. Do you think there’s a likelihood that that’s going to get more intense?

KJ: I think it’s highly probable, and I believe we’ll see it crescendo over the course of the next five years. For those people who have been working from home for the last two years and are being summoned back to their workplace for five days in a row, they’re counting all their chips and trying to figure out their next move. 

The old way of just working all the time, living to work – that’s over. Who wants to keel over dead in front of their desk? It’s driving innovation to have people work off-site, to crowdsource, and I’m old [laughs], but I can’t wait to work for Millennials and Gen Z. I feel like you all are leading the way to where we should be. It’s creating more opportunity for us and new ideas, and it’s creating a brighter future for everyone. 

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