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Updated: March 8, 2021 How To

How to promote DEI at work

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leads to more creative thinking and innovative ideas. Diverse teams have been proven to be more impactful leading to better financial returns. My friend and co-host of Green Light Maine’s upcoming TV series “Elevating Voices,” Julene Gervais, reached out in 2019 to ask if I would consider being her co-host for the show. In that moment, I realized that I was experiencing what most racially diverse small business owners dream of — the support and recognition of their unique talents and the celebration of their diversity. It was both a scary and exciting proposition.

Courtesy photo
Alyne Kemunto Cistone

In May 2020, George Floyd happened. Suddenly, there was the urgent need to do more to address racial inequity. Unbeknownst to Julene and me, Bangor Savings Bank’s Isla Dickerson, in response to the outcry, reached out to “Green Light Maine” Executive Producer Con Fullan with the idea of creating a show that would acknowledge contributions of racially diverse businesses and their impact on Maine’s economy. Our dreams became aligned and my journey as co-host of “Elevating Voices” became a reality with Bangor Saving’s support.

Based on this experience and my own personal journey, here are some tips on how to get started:

Allocate resources

Prioritize both human and financial resources. This is often easier for larger corporations and more challenging for small businesses, though some businesses may qualify for grants. This is an investment that will certainly have a guaranteed return.

Provide leadership

Identify someone within the organization to lead the effort — an individual with training, the right credentials, and a high level of emotional intelligence. This leader will be tasked with creating a structure for DEI work. Such a structure will promote dialogue, transparency and accountability. Establish a clearly defined mandate: goals, reasonable timelines for achieving them and measures of success.

Conduct a climate survey

A climate survey should be the starting point. It creates a clear snapshot of the different levels of knowledge and understanding of DEI and allows smart and effective allocation of resources.

Demystify DEI

Most businesses are afraid to share their inexperience or lack of understanding. Demystifying DEI can be done formally or informally by utilizing available resources to conduct trainings. During this process, engage everyone in crafting a company DEI statement that fully embraces the new value system you are trying to create while staying true to your mission and vision.

External engagement

While it is important to engage in the internal work, it’s also imperative for businesses to support external efforts. One effective way to do so in Maine is through mentorship, such as providing business coaching to racially diverse/minority-owned businesses. This process requires time, dedication and consistency, but I guarantee you, it will be worthwhile.

Alyne Kemunto Cistone is founder and CEO of Global Tides LLC, a consulting firm. She serves on the board of Maine Conservation Voters/Maine Conservation Alliance and the board of trustees of College of the Atlantic, where she co-chairs the DEI Taskforce. She can be reached at

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