How to Avoid a DEI Disaster Like the MS Society Just Had

DEI. Diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today, many organizations want a strong DEI program to help bring people together and demonstrate that they accept people of all cultures.

But the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society recently forgot what those words “diversity, equity, and inclusion” mean — to their detriment. It’s a valuable lesson for how not to act when approaching diversity in your organization. Here’s exactly what happened, and what your business can learn from this.

The background

Fran Itkoff is 90 years old. Her husband had MS, and they became very involved in the MS Society as volunteers. Even after her husband died, Itkoff continued, putting in 60 years of volunteering for the MS Society.

The MS Society recently asked her to step down after she questioned the reasons behind their policy of including pronouns in communications. The organization released a statement on February 15, 2024 that explained:

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7 thoughts on “How to Avoid a DEI Disaster Like the MS Society Just Had

  1. In your Inc. article, you state, “Explanations require different vocabulary. If someone doesn’t understand, repeating it doesn’t work.”

    That’s true, but repeating it loudly always works, accompanied, of course, by a hands-on-hips posture and a scowl.

    1. And what about the potential legacy gift this woman may have planned to leave MS when she passes away? Bye bye to that. It seems that absolutely no thought was put into the action of MS in asking this woman to step down. Taking the time to explain the pronouns would have been a small and easy thing to do. Help by taking the time to educate others, people! Patience, understanding, communication. Don’t just write off somebody when you don’t like them questioning something you do. I think it may be the true definition of the current buzz phrase, “cancel culture.” What a shame.

  2. This article just emphasized the bias against accepting the true meaning of acceptance by those pushing the DEI narrative because if someone doesn’t understand or follow their version definition, that individual is penalized rather than being given a better understanding. There’s no gray definition allowed which totally against total acceptance of differences. This -My way or the Highway—train of thought is going to be the downfall rather than the beginning of acceptance.

  3. People who don’t follow the demands of DEI are not ignorant. They are dissenters, and have a right to their views.

    The real point of DEI, and the reason its jargon and demands keep changing, is about persecuting dissent, along the same lines and using the same techniques as China’s Cultural Revolution.

    DEI is an attempt to force us all to “admit” lies, including the lie that most disparate treatment of protected groups is undeserved and/or malicious, and that “color blind” treatment is really disguised racism.

    Anyone who is subjected to this type of ideological bullying should report it as hostile environment harassment immediately, before the bully can hijack the reporting process by complaining first.

  4. I think pronouns are a passing fad. I am glad that this woman’s story pointed to the idiocy of them—women adding them and men not. The second level of idiocy was kicking out a longtime volunteer when she merely asked about them is crazy. Let people add them if they want, but it shouldn’t be compulsory or a fireable offense for talking about them.

  5. This was an interesting article. The whole situation was a disaster to say the least. As the article pointed out, this situation could have EASILY been avoided if it would have been approached from the standpoint of addressing someone’s ignorance about a subject, instead of assuming the worse. (“ignorance” BTW simple means someone who doesn’t know something. That word has a negative connotation and it’s really not a negative word). It’s clear from this article that MS Society clearly forgot what DE&I is really all about.

    On a different note, with respect to the pronouns themselves, my question has always been a simple one: Why do people get bent out of shape about what someone wants you to call them? I never understood that. Forget the reasons why. That’s not important. If a person TELLS YOU they want to be called “X”, then you call them “X”. It’s that simple to me and always has been.

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