The power
of “I” in equity

A guide on how we as individuals
can practice advancing equity

View: The power of “I” in equity report
Seven practices to advance equity: observe, acknowledge, question, challenge, accept, act, connect.

The power of the “I” refers to the power all individuals have—from C-suite executives and middle managers to frontline workers—to advance equity in the workplace.

Deloitte’s DEI Institute has identified practices to develop a holistic approach to awareness and action, across all encounters, whether professional or personal. They serve as a helpful guide to use and revisit when seeking to understand how to advance equity.

View: The power of “I” in equity report

Key findings

Deloitte’s DEI Institute surveyed full- and part-time adult (18+) workers from companies with a minimum of 500 employees in
the United States, across five industry categories.

More than 73% of respondents agree or strongly agree on the business priority, the benefit, and that “everyone” should play a role in advancing equity.

Yet only about 59% agree or strongly agree that they have a personal responsibility to advance equity for all.

A group of people working


The report offers suggestions on how to engage in each practice and provide self-reflective questions to prompt ongoing curiosity and growth. The goal is to make a practice of this work, leading to an overall mindset shift that will guide the habits individuals develop, the choices they make, and the impact they have on those around them.

Joanne Stephane
Executive Director, Deloitte’s DEI Institute

Seven practices

Observe | Take notice — Identify patterns in outcomes

Take time to notice how things work for individuals with different identities, experiences, and perspectives. Through this new lens, strengthen this awareness by listening to others with experiences different from your own, demonstrating empathy, and asking questions to build an understanding of all the seemingly innocuous things that can contribute to equity in the workplace.

Ask yourself:

What is happening around me that does not seem quite right?

Observe whether processes, practices, policies, and operating protocols might be contributing to “how things are.”

What perspective or input might I be missing when considering everyday work decisions and the impact of those decisions on others?

How are different perspectives incorporated into the decision-making process? What impact might those perspectives have on the decision or outcome? Does the decision lead to the same outcomes for everyone? How? Why?

Acknowledge | Make it plain to yourself — Reflect on your own journey

As you are noticing what is happening around you, be vulnerable and honest with yourself about all the support and resources that were, or were not, available to you. We understand hard work and fortuitous connections influence results. But we should also consider how differing circumstances can lead to very different outcomes, and how systemic advantages or disadvantages may prescribe outcomes for individuals.

Ask yourself:

How have I benefited from the status quo? How have I been disadvantaged?

If accepted practices at your company put you or some colleagues at an advantage or disadvantage, think about the personal growth or external support you would need to challenge those practices. What would happen if you stepped out of your comfort zone?

When I consider how I influence and affect others and the ways we are all affected by history, how do I see my own connection to potential inequity?

Acknowledge if your actions (or lack of action) intentionally or unintentionally contribute to the inequity. This can help you understand the root causes of inequitable outcomes.

Question | Find your why — Follow your curiosity

Stay curious. Make a deeper and personal connection with why challenging the status quo at this moment is important to you. Begin by understanding that equitable outcomes for yourself are often connected to equitable outcomes for others.

Ask yourself:

How do I feel when I allow myself to reimagine what is possible?

Honest self-reflection and openness to what could happen often make you feel more connected to those around you, increasing your motivation to pursue equity.

How may following my curiosity connect to my sense of purpose and responsibility?

Once you attain clarity on your ability to effect change and your responsibility to do so, it can prepare you to take actions, large and small.

Challenge | Shift your perspectives — Reassess your beliefs

It can often be difficult to change our minds, especially when we have been taught to view the world in particular ways. Our beliefs shape our experiences and behavior. If you are willing to sit in your discomfort long enough to challenge your beliefs, you may find other underlying values at odds with your goals and intentions.

Ask yourself:

What can I learn about people with experiences different from mine, and how can I use these diverse perspectives to inform or evolve my beliefs?

Be open when others voice their concerns or share their experiences. Avoid minimizing these or explaining them away. It offers an opportunity to consider alternate points of view.

What underlying beliefs inform my values and behaviors?

Exploring beliefs and assumptions you may have never questioned is an important step in recognizing the root causes of inequity.

Accept | Own your role — Embrace your responsibility

Identifying your responsibility in the pursuit of equity means taking ownership and accountability for what is within your spheres of influence. Be intentional in the actions you take, and clarify how those actions can address root causes that result in equitable outcomes.

Ask yourself:

How can I make equity a goal in my decisions and interactions?

Examine the outcomes of recent decisions and understand how the impact may differ across cohorts or stakeholders. Learn more about what specific considerations would have led to more equitable outcomes within and across those groups.

How do I respond when actions don't have the intended impact?

It's human nature to take credit for successes and to attribute unintended outcomes to someone or something else. Reflect on what went wrong or was missing in the approach or execution. Examine how effective change is implemented in your organization and how to apply lessons learned at the next opportunity.

Act | Take small steps to bold actions — Build sustainable momentum

To make meaningful change, start with what and whom you know. As you allow different perspectives and experiences to inform your actions, be intentional in how you address root causes of inequity. Focus on the long-term impact and remind yourself that today’s action can be one of many building blocks for realizing transformational and sustainable change.

Ask yourself:

How do I call others in when I witness inequitable or non-inclusive behavior?

Responding to exclusionary behavior can be difficult, even intimidating. Start by asking yourself whose comfort you are most concerned about in these instances—your own, those engaged in the inequitable behavior, or those affected by it—and consider the consequences of inaction.

How do I take (and facilitate) actions that address the root causes to help drive more equitable outcomes?

Thinking of the activities that resulted in the status quo is important when planning to act. Examine how the solution can be applied to the root cause, and be careful not to urgently look past an immediate imbalance. What might be the benefits of addressing the root causes? What might be the flaws and consequences of not doing so?

Connect | Champion together — Commit to collective success

There are likely other individuals who have similar ideas. Recognize and engage with those who have been involved in and committed to change. Connect and join with people of different identities, perspectives, strengths, and talents to envision, strategize, and execute bold actions.

Ask yourself:

How can I support collective success?

This is where it is important to remember the goal—to address inequity, not to promote a self-serving personal agenda.

Am I comfortable sharing my power and decision-making with others? And if not, why not? How might I maximize my impact by working in collaboration with others?

Remember that we can learn from individuals who are already in this journey. Always consider the impact that we might be able to collectively achieve, that you may not be able to have alone.


Meaningful progress takes bold actions to address systemic issues and root causes. It requires individuals who are willing to examine their own assumptions, understand how systems reinforce the status quo, align their purpose and commitment with what is required, and have the courage to address systemic inequities — built into processes, policies, and everyday decisions. It requires harnessing the power of the individual to move from asking “Who is responsible for prioritizing equity?” to “How can I contribute to advancing equity?”

When we take bold action collectively, we can build an equitable future.

View: The power of “I” in equity report