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Understanding "Wokeness"

Understanding 'Wokeness' and How it will Impact Business in 2024

How does the term “Woke” make you feel?


Referencing awareness of social injustices, the term has existed for decades, but it has never garnered as much traction as it has over the last few years. Acting as a call to bring racial injustices to the forefront, 2020 brought the concept of staying ‘woke’ to the mainstream and 2020 did, in fact, wake many people up to some hard truths. There were many at that time who collectively woke up to the disparities that Black folks know all too well as part of a lived experience. But as so often happens when there is a spike in the social consciousness to rectify the injustices experienced by marginalized communities, there then comes a wave of dissent. This is a backlash used by those who do not want to see change in an effort to dismantle the path towards equity.

Now, depending on your perspective and which media you choose to focus on, the term ‘woke’ can signify those who “go too far”, “ask for too much” or who are “disruptive for no good reason.” There are entire campaigns built around being anti-woke and this sentiment is not limited to the US.

But while these strategies are nothing new, what’s important to note is that they always have consequences on the daily lives of marginalized groups. To be anti-woke is to promote the censorship of ideas that build a more inclusive and equitable world. For example, by banning books, anti-woke censorship bars more balanced and correct histories from being taught in schools. It asks us to remain ignorant regarding critical facts that affect us all today. And for those who exist in marginalized bodies, it asks that we continue to live marginalized lives.

For those in the business world, ‘woke’ is now a term that can incite a broad range of reactions. Whereas 2020 brought a call-to-action to do better, now many organizations are freezing their DEI initiatives. ‘Woke’ is not a term that should be shied away from, but rather, it should be embraced. To be ‘woke’, in its non-co-opted form, is to be aware, conscious or in-the-know.

The best business leaders are all of these things as it is imperative for them to also remain vigilant in the ever-changing and highly competitive economic landscape. To do the opposite would be to close oneself off to valuable information leading to any number of negative outcomes, not the least of which would be to become out of touch with the values and beliefs of the people within their organization and their customer base.

For organizations looking to have long-term impact and success, this is a reminder that doing what is right for people will always be what’s best for your business. Always. To do the opposite will often result in some sort of detrimental harm to your business through a multitude of channels, including but not limited to higher-turnover, internal discord, lawsuits and negative brand image. Companies that invest in solid DEI+ initiatives, not for short-term gains in optics, but for the long-term health of their people and culture will reap and are reaping the benefits.

While there will always be a difference in opinions, we can push for a more rational, educated, people-centric and values-focused approach to how we each as individuals, wherever we find ourselves, choose to live and lead.

So, in these changing political and social climates, what is the best approach?

At Blue Level, our motto is to “Educate Each. Elevate All.” When we know better, we can do better and education is truly the key. Focusing on a shame-free approach where we strive to connect through shared understanding, common goals and factual up-to-date content, Blue Level partners with organizations to help guide, deliver and assess educational strategies that deliver Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives for the benefit of everyone.

DEI is never easy as the reality of human experience is rich and complex, but it can and should be simple. It should be grounded in values like integrity, curiosity, and a willingness to do the right thing, even if it is not the convenient thing. Whether you have a dedicated internal DEI team or not, the benefits of partnering with a leading DEI Training provider like Blue Level provides you with an objective group of external, global DEI specialists who can customize education to hold your DEI strategy,  or partner with your internal DEI team, giving them back some much-needed bandwidth.

We at Blue Level believe that empathy and understanding will always be more powerful than fear. In these times, it is critical that we lean into values that bring us together. What values will you choose to be committed to this year?

If you like what you are reading, contact us to learn how we can build your organization a customized training. Click the link to our website:



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