Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion From Insects’ Perspective

Lessons from our 6-legged friends

Bowie Yin Sum Kung
3 min readOct 7, 2023
What would it take for the Bocydium globulare (Brazilian treehopper) to feel at home? (Photo by Andreas Kay on Flickr under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In the last decade or so, the diversity, equity, and inclusion movement has been gaining strength in different spaces. When diversity is talked about, however, it’s often phrased as a value, an action item, a thing to be checked off. As I understand deeper what diversity means in a natural ecosystem (to be fair, work spaces are ecosystems, too), I realise that diversity and biodiversity come as a byproduct and a consequence of other actions. In other words, you don’t DO diversity, you INVITE diversity: it comes as you rethink your work place.

Fostering (bio)diversity requires systemic change

Hiring more BIPOC or LGBTQIA+ folks don’t make you more diverse. In 2023, I think most people know that by now. If you don’t, fear not — there are plenty of op eds, articles, and literature to catch you up on that. For starters, consider these pieces:

In order for true diversity to happen, it’s not just about everyone in your work place looking different. It’s about bringing those differences to work. It’s about transforming the work place so that every BODY feels safe and comfortable to contribute, grow, and be. That might look like regular public or private forums for people to raise concerns and suggestions, facilitated workshops on how to work, open environment for initiatives to be supported, and a constant unlearning of conventional ways of working and engaging so that people may begin to explore what works best for them.

(Bio)diversity needs to be grown

Most of us love fireflies, butterflies, and bees. But do we consider where they spend most of their lives? Firefly larvae spend the majority of their 2–3 years in undisturbed leaf litter. Different butterflies have different preferences of plants when it comes to egg-laying time. For example, Monarch butterflies only lay eggs on milkweeds because monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Bees feast upon the first flowers that come from common ‘weeds’ as they are often the first to bloom, like dandelions, clover, and brambles.

How we keep our lawn directly affects how much biodiversity we are inviting into the space. If you like to keep a very ‘clean’, grass only (or artificial turf!) lawn, don’t expect biodiversity. Similarly, if you don’t foster an environment for a diverse work force to thrive, don’t expect them to stay.

Graphic from Magyar Rovartani Társaság (Hungarian Entomological Society)

DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) is not for driving profit

In natural ecosystems, diversity brings more food, more resilience, more possibilities, more strength. It helps the system thrive. Diversity is neither an end goal, an action item, or a KPI. It’s a byproduct of doing things well, of respecting all life, of celebrating all ways of living.

So much of DEI conversations centre on driving profit. Controversial opinion: if that’s the only reason that’s convincing your work place, DEI will likely not happen. Sure, everyone wants to make more money for their shareholders. But like everything else in a capitalist market, DEI is being commodified. When DEI is commodified, people’s differences are commodified. DEI could be another sugar-coated subjugation of marginalised peoples or it could bring about real systemic transformation. What do you want it to be?

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Bowie Yin Sum Kung

I write about regenerative practices, climate and social justice, decolonial and alternative economies, economies that heal, and the wonders of nature.