Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) are more than just corporate buzzwords – they’re essential elements for fostering innovation, improving company culture, and ensuring sustainable success in the business world. While we’ve made significant strides, there’s still a diversity gap to be closed across all industries.
To tackle this challenge, it’s crucial to embrace both visual and non-visual diversity. Metaphorically speaking, you have the choice to run your business as if it were an island, working in seclusion, detached from the evolving practices, strategies, and operations prevalent in the broader business world. However, in today’s interconnected global landscape, acknowledging this island-like approach might mean overlooking the strategies and developments that could significantly impact the resilience and adaptability of your business in the face of future challenges. Opting for an “island” business mindset might lead to missing out on essential opportunities to prepare and fortify your company for the ever-changing business environment.
Evolving sectors like the technology industry are characterised by the pursuit of innovation where progress reigns supreme. Yet, behind the curtain of cutting-edge advancements lies a stark reality—pronounced gaps along gender, race, and ethnicity lines. Taking a closer look at the demographic makeup of today’s tech giants, you’ll uncover a staggering underrepresentation of women and minorities in crucial computing-related roles.
The lid was blown off this issue in 2014 when tech giants like Google and other Silicon Valley entities released their first diversity reports and unmasked their abysmal diversity figures, laying bare the truth about the composition of their workforces. With only 26.7% of women working in computer and mathematical occupations in the U.S. in 2022, and 9.1% being African American or Black – despite being the country’s second-largest minority group (13% share of the country’s population). There is a long way to go to get to diverse and equitable workforces, which are inclusive and encourage others to join.
When it Comes to the D:
Diversity encompasses the range of human differences within an organisation. It includes but is not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, physical abilities, socioeconomic background, and more.
In a diverse workplace, employees bring a rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds, a diverse spectrum of skills, and a wealth of experiences. This could mean a team encompassing individuals of different ethnicities, genders, ages, and educational backgrounds collaborating and contributing their unique perspectives and expertise toward shared goals. Such a collective fusion of varied backgrounds and abilities forms the vibrant mosaic that characterises a truly diverse and inclusive workspace.
What is Meant by Equity?:
Equity involves ensuring fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all individuals, while also striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.
To picture its impact, in an equitable workplace, all employees are provided with resources, support, and opportunities that meet their specific needs. For instance, ensuring that promotion opportunities are available to all employees based on merit and skills, without biases or barriers based on race, gender, or any other characteristic.
In a diverse workplace, employees come from different cultural backgrounds and possess a variety of skills and experiences. An equitable workplace is one where everyone, regardless of their background, has a level playing field to thrive and succeed, contributing to a culture that values and fosters fairness for all. The discussion of equity necessitates addressing the disparities in pay across genders and racial demographics. It stands as a fundamental corporate responsibility to guarantee parity in remuneration and ensure that all individuals receive fair and equitable compensation for their contributions.
Inclusion is about creating an environment in which all individuals feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued. It’s about fostering a culture where everyone can fully contribute and participate.
In an inclusive workplace, all employees feel comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas without fear of judgment. For instance, conducting meetings where every team member has an equal chance or opportunity to voice their thoughts and contribute to the discussion, ensures that diverse perspectives are heard and valued. Without a seat at the table, inclusivity falls short.
Blue Sky DE&I:
Consider a company that acknowledges diversity by hiring individuals from various backgrounds (diversity). However, this company also ensures that these employees have equal opportunities for growth and advancement within the organisation, taking into account their unique needs and challenges (equity). Moreover, this company actively promotes an environment where these employees feel not just welcomed but valued and appreciated for their differences (inclusion). To truly close the gap in DE&I, businesses need to address each element comprehensively, understanding that diversity is just the first step. Equity and inclusion are equally vital in fostering a workplace where every individual feels empowered, respected, and included.
An employer’s diversity policy should encompass a comprehensive range of elements essential for a satisfied workforce. This includes clearly defined actionable objectives, established consequences for misconduct, and incentives aimed at encouraging and recognising proactive contributors to change. It must of course unequivocally state the company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, outlining clear objectives and goals for fostering a diverse workforce. It should highlight fair and unbiased recruitment, hiring, and promotion practices, emphasising the value placed on various backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
The policy should also include ongoing training programs to educate staff on cultural competence, unconscious bias, and inclusive practices. Moreover, it must establish support systems for employees, including avenues for reporting discrimination, harassment, or any form of unfair treatment. Ensuring that the policy is regularly reviewed, updated, and communicated transparently across the organisation is crucial.
A robust diversity policy not only reflects the company’s values but also actively promotes an environment where every employee feels respected, valued, and empowered, consequently leading to higher employee satisfaction scores. Lest, in the UK, data taken from a poll highlights that there are industries that require large-scale improvement in ensuring the diversity policy meets the satisfaction of the employees. Industries such as transport and aerospace lag, scoring 3.67 and 3.71 out of 5 respectively, but then you have the insurance business sector leading the way at 4.08 out of 5.
Visual diversity is the most apparent. It’s the wide spectrum of physical appearances, gender identities, ethnic backgrounds, and ages that make up your workforce. Gender diversity is commonly recognised as a pivotal aspect of diversity initiatives, often deemed more accessible to address, supported by extensive data showcasing its impact on industry advancements. Within the technology sector, while there has been notable progress in the representation of women in senior executive roles over the past decade, there remains a significant journey ahead to achieve further improvement in the share of female Chief Information Officers in Fortune 500 companies.
Visual diversity, as a seemingly more accessible area to tackle, can be used as a disingenuous approach to appear more diverse as an organisation, as opposed to the bigger job of building a functional strategy to create such a workforce. As a result, certain pitfalls are a common occurrence:
Diversity is More Than Just a Photo-Op:
A diverse team photo on your office wall or website is excellent, but it’s not enough. Ensure your diversity isn’t skin-deep. Encourage and empower employees to bring their unique perspectives to the table at all levels of hierarchy across the business.
Flip the Script on Stereotypes:
Challenge stereotypes and unconscious biases within your organisation. Host workshops, encourage open conversations, and create a culture of questioning assumptions. Remember, diversity isn’t about fitting into moulds, but breaking them.
If the qualifications are not available within the company on accessing appropriate literature, or training material – external speakers and consultants can guide how to be self-sufficient within the organisation for a sustainable future.
Build Inclusivity Brick by Brick:
Inclusivity isn’t just about hiring diverse candidates. It’s about ensuring they feel welcome, heard, and valued. Promote inclusive policies, mentorship programs, and open feedback channels to make diversity more than just a headcount. Employee Resource Groups, whereby a strategy to incentivise the committee leads, and community members as well as a channel to have their voices heard by senior leadership.
Non-visual diversity is a layer often not considered. It encompasses different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, skills, abilities, and talents. Ways to nourish diversity can be found below:
The Patchwork Quilt of Experience:
Like a patchwork quilt, your organisation should embrace the rich tapestry of experiences and backgrounds. Encourage cross-functional collaboration, where employees from different departments work together to create unique solutions.
Embrace Cognitive Diversity:
Remember that diversity is also about cognitive styles. Celebrate employees who think outside the box, see the world from different angles, and are unafraid to challenge the status quo.
Mentorship as the Bridge:
To truly close the D&I gap, mentorship plays a crucial role. Share insights, foster leadership skills, and create spaces for employees to learn from one another. Mentoring neuro-divergent employees navigating the corporate world can be particularly impactful, as they often face unique challenges.
How to be DE&I Compliant:
Employers can assess their company’s compliance with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in five ways:
Conduct a Comprehensive Assessment:
Begin by conducting a thorough assessment of your company’s current state regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can involve surveys, interviews, and focus groups with employees at all levels. Assess hiring practices, retention rates, promotion opportunities, pay equity, and employee satisfaction regarding the company’s culture and inclusivity.
Review Policies and Procedures:
Examine your company’s existing policies and procedures to ensure they align with D, E, and I goals. This includes reviewing recruitment strategies to ensure diversity in candidate pools, assessing promotion and compensation structures to identify potential biases, and examining employee handbooks and codes of conduct to verify they promote inclusivity and equity.
Diversify Leadership and Decision-Making Positions:
Assess the composition of leadership roles within the organisation. Evaluate whether the leadership team represents a diverse array of backgrounds, including gender, race, ethnicity, and other characteristics. If there is a lack of diversity in these positions, strategise and implement plans to actively promote and support diverse talent for advancement opportunities.
Implement Training and Education Programs:
Develop and implement comprehensive training programs focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. These programs should educate employees about unconscious bias, cultural competence, and the importance of an inclusive workplace. Regular training can help foster an environment where diversity is not only accepted but celebrated.
Create Metrics for Measurement and Accountability:
Establish measurable goals and metrics related to D, E, and I initiatives. These could include targets for increasing diversity in the workforce, promoting more inclusive hiring practices, or reducing gaps in pay and promotion. Regularly track and report on these metrics to hold the organisation accountable for progress and to identify areas needing improvement.
It may be more helpful to separate a DE&I strategy into visual and non-visual and put to the side the “I don’t see colour” part of the business, it is a distinction that must be made, to ensure a strategy covers the broad spectrum of what makes a workforce diverse, in more ways than the color of our skin, or the gender we identify as.
By actively pursuing these steps, companies can evaluate their current status regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, identify areas for improvement, and create an actionable plan to foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture. Regular reviews and adaptations based on these assessments are key to maintaining strong DE&I compliance in the long term.
Bridging the DE&I gap isn’t just about numbers; it’s about culture, inclusivity, and celebrating differences. Visual diversity is what we see, but non-visual diversity is also where strength lies. So, keep coloring outside the lines, because that’s where the most vibrant and innovative ideas are found.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023). Percentage of employed workers from minority groups in computer occupations in the United States in 2022. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: October 28, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/311935/us-minority-computer-workers/
 As above
 US Census Bureau. (2018). Percentage distribution of population in the United States in 2016 and 2060, by race and Hispanic origin. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: October 28, 2023.
 Statista, European Commission. (2021). To what extent are you satisfied with your employer’s diversity policy? (On a scale of 1-5). Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: October 28, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1134872/employee-diversity-policy-satisfaction-in-the-uk/
 Boardroom Insiders. (2020). Percentage of female Chief Information Officers in Fortune 500 companies from 1995 to 2020. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: October 28, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/311958/fortune-500-female-cio/