When citizens of the United States experience a racial crisis, companies move toward damage control to mitigate the problem. As a result, leadership has added more people of color (POC) to leadership positions and created figurehead roles targeted toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But what does this mean for the longevity of these roles?
We don’t want to lose steam to consistently push the DEI agenda forward. The outside world can become the catalyst to make the dire changes needed in organizations, such as hiring more Black studies professors within academia or hiring more POC C-suite leadership. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) has some recommendations for maintaining diversity in this position. According to HBR’s article To Sustain DEI Momentum, Companies Must Invest in 3 Areas, companies must start investing in three areas to sustain DEI momentum.
Companies must have a comprehensive strategy for responsible parties, collecting and analyzing data, and empowering the DEI leader. The article states, “Representation goals — whether based on industry benchmarks or population data for the appropriate city, state, or country — are one component, but it’s equally important to incentivize leaders and create accountability systems to help make those strategies a success.” We want leaders to be held accountable for supporting equitable initiatives in the abstract and practice. Leaders may feel differently about fair practices when they realize their actions need to shift. According to the data reported in the HBR article, only 12 percent of companies hold C-suite executives accountable for gender diversity and only 5 percent for racial and ethnic.
A positive for DEI progress shows that data is readily available to help mold the strategies necessary for growth. About 90 percent of companies collect gender data, and 88 percent for racial and ethnic data. HBR says that organizations are tracking this data utilizing an applicant tracking system, but this information is still underutilized. Regarding this data, only 46 percent analyze by gender and 31 percent by race and ethnicity.
The data shows that out of all the DEI leaders, only 12 percent have a team under them dedicated to DEI work. Also, only 9 percent of companies have a leader dedicated to DEI work at the same level as executives. As I stated about DEI losing steam, HBR says, “Responsibility without authority, or the ability to hold the organization accountable, is a recipe for burnout and stalled progress.” The challenges companies face point toward the need to invest more time, money, and resources into creating a DEI team under the leadership. The DEI team must also be genuinely diverse and hold very expertise.
This past year, we’ve noticed that companies may say they value diversity but aren’t investing enough to drive the change we need to see to make a difference. According to Culture Amp, their article DEI in 2022: Key trends and findings found that 81 percent reported they believe DEI resources are beneficial to their organization. Still, only 34 percent have sufficient resources to support their initiatives. Organizations aren’t making DEI a strategic priority though there’s a claim to the commitment. Nearly 60 percent of companies reported the absence of the DEI specialist role. Also, while there may have been improvements in the experiences of Black and Asian employees, Latinx and LGBTQ employees’ experiences have declined. The study states,
“While Black employees still experience a gap in “perceptions of equal opportunities,” and Asian employees still report they lack voice at the leadership level, we believe that overall improvements in their workplace experience were driven by coordinated activism from groups such as Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate. This speaks to a need for organizations to also pay attention to and invest in communities without a prominent, organized movement, as their experiences at work may also be falling behind.”
Leadership must invest in marginalized employees without a catastrophic DEI issue in the media or organization. DEI strategy is preventative work. It’s time to strategically create DEI programs and policies within organizations and corporations to prevent crises and create equitable environments for employees. We have to ask ourselves if this DEI work is ongoing or for a moment because it seems that, as a whole, organizations don’t care until something happens and the optics are less than favorable. We need to invest in the longevity of the work while implementing permanent roles at companies dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
About The Author:
Kierra D. Gray is a diversity, equity and inclusion practitioner, clinician, published content creator, and journalist who assists others in concretely achieving their short- and long-term goals. She’s a diversity and wellness changemaker on a mission to transform work environments that reflect key values in diversity and inclusion.
If you’re interested in hiring a DEI consultant and advancing your company’s DEI initiatives, you can reach out to Diversity Crew at LetsGo@DiversityCrew.com