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Corporate America’s “concrete actions” on diversity lag behind “good intentions”
15/06/2021
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Boarded Up Apple Portland Store With Protest Murals, June 2020

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, as well as increasing evidence of covid-19’s impact on minority groups, human resources professionals are committed to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within their workplaces, but gaps still exist between corporate America’s intentions and actions, a new survey has found.

The survey of more than 1,400 organisations from 21 industries found HR professionals placed the highest level of importance on the need for employees to feel supported and free to express themselves in the workplace. However, the poll found a 13% gap between that intention and the current reality faced by their employees.

Also high on the list was “emphasising diversity as a central mission/strategy”, but there was an 8% gap in resulting actions to date, the survey found.

Although providing DEI training at all levels was also seen as critical, there was a 13% gap between organisations intending to offer DEI training or mentorship to all levels of management and those currently offering that same resources.

Many respondents indicated that while their organisation intends for their DEI leader to have access to senior leadership and financial resources, they are not yet there. Many also highlighted fears they have little impact on the diversification of company boards.

Less than 2% of respondents were confident their organisations were achieving their DEI goals. A similar percentage admitted to having no DEI goals or strategies in place.  

“As with other cultural and economic movements in our country’s past, the concrete actions taken are lagging behind the good intentions of corporate leadership and HR teams,” said Chris Fusco, senior vice president of compensation at salary.com, which undertook the study.

“The positive takeaway from Salary.com’s data is that good intentions lead to more action, so companies stand to make significant progress before the year is out.”

Having a dedicated diversity leader or diversity committee was cited by 44 organisations as being the most important mechanism toward making progress on DEI initiatives. This belief is supported by LinkedIn data that showed a large spike in the number of DEI roles posted after BLM took to the streets in late May and early June of 2020.

According to the business networking platform, the number of individuals globally with the head of diversity title grew 107% over the last five years, while those with the director of diversity (75%) and chief diversity officer (68%) titles also saw growth. LinkedIn data also shows a 71% increase in all D&I roles worldwide during the same period.

There has been a dip in the number of DEI roles advertised during the covid-19 pandemic, however, a trend that may reverse in the near future as many survey respondents said it was important their organisation hire a DEI director within the next 90 days.

Whether or not an organisation has a DEI lead, only 6% of organisations are tracking their workforce diversification progress for the process of holding themselves accountable. Many companies are looking at metrics to track the success of their initiatives with affirmative action and internal equity analysis being the most popular metrics considered.

The most cited DEI goals were to launch community outreach efforts; meet affirmative action metrics set by their organisation; and abide by regulatory compliance.