How to achieve diversity, equity, inclusion success?

CDOs are often brought in to respond to an existing problem, clean up an organization’s image, or publicly signal a commitment to diversity and equity that may not actually exist. In too many cases, the responsibility for changing the company culture is placed entirely on the CDO’s shoulders. When efforts fail, the CDO then becomes the scapegoat. The organization’s leaders can say that they tried, that they are still trying; they can rest secure in the belief that they have the best of intentions. They might choose to hire another CDO or place the burden of change on other staff of color, and then the pattern begins all over again, as the gap between what institutions commit to on their websites and how employees actually experience the workplace continues to widen.

—former Chief Diversity Officer Nadia Owusu in Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer Won’t Fix Your Racist Company Culture

Even where intentions are good and the cultural climate is favorable for diversity and inclusion, insufficient resources can be the greatest challenge in the first year on the job. Even with a clear job description and support from the administration, if the CDO and the office isn’t appropriately resourced—in terms of budget, staff, and administrative support—the probability of effecting real change is diminished. gives Chief Diversity Officers a platform so they can facilitate change in a faster, more effective, more measurable way.

The intersectional framework = more equitable hiring, more diverse teams, more inclusivity, and less risk

“[Intersectionality] is basically a lens, a prism,” law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw—who coined the term over 30 years ago—told TIME, “for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status.” Intersectionality is termed as such because it analyzes how a person’s sociopolitical identities intersect. “It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there,” she said in an interview with Columbia Law School. “Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things. Some people look to intersectionality as a grand theory of everything, but that’s not my intention. If someone is trying to think about how to explain to the courts why they should not dismiss a case made by black women, just because the employer did hire blacks who were men and women who were white, well, that’s what the tool was designed to do.”

Intersectionality in practice: the “problem” of women of color in the workplace.

Read the section "Overview" for a description of the image of the tool not only tracks representation of the five protected classes (race, sex, age, disability, veteran status), but intersectional identities as well, allowing you to track: 

  • workplace representation of every intersectional identity you wish to track (for the company as a whole or segmented by division, department, or individual work unit)
  • hiring patterns of individual hiring managers and trends over time
  • hiring patterns of hiring panels and committees over time
  • promotion patterns of managers, executives, and selection committees over time

Moving beyond “making the business case for DEI”

While highlighting the relationship between DEI and financial performance can be useful for getting buy-in from leaders focused on bottom-line measures, think tanks and consultancies are noting that it is important that organizations begin moving beyond measuring “Diversity ROI,” because making the business case for DEI supports the perspective that underrepresented groups need a “business reason” to exist, something that whites and males are privileged enough not to require. There is a need to gather employee feedback on diversity, equity, inclusion, and intersectionality. Because our future is intersectional, the employee experience is not equal, and studies show belonging matters most.

An unbiased metric would be an “Inclusivity ROI” as all workers need to feel a sense of inclusivity/belonging to thrive, and thriving, included workers boost the bottom line. This in no way reduces the need for corporate commitment to diversity, as studies have shown that diverse, inclusive workplaces consistently outperform homogenous workplaces.

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