One prominent area of contention for DEI is that definitions of “diversity” and “inclusion” can differ. For some, “diversity” specifically refers to the advancement of opportunity and representation for specific underrepresented groups; for others, diversity only refers to promoting intellectual and educational diversity. Of course, these aims can overlap (promoting representation of marginalized groups can help strengthen thought diversity), but they can also conflict8. Organizations might prioritize ideological diversity while leaving marginalized groups underrepresented. Another issue is that while some take “inclusion” to mean an open discursive climate in which every voice and point of view can be heard, some of these points of view can be deeply offensive—even hurtful—to others. Due to this, some universities prioritize the definition of “inclusion” enabling marginalized groups to feel protected and welcome from assaults to their identity.
In addition to disagreements in how to define DEI, corporations can also engage in merely superficial efforts of DEI, but lack a sincere desire to substantially change their business infrastructure. Many corporations have “diversity statements” in their job postings stating that they’re an “equal opportunity employer,” but then continue to engage in discriminatory hiring practices9. Some corporations might also implement “unconscious bias training” programs to show their support for minorities, despite the fact that such programs aren’t just ineffective—they can backfire, causing more discrimination First, unconscious bias training can reinforce harmful stereotypes against minorities by giving them exposure. Second, this training can undermine people’s autonomy, making them less motivated to combat their biases: they might think it’s something their corporations are telling them to do, versus something they themselves want to do. According to Fatima Tresh, a social and organizational psychologist who works for the UK diversity consultancy Delta Alpha Psi, quick fixes like diversity statements and unconscious bias training are “tick-box exercises”10. This refers to the common idea of putting employees through mandatory training, largely for the sake of reporting that employees have undergone appropriate training.
Measuring DEI in the workplace:
One question you might be wondering is: how do businesses measure their progress when it comes to their DEI achievements? Some metrics might include retention numbers, differences in pay, representation by level (e.g., how many women are present in C-suite positions versus associate positions), and promotion numbers for minority races and genders11. Besides these demographic differences that are readily quantifiable, however, how might businesses measure more qualitative aspects, e.g., how respected, valued, and welcomed employees feel?
Recently, Gartner, a research and advisory firm, proposed a measure known as the Gartner Inclusion Index, which captures “inclusion” through 7 dimensions:
- Fair treatment: Employees at my organization who help the organization achieve its strategic objectives are rewarded and recognized fairly.
- Integrating differences: Employees at my organization respect and value each other’s opinions.
- Decision making: Members of my team fairly consider ideas and suggestions offered by other team members.
- Psychological safety: I feel welcome to express my true feelings at work.
- Trust: The communication we receive from the organization is honest and open.
- Belonging: People in my organization care about me.
- Diversity: Managers at my organization are as diverse as the broader workforce.
Employees are asked to rate their agreement with 45 statements related to these 7 elements, and a greater degree of approval signals a more inclusive organization. These DEI measurement tools not only keep organizations accountable, but organizations that adjust based on measurement feedback report being more inclusive than their counterparts that rely primarily on informal judgement11.