So Far, Not So Good: Are Diversity & Inclusion Efforts Really Working?

While Take The Lead has a mission of gender parity across all sectors in leadership of 2025, the rest of the world may be on a much slower time frame. Implementing diversity and inclusion efforts to make a fair and balances workforce that represents the population by gender, race, age, ethnicity, ability, orientation and more is taking a lot more time than originally thought.As sexual harassment claims and racist taunts sprout up continuously across disciplines and industries, it begs the question if all the diversity and inclusion efforts of the past several decades really have made a big enough shift in the workplace culture across America.[bctt tweet=“Have the #diversity and #inclusion efforts of the past several decades really have made a shift in the workplace culture across America?” username=“takeleadwomen”]A recent Atlassian study, The State of Diversity and Inclusion in U.S. Tech  is a less than robust endorsement of how well it’s going. While according to the report, 80 percent of respondents agree that D&I is important, the number of companies implementing initiatives remains flat, and individual participation in diversity and inclusion training programs fell by as much as 50 percent since 2017.Overall, in U.S. tech companies, where 56 percent of the respondents were male and 44 percent female, and nearly 70 percent were white, representation, retention, and sense of belonging among underrepresented groups remains below 30 percent. Only 36 percent rated the tech industry an A grade on diversity and inclusion and 41 percent gave an A to their own company.[bctt tweet=“Individual participation in diversity and inclusion training programs fell by as much as 50 percent since 2017. #equalityatwork” username=“takeleadwomen”]Even with those numbers, over 40 percent of respondents believe their company’s inclusion of people from underrepresented groups needs no improvement. The study shows some respondents assume because their company is innovative, provides health benefits, and offers competitive compensation packages, they must be doing well on diversity and inclusion.“We are easy-going, polite, and work well together,” was one comment.In the U.S, 24 percent of respondents said they have greater retention of underrepresented people than in the year before, 26 percent said they have an increased number of underrepresented persons and 28 percent said they have an increased sense of belonging at the company.“Instead of working toward check-the-box initiatives at the company level,  we must look at building balanced teams,” the Atlassian report states. Companies need to “focus on providing individuals with the skills to impact their sphere of influence, and raise our collective standards about how people engage  in the workplace. Begin by listening to and believing marginalized people  who tell their stories, and listen to them about the solutions–their expertise  is valuable.”Another solution is to initiate “tactical programs, like a diverse-slate approach to hiring, implementing a values-aligned vs. a culture-fit interview, and providing intentional opportunities to people from underrepresented groups to grow and  develop, address representation and retention issues,” according to the report.Of course changing team dynamics begins with the hiring process. Instead of looking for percentages of types of individuals, the process of recruiting and hiring needs to change.Publicis Health Global chief talent officer Shannon Boyle writes in MM& M, “Quotas are a mistake. In hiring, if you put out a quota for a certain type of person, companies will hire those people – but not with the right motivation. If diversity is the reason to hire somebody, you’re setting everybody up to fail. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, but more often you cause damage.”Boyle adds, “Instead, you should increase the number of people you are interviewing and change up the mix of how you’re bringing those people in.“She continues, “Examine your selection methodology and understand it. Unconscious bias? Of course there is. How do you create a selection methodology that gets you through that? It can be as simple as making sure your panel is diverse or as sophisticated as using psychometric evaluation at the start of process. You can’t just set goals for people without giving them a way to meet those goals in the right way.”Earsa Jackson, co-chair of Clark Hill Strasburger’s diversity committee, writes in Houston Biz Journal, “Having a stated commitment to diversity is a great first step, but regularly delivering messages of inclusivity really solidifies that commitment in the minds of both employees and clients. This promotion can be as simple as monthly internal and/or external emails or social media posts that educate employees on significant holidays, or as elaborate as developing an event series featuring high profile speakers. Seek out and participate in industry awards that focus on diversity. Use those metrics as standards by which to begin measuring your company’s commitment. Celebrate positive outcomes internally and externally, and consider any shortcomings as areas to prioritize for improvement.”Economic pressure to have a more diverse and inclusive employee base may be the best incentive.At HP Inc., administrators recently demanded that every advertising agency it works with “up your creative-department diversity quotient within 12 months,” Jenny Rooney writes in Forbes.“In short order, the agencies answered back; the company’s top five roster agencies reported a 20-point jump in women working on HP account teams. For its part, HP had assumed the same ‘diversity scorecard challenge’ for itself, committing to increasing the number of women in leadership roles as well as increasing the diversity of its teams,” Rooney writes.It seems to have paid off in terms of outcomes.“In the first quantitative assessment of 53 global campaigns, HP’s in-house brand tracker measured the impact of HP ads created before and after its 2016 diversity initiative was launched and revealed a six-point increase in purchase intent and HP business drivers in one year. Meanwhile, Nielsen’s marketing-mix analysis reported an increase in revenue per impression of one-third. Finally, HP worked with the Association of National Advertisers to apply its #SeeHer Gender Equality Measurement methodology to its ads, showing a five-point increase in effectiveness—putting HP in the top quartile of brands. It’s all data that prove, HP contends, that ads created by diverse teams perform better.”Even with such incentives, and a generation of diversity and inclusion training that began in 1970s, and in the late 80s became more prevalent, most companies do not reflect the composition of the population.  Training is still needed.[bctt tweet=“Even with incentives and a generation of diversity and inclusion training in the 1970s, and 80s, most companies do not reflect the composition of the population. Training is still needed. #DiversityTraining” username=“takeleadwomen”]“Unfortunately, given the continued underrepresentation of women and minorities in most businesses as well as the continued harassment and discrimination of underrepresented groups, diversity training and inclusion initiatives still have a place in our corporate culture today,” writes Lydia Dishman in Fast Company.