Since the tragic murder of George Floyd, matters relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have received significantly greater attention. For example, 2020 and 2021 saw a dramatic increase in corporate commitments to DEI and record hiring of chief diversity officers. According to Reuters, corporations pledged $1.7B to address racial and social issues in the wake of global protests that ensued after George Floyd’s death. According to LinkedIn, of nearly 100,000 C-suite hires in the U.S. from January to October 2020, the appointments of chief diversity officers grew 84% as a proportion of the total of senior executives hired that year.
Conversely, 2022 and 2023 have seen increased attacks aimed directly at DEI. From the corruption of Critical Race Theory or CRT, to legislation aimed at limiting discussions of race, privilege, systemic inequities and oppression in schools such as Florida’s Stop W.O.K.E. Act, to bans of related books in libraries such as the Llano County Library System in Texas, to anti-wokeness, arguably, we are now in an era of “reversity,” or organized resistance to diversity, equity and inclusion programs. These efforts misrepresent what DEI ultimately stands for, which is fundamental and shared principles of fairness, equality, justice, and human dignity for all. DEI has been, and continues to be, a positive force in our democracy and our society.
While DEI efforts have made tremendous progress in recent years, one of the areas receiving greater attention is the use of data to drive measurable and sustainable improvements in DEI. Data represents to DEI what an instrumental panel represents to a plane. Long before there were instrument panels, people were able to fly planes. It was significantly harder without the instrument panel. Instrument panels have made the journey more efficient and effective at every step along the way. Similarly, improving DEI can be achieved without data, but it is significantly harder. Data makes the DEI journey more efficient and effective at every step along the way.
Data can inform every step of the DEI lifecycle. This is outlined in my fifth and latest book, Data-Driven DEI: The Tools and Metrics You Need to Measure, Analyze, and Improve Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (please visit www.datadrivendei.com to learn more and access free tools, metrics and case studies). Data-Driven DEI™ is geared toward everyday people first and foremost and not just DEI champions and leaders. Why? Because organizations do not change. People change. It is only by transforming people that we can transform organizations and society. Therefore, anyone seeking personal improvements to DEI, from individual contributors to executives, can benefit from a data-driven approach to DEI. Managers, supervisors, executives, and DEI champions and leaders responsible for improving DEI for themselves and their organization can similarly benefit from a data-driven approach to DEI.
The five-step cycle of Data-Driven DEI™ is as follows:
- Step 0: DEI Incentives – Data can help make the case for why you and/or your organization should pursue a DEI journey. This requires self-reflection and introspection to identify the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that motivate you and/or organization to care about DEI.
- Step 1: DEI Inventory – Data can help you conduct an assessment and gather diagnostic information that establishes a profile and baseline of your personal strengths and areas for improvement and your organization’s people, policies, practices, and performance (“the 4 P’s”).
- Step 2: DEI Imperatives – Data can help you establish clearly defined objectives with associated and measurable goals or metrics. The range of objectives may vary dramatically from navigating differences personally to managing conflict organizationally and far beyond.
- Step 3: DEI Insights – Data can help you identify what works to avoid reinventing the wheel and optimize your journey. Some examples here include mobile apps for inclusive behavior such as The Inclusion Habit®; Virtual Reality (VR) immersions to mitigate bias such as Through My Eyes™ VR for human understanding, and machine learning algorithms that precisely identify the most effective programs, and for whom they are effective, such as Equitable Analytics™. By knowing what works for another person or organization, you can glean powerful insights to what might work for you and your organization.
- Step 4: DEI Initiatives – Data can help you identify which strategies, that is, activities and actions, are best for you and/or your organization to undertake. Data can also help identify the quantifiable measures that are best for you and/or your organization to determine the effectiveness of those strategies.
- Step 5: DEI Impact – Data can help you evaluate your results including outputs to gauge progress and outcomes to measure impact. This can be captured in a personal and/or organizational scorecard or dashboard with DEI measures, metrics, and key performance indicators (KPIs).
You will then repeat Steps 1 through 5 over and over again because DEI is a journey and not a destination.
To be clear, data is not the end-all and be-all to DEI, nor do I intend to frame it in this way. Data is not the entire DEI puzzle, but it is a very important piece of the puzzle. W. Edwards Deming is frequently and incorrectly quoted with the famous phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Ironically, Deming’s full quote is, “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” According to the W. Edwards Deming Institute, “Dr. Deming did very much believe in the value of using data to help improve the management of the organization. But he also knew that just measuring things and looking at data wasn’t close to enough. There are many things that cannot be measured and still must be managed.” Fortunately, DEI is not one of those things, as you can measure it and manage it, but only with a data-driven approach to DEI.