Over the past few years, the private sector has begun to react to increasing pressures and demands to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DE+I). It is no longer acceptable to have some external initiatives for show, but imperative to truly embed DE+I into the company culture. As businesses continue to build priorities for DE+I internally and across all stakeholder groups, the definition of inclusivity will continue to evolve and broaden.
Societal changes and norms can have various implications for DE+I progress, thus making a clear plan and vision imperative. Conversations and actions surrounding cognitive and neurodiversity, along with gender identity and expression, will be crucial moving forward. Additionally, key stakeholders have experienced both positive and negative impacts from the transition to remote work. Over a year in, hidden challenges and inequities associated with the virtual/digital environment have come to light and must be addressed. Lastly, the acceleration of a societal reliance on technology has sparked technological innovation that has the potential to both deepen and minimize existing inequalities.
2022 DE+I Trends
We’ve highlighted the top 5 DE+I trends for 2022. To view all 5, download the full report here.
Trend 1: Increase in tangible actions and planning surrounding DE+I
While it has become commonplace for business leaders to prioritize DE+I internally, the perceptions of progress across the corporate hierarchy and the public vary. It is imperative that business leaders adopt a clear, consistent, and customized vision for DE+I across all parts of the organization. Additionally, an actionable plan for accountability must be drawn out and communicated to all stakeholders, including employees and consumers.
Researchers have gathered trends and patterns for guidance on how to set and measure goals. However, measuring DE+I progress has proven to be difficult, and many companies struggle to communicate with a wide number of stakeholders. Tracking inclusion has also been difficult because it requires consistent employee sentiment to be considered and analyzed. One of the most useful methods thus far has been gathering and benchmarking employee feedback.
Many businesses have difficulty making positive, forward strides due to their fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. Increasing internal accountability and transparency can help companies better communicate and resonate with stakeholders. One way businesses can incentivize commitment is through linking executive pay to DE+I goals. Additionally, companies should focus on establishing external collaborations, such as brokering partnerships and leaning on third-party consultancy, which can be mutually beneficial for companies looking to make an impact but don’t know where to start as well as amplifying the work of their partners.
An example of a meaningful partnership that has formed is Target’s collaboration with Revolt, a hip-hop focused media network, as a part of its DE+I initiatives. ‘Bet on Black’ is a new pitch competition that highlights 12 Black-owned startups. Target is providing $500,000 in funding for the startups and allowing each company to retain full ownership and control of their business. Each finalist will receive one-on-one mentorship meetings with a Target executive.
Partnerships have the potential to advance equity in society, not solely within one company. All companies should have a common goal when discussing DE+I and helping others can only expand benefits.
Trend 2: Equity in remote and hybrid working
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many to remain in their homes, away from busy workplaces and far from face-to-face social interaction – this has also forced employers to reimagine what equity and inclusion looks like in a virtual world. While the shift to remote work brought some new opportunities for DE+I, they also come with challenges for ensuring equity.
Remote working has shown accessibility benefits for those who work in expensive cities and/or have circumstances that prevent them from getting to a physical workspace, but it has also uncovered hidden inequities that have become a huge barrier to success in the remote environment. For women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups, finding a sense of belonging in an office environment can be difficult, and remote work is often a more comfortable alternative. This is because remote work hides many of the nuances that exist in the workplace, including reducing the need to account for coworkers’ microaggressions, codeswitching, or mitigating others’ unconscious biases on their behalf. Further, mishandling the transition to a hybrid and virtual work environment may deepen social inequalities and risk disrupting companies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Typically, a labor market has been confined to the city in which a company is located. The pandemic decoupled physical office locations with a viable workforce, allowing firms to bring in talent from all over the country, and even the world. While there are plentiful benefits of this, pitfalls exist. Many jobs can’t be done from home, and those who ask for remote work may be stereotyped. Additionally, many entry-level or lower paid employees are being forced back into the office before their counterparts in leadership positions. While it is already more common for women and people of color to experience imposter syndrome at work, remote work can exacerbate the issue further. Staying home has been associated with reduced rates of promotion, which could prevent specific groups from advancing. This location-based bias therefore impedes flexibility and can create tension surrounding salaries. Already, reports anticipate that Google employees who choose to work remote permanently could face a 15-25% salary reduction.
All in all, remote work as a platform for accessibility will not inherently promote diversity; rather, business leaders must intentionally reinforce the qualities of the virtual workplace that encourage equity and build a culture around what DE+I mean to their company when it comes to remote or hybrid work. For example, to mitigate the biases associated with parents, businesses can limit meeting times to between 10 am and 2 pm, when children will be at school and distractions minimized. Organizations will have to adjust to different standards and requirements to meet the changing needs of employees; it is up to leadership in organizations to shape the culture and ensure that it is inclusive and equitable. Continue reading by downloading the full report below, and learn more about our DE+I Consulting Services here.
Read last year’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Trends Report here.
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Contributions by Alexandra Hatsios