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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks

Where Companies Miss the Mark and Why

No two companies share the exact same traits be it their line of business, corporate culture or workforce makeup. And it’s that employee composition that matters most when looking at diversity and sentiments around equity and inclusion. Organizations are diverse entities themselves, comprised of different departments and different divisions. Some operate from a variety of geographic locations (more so now than ever because of remote work). Every team, each individual member and the people who lead them, are as singularly unique as snowflakes or footprints in the sand. It’s that very diversity that brings into question the validity of organization-to-organization Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks. Yet you’ll find the Internet rampant with suggestions of doing exactly that when where you really need to look is under your own roof.

There are two underlying reasons why external Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks are flawed.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks- workplace culture

Diversity Differences

First, it’s very difficult to benchmark against other companies when your diversity differences are so many.

Credible analysis really needs to be specific to the makeup of the communities where your company or divisions are found. Take Silicon Valley ethnicity indicators for instance.

In 2018 population demographics were as follows:

White 33%

Asian 34.8%

Latinx 25%

Black 2.3%

Multiple/Other 4.8%

 

At the beginning of 2019, a look at employee diversity at Silicon Valley’s 10 Big Techs ranged from:

White 38.9 – 54%

Asian 15 – 42%

Latinx 4.9 – 17%

Black 3.3 – 24.5%

Multiple/Other  – n/a

 

The tech giants highlighted in the 2019 TechCrunch report can look at their diversity numbers in the context of the others, but a comparison only tells them where their numbers differ. And frankly, they’re all over the map.

A comparison doesn’t indicate if employee populations represent the people served or the places where operations are located. Diversity numbers need to be compared with relevant population demographics. In the case of these 10 tech behemoths, that means looking at employee makeup for each of their facilities worldwide.

External benchmarks don’t indicate if there’s a potential recruiting and hiring bias that needs to be addressed across or in pockets of the company. They don’t tell if promotion and retention numbers vary from one marginalized group to another.

Scientifically constructed Diversity questions like those built into WorkTango’s DEI methodology, pull out the feedback needed to give you these insights.

When your DEI survey results are in, rather than ask to see how you compare to others:

  • Look at the makeup of your own employee populations.
  • Establish a baseline for internal comparative benchmarks going forward.
    • If DEI is a recent corporate-wide endeavor and baseline data is limited at best, sometimes divisions within your organization may already have those kinds of stats on hand which can be used as a springboard benchmark, a good starting point.
  • Collect data using tools that present organization-wide findings and can be broken down into regional and operational divisions, by activities, or even by manager and team (provided the number of employees on a team meet minimum confidentiality requirements).
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks- internal benchmarks

Sentiment Sensitivities

The second reason why external benchmark comparisons don’t apply to DEI analysis is the sentiment factor.

How people reply to Equity and Inclusion questions is influenced by their perceptions of the workplace environment and the influence of conscious and unconscious biases. It’s about the lived employee experience. Again, no two organizations share the same characteristics. There’s no apples-to-apples comparative. The true story is internal.

Where things get mucky is if you zero in on aggregate findings. Overall sentiment scores are misleading if you have a predominant gender or ethnic group whose collective voices drown out the rest of the organization.

The story you get when looking at overarching scores (the numbers that tend to make up external sentiment benchmarks) is skewed to the experiences of the majority. Therefore, if the majority of your population are white men between the ages of 25 and 44, your equity and inclusion results will mirror the implicit bias of this group.  Where does that leave women? People of colour? Older or younger employees? And so on.

As an example, 2020 tech industry DEI stats reported by Techjury.net indicate 63% of men consider their workplaces gender diverse while only 47% of women share these sentiments.

Sentiment comparisons reveal critical insights when you look at the scores coming from your marginalized groups. How they feel about career growth, the support of their direct managers, the support of their colleagues, the support of their company at large. And most importantly, why. That’s where your real DEI story lives.

WorkTango’s 2021 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Guide paints a comprehensive DEI landscape, shares the kinds of questions you need to ask to create a credible baseline and monitor progress, and spells out a framework to help your organization achieve DEI goals.

Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity describes implicit bias as

the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner:

  • Implicit biases are pervasive.  Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup.

Additional Resources

Check out our guides on workplace culture, employee engagement, and employee surveys. Learn about every aspect of a successful employee voice initiative!

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