Demystifying the DEI Statement for Organizations
The DEI statement is a must-have for any diversity equity and inclusion program. In our quest to see what makes an ideal DEI statement, we analyzed 50 DEI statements from organizations in different verticals. We share our findings in this post.
The Nature of the DEI Statement
The DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) statement is a declaration of an organization’s commitment to furthering the three values named in the parentheses. It’s a statement that is usually found in the company’s HR policy and it is put out for the public to see.
There is no right or wrong way to draft the DEI statement. After all, it’s not a token. What’s in the statement has no real bearing on the actual policies and actions of the organization when it comes to ensuring the three aforementioned values.
The statement is becoming popular amongst corporations in multiple different industry verticals. What was once restricted to educational institutions is now becoming common in the corporate world.
But there is still a long way to go when it comes to developing DEI programs. In a survey of 800 HR professionals, three-quarters of them reported that their companies do not consider DEI in leadership development. It is treated less as a business function and more as a compliance requirement.
Thus, when looking at a field that is yet to be fully integrated with the business structure and strategy, the DEI statement may be wrongly perceived as a temporary placeholder. It is not.
It is a living statement that both communicates the company’s stand and informs the vision as it pertains to diversity, equity and inclusion. It is open to be rewritten in light of new goals or findings.
Getting Clarity on the DEI Statement
If the DEI statement is truly a piece of the overall DEI strategy and not a showpiece, there needs to be some serious thought given to drafting such a statement.
It’s best to self-reflect and come to terms with where the company stands today. Subsequently, it helps to imagine the DEI vision for the company, regarding where it wants to be with the program in the future.
But all these things still need to be communicated via the DEI statement. It may be many folks’ first introduction to understanding your company’s attitude and dealings with DEI.
Even after knowing where your company stands on DEI, and what its vision is, there is a style and cadence to the statements that are becoming recognizable to all.
As there is no real guidance on how to craft the perfect DEI statement, we thought we would turn our gaze outwards, and look at some of the most widely recognized companies and their DEI statements.
One can seek inspiration from others, and indeed there are articles out there covering DEI examples from organizations. But rather than simply copying off one statement, it is better to gain a holistic understanding by analyzing multiple statements.
We analyzed 50 DEI statements for this article to bring you some learnings. But first, let’s take a look at the sample and the methodology.
For our sample, we picked out DEI statements from large corporations in multiple consumer-facing industries.
By consumer-facing, we are referring to secondary or tertiary industries, which sell products and services consumers can use. Raw materials (like the energy industry) or products meant for governments (like the defence industry) were thus ruled out.
We looked at consumer-facing industries because the end customer is an important stakeholder that gets prioritized more in secondary and tertiary industries.
We also wanted to restrict our sample for greater internal validity. For a future study, we might consider looking at the primary industry exclusively.
We chose the top 5 revenue generators in 2020 in each industry vertical.
We picked the biggest corporations in terms of revenue because we wanted to examine the best work. Best, not necessarily in terms of quality, because mid-tier and small and medium businesses can produce great DEI statements too. But in terms of using all available resources to craft the statement.
We knew that all of these companies would have invested considerable time and effort into writing their DEI statements. In-house HR leaders, hired consultants and HR agencies would have been a part of the process to come up with statements.
Out of the top 5 revenue generators in each vertical, there were some organizations outside North America for which a DEI statement was not found. In those instances, we simply skipped to the next option in the list until we had met our quota of top 5 revenue generators in that vertical.
This isn’t surprising, however, as DEI has been more of a North American push.
The List of Organizations in our Study
Selecting the DEI Statements
As far as selecting the statements go, we had to use some discernment as there is no official rulebook as to where to find such a statement or how long such a statement should be (though we do get into the length of it in the analysis section).
For each company, we picked the statement or the paragraph that had at least two of the three words of diversity, equity and inclusion. If any statement had all three words, it got the nod over other examples.
The DEI statement did not have a common home for all companies. In some cases, it was found in the featured Google Snippet when we searched for the DEI statement of the said organization. Where a featured snippet did not appear, we had to click on the results to see where such a statement could be found. It was usually found on a dedicated page. If not, it was on the people, careers or jobs page.
We had to be careful to not pick anything other than the statement. Sometimes we stumbled across pages with DEI reports. These were not statements. Similarly, there were bullet points, or separated boxes in the website design that spoke more deeply about each of the three issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Again, such cases were a false match.
What we were looking for was a block of text, that could either just include a tagline, or more than a tagline, such as a subheader and some following sentences, that summarized the company’s stance, attitude and vision on DEI.
Having selected our list of companies and their statements, it was time to analyze.
We used the open-source web-based app called Voyant Tools to perform descriptive text analysis that included topic clustering, and word & phrase frequency distributions.
For topic clustering, we used Principal Component Analysis. It’s a technique used to reduce the dimensions of the data which explains the maximum variability in the data. Topics are then plotted across those dimensions. The clusters of topics help us to understand the different themes in the text.
We fed all 50 DEI statements into the tool. Together they formed the body, or the corpus, of the text that was to be analyzed.
As a reminder, the purpose of this study was exploratory in nature. We do not have a hypothesis to test and hence are not prescribing any one best way to write a DEI statement.
Rather, by looking at the text of existing DEI statements for which no resources were spared, we hoped to gain some insight into their anatomy.
The principal component analysis reduced the text to two dimensions or components. The two components jointly explained almost 60% of the variability of the data. There was a sharp drop off in the percentage of variability of the third component, so it made sense to use two components for better interpretability.
Voyant Tools churned out a scatterplot of topics, showing how they differed along the lines of the two components. The coloured bubbles represent different clusters of topics. The size of the bubble represents the frequency of that topic, with a bigger bubble implying greater frequency.
Principal Component Analysis Scatterplot
Description of the Three Clusters
As our sample was text and not actual variables from a quantitative survey, we had to put our thinking caps on and infer what each coloured cluster of topics represented.
1. In Blue – Inner Workings of The Company
These topics signify the current state of the company. They talk about what makes the company “unique” which informs its DEI policies. They speak to the company’s “culture” regarding DEI, and its stance on “Diversity” and “Inclusion”. This topic takes a very internal position, focusing on “employees” and how DEI policies seep into all aspects of “work”.
2. In Pink – Unified Understanding
These topics emphasize the togetherness of all involved. It takes a more external position, consisting of “people”, “customers” and “communities”. Rather than just stating what the company thinks, it assures “commitment” to DEI causes considering all parties. It is definitely more people-centric than company-centric.
3. In Green – Promise to Improve
These topics take a vision-oriented approach. They signify the company’s intentions to “create” a “better” system that is more “inclusive” and considerate of all “backgrounds”. The idea here is to not explain what the company does for whom, but what it can do better in the future.
The corpus (body of the text consisting of all 50 DEI statements) had 3,982 words in total and 1049 unique words. Out of those unique words, here are the top 20 most frequently used words. Their respective counts are displayed as well.
1. Diversity and inclusion separate them from the rest of the pack. Equity does not feature in the top 20. For those curious, it features 8 times. This difference in frequency shows the larger mind space diversity and inclusion still holds over equity.
2. Just like the “employees” interact with the “customers”, the company interacts with its “community” at the smallest scale, and the “world” at the largest scale. All 5 words are on the list.
3. It shows the value of all types of relationships, both internal and external, and how important the DEI statement is in communicating that message. The words “believe”, “better” and “committed” are also featured heavily. It signals a humble tone. There is an acknowledgment that things can always be done better.
Similar to how we ranked the most commonly occurring words, we did the same for phrases. It gives us further context in understanding the DEI statement. We considered all phrases which appeared at least thrice in the corpus and which consisted of at least three words.
1. All of the companies in our sample size were multinational corporations. Thus the term “around the world” is both used to signify their literal presence of employees, partners and other stakeholders around the world. One of the core tenets in writing a DEI statement is to not leave anyone behind.
2. The “everything we do” phrase is very handy. It signifies that the DEI values of the company are spread uniformly to all activities of the company. It is important to mention this because we know that companies can have many factions and many departments.
But an aligned DEI policy shines bright. The phrase “who we are” also backs this up, as it again reinforces the one true identity of the company, which shapes everything that the company does.
3. The “matter what our” phrase should be preceded by the word “no”, hence “no matter what our”. Due to different capitalizations of the word the letter N, it did not register the same number of counts as “matter what our”.
The phrase “no matter what our” signifies the diversity and inclusivity of all involved. Here are some examples from our text sample. No matter our: level, role, function, backgrounds, experiences, national identities, sexual orientations.
The average number of words per DEI statement was 23. An ideal length of below 100 words is recommended for the DEI statement. After all, it’s a statement, not a manifesto. Every word is supposed to pack a punch. But a larger DEI statement can have multiple paragraphs. The US Chamber of Commerce says that the DEI statement should not be longer than a page.
Writing the Ideal DEI Statement
It’s important to restate that the DEI statement is not a report. Nor is it an initiative of sorts. Those items are just as heavily promoted in some of the organizations’ websites in our sample. They are part and parcel of DEI best practices.
Reports should be written to identify the current internal feelings and attitudes towards such issues. The diversity survey is an excellent first step towards such a report. Similarly, initiatives taken to improve DEI scores can also be proclaimed both inside and outside the organization.
The DEI statement is different in that it boils the ocean of DEI as it relates to that company and attempts to convey its stance with a few sentences or paragraphs. From our findings, we can say that your DEI statement should talk about three things.
1. The Organization Itself (including all employees)
2. All its external partners (including communities which it can hire from or partner with)
3. Goals for the future (it’s ok to acknowledge current limitations, but only if assurance is given as to what is being done to fix it)
Furthermore, if you mention one unique thing about your company in the DEI statement, you should also mention how that thing informs all other aspects of your company as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion. It will be the glue to your DEI program, holding together diversity by assimilating all different viewpoints.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, making your statement authentic to your organization and your intention around the important work of DEI is essential for the successful actioning of your initiatives and remaining accountable.
Mentions of equity are lagging behind diversity and inclusion. If you could incorporate equity into your statement, it will hammer home the fact that equal opportunities are available for all to succeed.
Use 1st person and positive language. Most DEI statements from our sample did the same. Although to give an official verdict on the actual level of positivity, an actual text sentiment analysis has to be done. But for what passes the eye, the overall tone of all statements was upbeat and positive.
While some instances of third-person language (for example: “Company X believes”) were in the DEI statements, the majority of sentences in the statement were in the first person (for example: “we believe”).
Bonus: What Not to Do
According to Harvard Business Review, DEI statements should not emphasize economic payoffs. The inclination to do it might be understandable. There is a business case to be made for greater diversity. But the DEI statement is not the place for it.
Writing the Ideal DEI Statement
We hope you found this article useful in demystifying the DEI statement. At the end of the day, it is a very small piece of a large DEI program, but nevertheless, an important one. In a survey by Glassdoor, 76% of employees and job seekers indicate their preference to work for a company with a diverse workforce. The DEI statement will be many people’s first introduction to your HR policies. So, it’s best to write the most accurate statement right out of the gates.
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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