Connection Point October Diversity
ATD Blog

DEI: Why Companies Are Taking the Lead in Driving Social Change

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Companies in the private sector have long championed business interests as parts of their culture and identity. Valuing innovation, performance, or service as company-mandated principles are the usual themes you would expect a business to deem strategically important. Championing business principles is integral to hiring practices, training, and the resources that companies regularly invest in because it adds value to the company, differentiates them, and creates a competitive advantage in the market.

But times are changing for the better. We live in a time when companies are looking beyond business interests and taking the mantle of driving social issues like sustainability and more overtly promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Aside from being the ethical course to take, doing so is good for business.

Businesses benefit from DEI by getting more innovation and ingenuity from employees with various experiences and backgrounds. These businesses are more adaptable during a crisis and when capitalizing on opportunities.

Supporting DEI brings in skills that open companies to new markets. Being a diverse business attracts diverse talent and allows people to feel comfortable. Employees who feel comfortable with who they are and know the quality of their work is the only thing they are judged for are more productive, which can improve retention. An organization that is diverse opens itself up to a more diverse customer base because those customers can identify with the company.

When all that is put together, you are also going to see more profitable results on your bottom line. A short case study from BASF says companies are smarter, stronger, more capable, and better because DEI DEI initiatives promote new ways for businesses to look at issues, encourage stronger communication, and nurture a more positive work environment. Findings from the McKinsey & Company report Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters provide further support:


Our latest analysis reaffirms the strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership—and shows that this business case continues to strengthen. The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability. Our 2019 analysis finds that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014.

OverDrive Professional supports more than 500 private companies, government agencies, and organizations that use our digital library platform as a key learning and development resource to support strategic initiatives and organizational culture and values. We see the shift in how DEI has become a critical issue for our partners based on the types of books that are purchased and the increase in use. Since 2018, circulations (circs) of titles related to DEI and social justice have had above-average growth. That demand then exploded with the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

  • 2018 = 18 percent
  • 2019 = +39 percent
  • 2020 = +141 percent
  • YTD in 2021 = 54 percent

OverDrive DEI Figure.png
After 141 percent growth in 2020, sustained growth is still pacing at 54 percent in 2021. More than 40 percent of OverDrive’s corporate partners either have dedicated DEI collections or prominently feature those titles on their company’s digital library’s home page.

Lauren Winn, team leader and learning and development professional from the Rock Central family of companies, summarized why DEI is the socially responsible thing to do as well as the fiscally smart path for companies to follow:

DEI and the sense of belonging are tied to profitability and the ability to go from good to great. No one can say they have their company’s best interests in mind if they allow the company to act in an exclusionary manner. Bringing diverse people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, they are bringing in innovation, they are bringing different ways of thinking about the work that we do and the ways to bring that work from good to great. Companies have to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment, enabling the psychological safety so employees can bring their awesome ideas and different ways of thinking that lead to amazing products and profitability and margin. When we all as leaders and team members understand that, then we are on our way to having a better and more inclusive work environment.

About the Author

Steven Rosato is a business development executive and general manager of OverDrive Professional, the leading reading platform for academic, corporate, and special libraries. Prior to joining OverDrive in 2016, Rosato was the event director of BookExpo America, spending 20 years as an executive with Reed Exhibitions. He worked extensively with senior government officials and publishing luminaries from China, Russia, Poland, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the Middle East while running BEA’s Global Market Forum program. Rosato is a graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University with a degree in Business Management

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