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June 2020
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TD Magazine

A Long Road Ahead for D&I

While organizations are making progress, equality for people of color is still lacking.

Mercer's Let's Get Real About Equality: When Women Thrive 2020 Global Report contains good news. Consider, for example, that 81 percent of responding companies said improving diversity and inclusion is high on their agendas. And 66 percent indicated their senior executives are involved in D&I. Finally, 72 percent of businesses are conducting pay-equity analyses.

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However, D&I is hardly an open-and-shut case. And that is pronounced when it comes to race and ethnicity, especially women of color. As the report states, "The most dramatic decrease in representation is among Black/African American employees who make up 12% of support staff positions, but only 2% of executive level positions." This is an area ripe for opportunity. But it's going to take more than organizations saying they are committed to racial and ethnic equality.

Here are some stark statistics: A mere 13 percent of respondents said they have programs specifically targeted for women of color, just 23 percent of companies said they review their performance ratings by race or ethnicity to check for any negative effects, and the same percentage of organizations relayed that they have high-potential programs for people of color.

In introducing the report, Mercer President and CEO Martine Ferland emphasizes that "Policies, processes and programs need to be aligned and connected to eliminate bias—especially the unconscious bias that leads people to hire and develop people who look, talk and think like they themselves do."

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The research was conducted in conjunction with EDGE Certified Foundation from September through November 2019. It covered 54 countries and 1,157 organizations, considering topics such as engagement, accountability, and leadership; pay equity; financial well-being, health, and caregiving; and talent practices and career development.

Boston Consulting Group says that while business leaders now understand the importance of D&I, many underestimate the challenges. In the article "Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity," Matt Krentz and co-authors write, "They launch programs that they think will yield improvements, but their decisions are based on gut instinct rather than proven results. Unless they acknowledge their blind spots, these leaders won't make meaningful progress."

BCG recommends informal discussions among small groups of employees about biases and cultural issues, implementation of clear criteria about employee evaluations and promotion decisions, formal sponsorship for individuals of color, and individual road maps for advancement. It's critical, the consulting company continues, to include and gain buy-in from frontline leaders—an employee's day-to-day experience is where the rubber meets the road.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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