August 2023
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TD Magazine

Don't Disregard DEI, Despite Slow Progress

Monday, July 31, 2023

Efforts to instill DEI since 2020 are failing—but can they make a comeback?

After George Floyd's murder in May 2020, many businesses boosted their investments in workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion. But where are US businesses more than three years later? Have the companies that made public commitments to embrace more inclusive and equitable practices seen results?


According to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report 2023, part of DDI's Global Leadership Forecast series, many organizations are not making the headway they hoped for. In fact, compared to DDI's 2020 survey, the data reveals an average 18 percent decrease in the number of leaders that endorse their company's overall efforts around DEI.

"Across the board, leaders are less optimistic about their organization's progress in key DEI practices than they were two years earlier," DDI notes in the 2023 report. "Even though most companies have established DEI as a core value, top company leaders may still question whether DEI programs truly move the needle."

That analysis concurs with a report released earlier this year from WebMD Health Services, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging: Uncovering What Employees Are Offered, Want and Need, which found that 62 percent of workers surveyed said their organizations' DEI programs aren't effective. Moreover, according to WebMD's online survey of 2,000 adults working full time in the US for companies with 2,500 or more employees, 46 percent said DEI programs have failed.


Despite those troubling figures, now is not the time for employers to overlook DEI's potential to improve the workplace.

DDI's survey of nearly 13,700 leaders and more than 1,800 HR executives worldwide found that when organizations invest in DEI, they have a stronger leadership pipeline. For instance, data shows that companies with high-quality DEI programs are 1.9 times more likely to say that their leaders represent diverse demographic backgrounds. Respondents from those companies report a significantly higher percentage of female leaders at every level and nearly double the amount of leaders from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds.

More importantly, organizations with high-quality DEI programs were 1.7 times more likely to say they recruit and promote from a diverse candidate pool, and they have nearly triple the rate of minority leaders in their high-potential programs. Finally, leaders at companies with strong DEI programs are 1.8 times more likely to say that including different perspectives is a strong component of their culture and values.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected]

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