Why DEI is effectively useless without inclusion (+ Case Study)

Your company has gone through diversity training. You’ve given diversity quotas to your hiring committee. You have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. DEI work complete — right? 

Not so fast. Implementing DEI at your company is more than checking off a few boxes. If you want to make a real impact, you need to evaluate the current state of DEI initiatives and metrics, create an action plan, and implement it. Then, re-evaluate and do it all over again.

What is DEI? 

Before we go deeper into examples of DEI initiatives and things to look out for, let’s get on the same page about what DEI is: 

  • diversity: having people with differences, including gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, ability, and age, to provide varied perspectives and ideas 
  • equity: treating individuals fairly and eliminating barriers to access so everyone has the opportunity to contribute 
  • inclusion: ensuring people are not only included but also feel valued for their ideas; creating a sense of belonging 

DEI has three distinct parts that interconnect, so much so that if you remove one of them, the other two don’t have as much of an impact. 

Case Study: Diversity Without Inclusion in Canada’s Private Capital Firms 

In February, the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) released its State of Diversity & Inclusion 2021 report. At first glance, it seems like DEI in this sector is trending up: 

  • the number of women partners in venture capital firms increased by 8.4% from 2019 
  • the percentage of partners in private capital firms who identify as LGBTQ+ is higher than that of the broader financial sector 
  • the number of Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) managers at private capital firms increased to 30% from 2019 

Take a closer look, however, and cracks in the data appear: 

  • women partners in venture capital firms are six times more likely to report harassment or feel that their opinions are not heard or valued compared to their heterosexual male counterparts 
  • LGBTQ+ representation at the non-management level is far below the average for the overall financial sector, indicating discomfort with being “out” at work 
  • all underrepresented groups report facing bias from those at the partner level and feel that leadership isn’t invested in their growth or development 

These last three points show that while diversity in this sector is improving, inclusion isn’t a priority. Even though more groups are being given a seat at the table, they aren’t being nurtured, heard, or encouraged. 

3 diverse women at a work desk looking slightly worried.

Women partners at venture capital firms are 3.5 times more likely to feel that no one is invested in their career growth. 

After analyzing the data, CVCA had three recommendations for the Canadian private capital sector: align company representation levels with that of the wider population, create Diversity & Inclusion goals, and meaningfully address the challenges of creating an inclusive culture, fair management, and equitable career development.

You might be wondering why inclusion is even that important — isn’t diversity enough? The problem is that without inclusion, you have a group of diverse people sitting together, but only those who belong to the dominant group feel comfortable speaking. Diverse teams perform better and are more innovative than teams that aren’t diverse, but that’s only true when everyone’s perspectives are included and valued.

Harvard Business Review puts it this way: “it is inclusion that unlocks the potentialin a diverse workforce.” 

How to Measure Workplace Inclusion 

It’s easy to say that inclusion needs to be prioritized. It’s more challenging to recognize what it looks like in practice so you can accurately judge where your organization stands regarding DEI. 

Different workplaces and companies measure inclusion differently. CVCA developed metrics to measure inclusion in its study of private capital firms. Here, we’ll outline the dimensions of the Gartner Inclusion Index established in 2021 to assess inclusion: 

  • Fair treatment: any employee who helps the organization reach its strategic objectives is rewarded and recognized fairly 
  • Integrating differences: employees respect and value each other’s opinions 
  • Decision-making: team members fairly consider ideas and suggestions offered by others 
  • Psychological safety: every employee is welcome to express their true feelings at work 
  • Trust: communication from the organization is honest and open 
  • Belonging: people at the organization care about each other 
  • Diversity: management is as diverse as the broader workforce 

You won’t learn how your organization ranks in these dimensions without some work. Short employee surveys sent out regularly can help you keep a pulse on these issues and bring your attention to problem departments or changes in trends. 

To truly gauge the inclusivity of your company, however, you need to speak to people. Organize focus groups around inclusion for different departments, including those that might already be inclusive. Learn what works and what doesn’t for your organization in practice. 

Develop DEI goals and initiatives from your learnings and implement regular reviews to ensure you’re staying on track. Organizations that keep track of DEI goals and are held accountable are 20% more inclusive than those that don’t.

Receiving feedback from employees is a significant part of DEI initiatives, but it’s critical to create a safe space to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. Ensure that management and Human Resources are trained to address these concerns fairly and that whistleblower employees are protected. 

7 Ways to Make Meetings Inclusive 

While the best practice is to base your changes on employee feedback and your organization’s specific needs, there are some ways you can use the Gartner Inclusion Index to improve processes at your organization. 

To get you started, here are some ways you can improve inclusion in team meetings according to the seven dimensions listed above: 

  • Fair treatment: Ensure all members who worked on a project are recognized for their work 
  • Integrating differences: Give each person space to speak and be heard without interruption 
  • Decision-making: If some employees are attending via video call, make sure they have the chance to contribute and voice their opinions 
  • Psychological safety: Encourage team members to voice constructive criticisms and share their perspectives on new ideas 
  • Trust: Be conscious of your communication style; don’t discount others’ ideas or speak in a condescending manner 
  • Belonging: Send meeting materials in advance so that those with accessibility needs have time to go over the material and prepare 
  • Diversity: If you rotate who leads meetings, allow everyone to do so to promote a diverse range of ideas and communication styles 

Embed DEI throughout your company, from hiring to events and projects. If diversity makes sure that your hiring manager is buying into DEI, then inclusion is ensuring management and leadership buy into it. Hiring diverse employees is a start, but inclusion begins by encouraging them and giving them the chance to flourish. 

You can use Knockri’s virtual interview assessments for more than hiring. The same principles of evaluating potential employees based on skills and behaviors also apply to internal promotion and succession planning. Learn more about how we use AI in our platform in our online webinar. Hear Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Dave Mayers, Ph.D. speak about the theory behind AI in hiring and how it can be leveraged for your recruitment process.

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