DEI in the Workplace—We Could Do Better
Product hype and social media buzz can only give you so much traction with today's DE&I savvy consumer. Consumers are looking for more than just talk when it comes to DE&I—they're looking for action and results from the brands they support. In fact, 71% of consumers prefer to buy from companies aligned with their values. That's why diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) policies are becoming a top priority for leading brands.
DE&I is mission critical, more than ever, to ensure the success of your business. It has been shown to correlate directly with increased innovation and better financial outcomes. But DE&I isn't just for the "woke" brands. Diversity should be a priority for any organization that wants to earn consumer trust and stay competitive, but it's not always easy to get DE&I right. Even organizations that support DE&I efforts, still miss the mark. A recent Women in the Workplace Report from Lean In shows that while almost 70% of companies report that the work employees do to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion is very or extremely critical, less than a quarter of companies are recognizing this work to a substantial extent in formal evaluations like performance reviews.
But there are organizations that manage to make an impact, and we've put together a list of five companies that have DE&I baked into their organizational culture. They're seeing the benefits in everything from employee retention to consumer engagement. Hang onto your seats—it's time to get inspired.
We can't dive deep into a conversation about DE&I without first defining it. As we mentioned, DE&I stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Diversity is about representation, equity is about fairness and opportunity, and inclusion is about creating a sense of belonging.
What does DE&I mean for a company?
Ultimately, DE&I is about creating an environment where everyone, from the C-suite to customers and everyone in between, feels like they belong, are heard, and can be recognized and treated equitably. It encompasses everything from how a company recruits employees to how it markets its products.
DE&I champs know that success is about the impact they have on their communities. These organizations live and breathe DE&I, and it's reflected in everything they do. A company that's DE&I-friendly will not only have strategies in place to support it, but it will also enforce a culture that values diversity. You can usually tell if a brand is a DE&I defender by looking at things like their recruitment practices, employee resource groups, consumer marketing campaigns, and company leadership. If you’re wondering what to look for in a brand that’s a DE&I rockstar, ask these types of questions.
Do customers feel represented and included in the company's marketing?
Are all employees given the same opportunities for advancement, or are there disparities based on race or gender?
Does the company have a DE&I committee or task force? Is the brand transparent about its DE&I initiatives?
If DE&I is essential to a brand, it will be evident in everything they do.
Aside from the fact that it's the right thing to do, DE&I is also really good for business. A study by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. At Rebel, we've discussed before the compelling advantages of diverse teams in the workplace. Diverse workplace teams tend to be more innovative because they bring together people with different perspectives and experiences. Diversity also helps companies attract and retain top talent. In a study by Glassdoor, 76% of job seekers said that diversity is an important factor when considering job offers.
But, these stats don’t mean investing in DE&I is isolated to the workplace—no, DE&I is important to customers too. In a recent survey, two out of three American consumers said their social values now shape their shopping choices. More consumers are attracted to brands that have inclusive policies and practices. And, consumers are drawn to companies that deliver diverse advertising.
Trust is earned when brands reflect the world consumers live in through diversity and inclusion efforts. A study by Ipsos/Google found that 64% of consumers are likely to make an immediate purchase after seeing an inclusive ad. There's also an adverse effect for brands that are perceived as non-inclusive. The same research showed that 34% of U.S. adults reported they either temporarily or permanently stopped supporting brands that they felt did not represent them.
Companies that get DE&I right see the benefits in everything from employee morale to consumer engagement. So, here are five businesses winning at DE&I.
RingCentral is racking up awards when it comes to DE&I. Rated as the top company for diversity in 2021 by Comparably and Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality in 2019 by Human Rights Watch, RingCentral, a leading cloud-based communications company, has put DE&I at the forefront of its business practices.
The work we're doing now is broadening people's understanding of what's traditionally occurred, particularly for marginalized groups such as Latinx, African Americans, women, and LGBTQ. At the same time, it's broadening their vision of success to one that is more inclusive of those people groups.
—Danita Oliver, Sr. Global Diversity Equity & Inclusion Leader for RingCentral
RingCentral leadership is committed to diversity, championing DE&I initiatives throughout the company, and spearheading a cultural shift at the executive level. DE&I is also a key pillar of RingCentral's recruiting efforts—they've even created an entire DE&I team that works alongside the talent acquisition group to find diverse candidates. As an innovative tech company, they've put that talent to work in their DE&I strategies, launching an augmented writing platform (Textio) to help reduce unconscious bias in job descriptions and expanding brand campaigns to appeal to women and underrepresented audiences.
What's the result of their DE&I focus? While it's not all about the rewards, they've won quite a few, including, Top CEO for Diversity and Top CEO for Women awards by Comparably, but they've also continued to grow as a company. Reports in 2022 show total revenue have increased 33% year over year and continued success with large enterprise customers.
The corporate tech industry is infamous for its lack of diversity. Despite the growth of STEM jobs in the U.S., Black employees make up only 8% of the tech workforce, and women only account for 25% of all computing roles, not to mention the abysmal numbers for other underrepresented groups in tech.
Asana, a leading project management platform, is a shining example of how DE&I can be done well in the tech industry. Led by head of diversity and inclusion Sonja Gittens Ottley, Asana prioritizes building a talent pipeline guided by employee voices and increasing diversity. When Gitten Ottley joined Asana in 2015 to serve as the company's first head of diversity and inclusion, she joined only two other Black employees at the company of 200 people. Under her leadership, Asana has made DE&I a top priority, and the company has seen impressive results. Today, Asana boasts over 1,000 employees, with 4% Black, 46% white, 30% Asian, 5% Latinx, and 5% of two or more races, with another 11% of Asana's employees identifying as either Pacific Islander or Middle-Eastern. They've also won recent awards from Comparably, such as Best Company for Women, Best CEO, and Best Company Culture.
What's Asana's secret?
Well, first, it's leadership buy-in. "Knowing the commitment we have to doing this well is not just from Dustin, our CEO," Gittens Ottley states, "He's vocal, and a real participant in this work, but so are so many of the other leaders." But also, it's about making ongoing changes in how they operate as a company. Such as reviewing pay to ensure there are no statistically significant disparities and supporting ongoing allyship workshops for employees. DE&I isn't a one-and-done initiative at Asana—it's an ongoing journey that requires continuous reflection, evaluation, and action.
Well, they put their money where their mouth is. Mastercard pledged to move the needle toward greater equity and inclusion—and they delivered on it. From inclusive hiring strategies, such as partnering with HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to fill talent gaps, to launching a companywide initiative called In Solidarity with a $500 million commitment toward closing the racial wealth and opportunity gap. Mastercard isn't just focused on DE&I for good PR. They understand these programs are worth their investment to foster diverse thinking and team diversity because their consumers are also diverse.
For over half a century Levi Strauss has promoted racial equality. In the 1950s, they desegregated factories in the South, and since then, the Levi Strauss Foundation has donated over $47 million to social justice and equality causes. But in 2020, the aftermath of George Floyd's death led them to realize that they weren't doing enough for their employees.
Guided by its desire to have the racial profile of its corporate employees match that of the U.S. population, Levi Strauss launched a diversity plan. It includes owning up to their own DE&I shortcomings, a comprehensive report of their corporate DE&I stats, and setting diversity goals to increase the number of racially diverse employees at Levi Strauss (including leadership).
Consumers today demand increased transparency and honesty from companies about their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. What's unique about Levi Strauss is that DE&I isn't an initiative for them—it's a business imperative. They understand that to have a successful business and attract consumers, they need DE&I to be woven into the fabric of everything they do as a company.
So, what does DE&I mean for your brand? In a word—everything. Diversity and inclusion are no longer nice to haves—they're requirements for businesses that want to stay competitive in the global marketplace. Our workforce is diversifying, and consumers are increasingly interested in supporting brands that reflect their values. DE&I isn’t a trend—it’s the new normal.
If you want to tap into the best talent out there, create products and services that appeal to a wide range of customers and be seen as a brand that’s forward-thinking, then you need to embrace DE&I.
At Rebel, we understand that DE&I can feel like a daunting task with no clear starting point. Let us help you create an inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive. Ready to chat? We'd love to help you forge new connections with your customers and employees. Let's talk.