How to Tell if Companies Actually Care about Diversity & Inclusion
Last month WIRED published the piece, “Five Years of Tech Diversity Reports — and Little Progress,” in which they critique big tech’s ongoing reporting around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) but dismaying lack of progress. It’s true that tech mega-giants such as Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, among others, have released diversity and inclusion data annually with little improvement to share. However, as this article and others like it make the rounds, the subtext is that DEI measurement is useless. The article dangerously insinuates that because tech’s largest companies haven’t figured out DEI, progress is impossible, and that measurement is some publicity gimmick. Despite Silicon Valley’s challenges, decades of research prove that this could not be further from the truth.
In reality, collecting data on your company is not only good practice — tracking diversity, equity, and inclusion is likely the most fundamental first step to effectively become a genuinely diverse and fair workplace. How do we know this? First, we know that managers and organizations act equitably if they know they’ll be held accountable for their actions (Castila 2016; Lerner & Tetlock 1999). In other words, when managers and employees know you care enough about inclusion and equity to track it, studies show that those individuals start to self-correct. Committing to measurement sends a public signal to those within your organization that fairness and implicit biases will be addressed. We naturally make corrections when we know we’re being evaluated. Evaluation is not to be confused with “being watched,” but rather a voluntary self-assessment process to better understand the make-up of your organization. It is in this way that measurement can be a powerful force for change, for those who seek it and need it most.
Another challenge that measurement addresses are that most organizations think they’re fairer, more diverse, and more inclusive than they actually are. It can sometimes be a sobering reality check, but data helps organizations understand where they really have room to improve. Do you believe that your company leads the industry in diversity and fairness? Maybe, but you need feedback from your employees about their work experience to know this for certain. Among other metrics, you also need data that compares the salaries of male and female employees in similar positions to observe any sneaky biases. In short, a company isn’t truly committed to diversity and inclusion unless it’s ready to really see the full picture of its strengths and weaknesses. The only way you can do that is with data.
Finally, getting a baseline on current levels of diversity, equity, and inclusion allow organizations to set measurable and meaningful goals — for their own benefit. There is now plenty of data that shows the advantages of a diverse and inclusive team. Intentionally inclusive companies are more creative, earn more money, and get more productivity from their employees. But organizations will never reap these benefits unless they take strategic action and set realistic goals to better their company culture. Just like any other portion of your business, setting goals and measuring progress should be standard practice when it comes to your organization’s people strategy. Bottom line: want to reap the benefits of inclusion? Realistic goals and plans of action can’t be set without knowing your starting point.
PledgeLA is proud that data and measurement are central tenets of our philosophy. For the last 18 months, I’ve supported this effort led by the Annenberg Foundation and the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti as an expert on racial inequality. Today, PledgeLA is a coalition of almost 200 tech companies and venture capital firms who believe that improvement happens when organizations are not afraid to hold themselves accountable. Our goal is to truly reflect the diversity and creativity of Los Angeles in our growing tech sector, so that we can leverage access and opportunity for all Angelenos. This year, we’ve partnered with Pluto, an incredible online platform that equips companies with the analytics and communication tools they need to build a diverse, inclusive and equitable organization. Because of the centrality of evaluation to our mission, PledgeLA is offering a Pluto subscription, free of charge to all our members. We believe that in order to make LA the most diverse and inclusive tech hub in the nation, our member companies need the tools to see where they are right now and to determine where they’re going. Measurement alone doesn’t solve the huge challenges ahead — committed companies will face some challenging conversations and maybe even failure. Still, tracking DEI, at least as a first step, is the only way a company can ever legitimately commit to real inclusion.
To get involved or for more information check out the PledgeLA website.