Employers should be vocal about efforts to create more equitable workplaces: global survey

1 in 4 workers say senior leaders never or rarely engage in discussions about diversity

Employers should be vocal about efforts to create more equitable workplaces: global survey

Employees are eager for their organizations to be active in discussions when it comes to diversity in the workplace, finds a recent report from Catalyst.

Currently, 76% of employees agree that organizations should take strides to ensure that the workplace is diverse and inclusive of all employees.

And 93% say that it’s at least somewhat important for their organization to be vocal about its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.

However, 24% of workers say their organization’s senior leaders never or rarely engage in discussions about diversity.

“Messaging about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) matters now more than ever,” says Julie Cafley, executive director, Catalyst Canada. “The way leaders frame a workplace’s commitment to diversity to employees is critical because of challenges to DEI policies around the world, and clear messaging signals priorities within a company.”

Nearly three in four finance professionals worldwide consider diversity and inclusion as major factors in choosing their next employer, according to a previous survey from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

How can companies implement DEI?

When it comes to approaching DEI, 48% of workers want their employers to take a two-rationale approach, according to Catalyst’s survey of 6,800 employees in 11 countries, including Canada.

They want their companies to take both the business case – which justifies diversity initiatives by emphasizing how workplace diversity impacts the organization’s bottom line or profits – and the fairness case – which justifies diversity initiatives by emphasizing how workplace diversity is the socially good and morally right thing to do.

Nearly four in 10 (37%) want employers to take the fairness case alone while 15% prefer the business case.

However, the fairness case seems to provide a lot of positives that the business case just does not provide. When employers take the business case approach to DEI: 

  • Women are more than twice likely to be on guard to bias due to their gender.
  • Employees from marginalized or ethnic groups are more than twice likely to be on guard to bias due to their race or ethnicity.
  • LGBTQ+ employees are more than twice likely to be on guard to bias due to their sexual orientation.
  • Employees with a disability are more than twice likely to be on guard to bias due to their disability.

Meanwhile, when organizations emphasize a fairness rationale to justify their diversity efforts over a business rationale, employees are more likely to:

  • experience inclusion
  • say their organization is fair
  • intend to stay in their organization

Currently, 76% of companies use both cases for their DEI efforts, compared to just 8% who use just the fairness approach and just 5% who use just the business case approach. Over one in 10 (12%) use neither.

However, 44% of employees say their organizations emphasize a fairness case over a business case, and 34% say their employers emphasize a business case over a fairness case.

“As our data show, both the business case and the fairness case for DEI are valid and important,” say Emily Shaffer, who leads Catalyst’s Inclusive Workplace Cultures research stream, and Brittany Torrez, senior manager of DEI at Yelp.

“It may make sense to lean on one rationale with one audience and the other rationale with other audiences and show how each aligns with the values of your organization. In these polarizing times, knowing your audiences and crafting messaging that resonates most forcefully with each is essential to creating a workplace where everyone can thrive."

Employers’ stand on social issues

Taking a clear stand on social issues can also be a big help to employers’ DEI efforts, says Aparna Rae, advisor at equity and inclusion assessment platform provider Moving Beyond. Via Forbes.

“Articulating a clear and sincere position on matters of social and political importance can significantly enhance employee trust and loyalty. This clarity in corporate values and stances not only supports a positive internal culture but reinforces the organization's reputation,” she says.

“By aligning internally on where the company stands on critical issues, leaders can avoid reactive and potentially harmful communication with employees and stakeholders.

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