The Missing “D” in DEI – the decline in diversity efforts

11th June 2024

Posted on Categories LifestyleTags , , ,

By strategic consultancy Boxless.

The term DEI – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – has become central to discussions around organisational culture and social responsibility. Following the movements and heightened awareness in 2020, many organisations pledged to improve diversity efforts. However, that drive has seemingly slowed down and there are worrying signs that the “Diversity” in DEI is being overshadowed and neglected posing significant risks to organisations and society.

The peak of 2020 and the subsequent decline

2020 marked a watershed moment for social awareness. George Floyd’s murder and Black Lives Matter protests resonated globally, catalysing a national reckoning with racial inequality. Four years on the urgency of 2020 has faded and Diversity efforts have been deprioritised. Within Sussex key figures in the DEI space believe organisations are content with efforts:

Annie Whilby, Trustee of the Black Anti-Racism Community Organisation, says: “Brighton uses its positive reputation on sexuality and gender issues as a cover for less progression with regards to racial equity.

“Organisations cannot ease this burden by simply declaring inclusivity – actions speak louder than words. Any efforts must be authentic and sustained over time, and ideally involve local people or organisations with lived experience of the inequalities attempting to be addressed.”

What are some examples of this decline?

Tech – a report from Tech Nation highlighted that Black employees still only make up a small fraction of the workforce, with minimal year-on-year increases.

Education – The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) found that the percentage of Black or minority ethnic members has barely moved from 6% over the past decade.

What are the risks of neglecting diversity?

A McKinsey study found companies in the top 25% for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians.

Underrepresented groups can feel disillusioned and disengaged without genuine commitment to diversity. This can lead to higher staff turnover and lower productivity. In today’s socially conscious marketplace, stakeholders prefer to engage with brands that reflect diverse values.

Why are we seeing these challenges?

Without concrete, measurable goals for diversity, it’s difficult to ensure accountability. Engaging in “performative” diversity efforts, such as one-time training sessions or symbolic gestures gives the illusion of progress without addressing systemic issues. During economic downturns, diversity initiatives can be seen as expendable. Organisations often view them as non-essential or rely on box ticking exercises that are disingenuous.

What can your organisation do?

Get support: Speak to advisors, consultants and your stakeholders for input.

Establish clear goals: Set specific, measurable goals and report on progress. Transparency helps maintain focus and accountability.

Embed diversity into core values: Go beyond surface-level initiatives and make systemic changes to policies, practices and culture.

Think long term: Ditch one-off training sessions, ditch box ticking – change takes time and persistence.

Be accountable: Leaders at all levels should be held accountable. Diversity is not just a tick box it must be a lived reality within the organisation.

The decline in diversity efforts is a worrying trend that needs immediate attention. By re-committing to diversity, setting clear goals and looking at the long term, these values can be embedded into the fabric of organisational culture.