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  • Katica Roy

Have We Reached Peak DEI?

Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)

If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.

The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.

  • Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.

  • Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.

Be Brave™

When Can We Stop Doing DEI?


I had my first real-life post-pandemic happy hour yesterday with some work friends and one topic that came up was our company’s new Chief Diversity Officer. A colleague said some crass comments about the new CDO (I won’t repeat), but it got me thinking: when will diversity, equity, and inclusion programs ever be “enough”? One work friend said diversity was just a delusion at best and a distraction at worst.


Diversity, equity, and inclusion programs will likely never be enough for a simple reason: they shouldn’t be programs in the first place. Companies do themselves and their employees a disservice when they treat DEI as an additive rather than an integrative component of their corporate DNA.

Integrate Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion—Don’t Add It

Instead of adding more diversity programs, trainings, compliance procedures, and PRIDE flags, companies should focus on integrating DEI into their people operations.

Consider the following scenarios to better understand what I mean:

  • What would it look like if instead of attending another lecture on how to negotiate for better pay (many of which are tailored to women), employees received equitable compensation from the get-go?

  • What would it look like if instead of completing quarterly implicit bias classes, managers could prevent inequity from creeping into performance appraisals by using NLP to flag biased phrases?

  • What would it look like if instead of conducting a pay gap analysis every year (a cumbersome process usually preceded by a more cumbersome attempt to close any uncovered gaps), companies could rest assured that every decision made across the entire organization maintained pay equity?

That’s what it means to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into corporate DNA. Point-in-time programs to close gender and racial/ethnic equity gaps are—to your colleague’s point—a diversity delusion.

How To Know When We’ve Achieved DEI

We’ll know that we’ve achieved diversity, equity, and inclusion when employees of all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual identities, and ages are:

  • Represented equitably across the organization (vertically: from entry-level to c-suite; horizontally: across departments—no occupational segregation)

  • Receive equitable compensation for similar work

  • Receive equitable rates of hiring and promotion

  • Receive unbiased performance evaluations

  • Receive equal opportunities for advancement (upskilling, access to resources, access to leadership)

And we’ll confirm this by keeping a pulse on diversity data. Currently, this data comes from companies’ self-reported diversity disclosures as well as research conducted by the government and independent firms.

Use Diversity Data to Avoid Diversity Delusion

McKinsey’s most recent American Opportunity Survey found that Black Americans are 4.5x more likely than White Americans to say their race is a barrier to future job opportunities. LGBTQ+ Americans are 4x more likely than straight Americans to say their sexual orientation is a barrier to job prospects.

Here’s another finding: only 32% of Black women believe most Americans have opportunities to find good jobs. That’s compared to 38% of White women and 42% of all respondents who believe the same thing.

The May jobs report corroborates findings from the American Opportunity Survey:

  • Unemployment rate for all women: 5.4%

  • Unemployment rate for Black women: 8.2%

  • Unemployment rate for Latinas: 7.4%

  • Unemployment rate for Asian women: 5.2%

  • Unemployment rate for White men: 5.1%

The caveat to these numbers is that they don’t include workers who left the labor force.

If all the women who left the workforce during the pandemic were included in May’s unemployment numbers, the numbers would shake out like this:

  • All women’s unemployment rate: 7.6% (versus 5.4%)

  • Black women’s unemployment rate: 12.0% (versus 8.2%)

  • Latinas’ unemployment rate: 11.0% (versus 7.4%)

  • Asian women’s unemployment rate: 6.4% (versus 5.2%)

The data will let us know when we’re making progress toward a more equitable, fair, and inclusive economy. And with the data, we can be sure we’re not chasing an elusive, albeit important, diversity dream.

These Q&A roundups can be delivered directly to you—a week before I publish them here. Interested? Join the Brave Souls® community (all you need is an email address).

© 2021 Katica Roy™, Inc.


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