Black, LBGTQ+ and disabled women doubt DEI success

Black, LGBTQ+ and disabled women were least likely to perceive their organisation's DEI efforts as successful

Women with intersecting marginalised identities, such as disabled women, are more doubtful than any other groups about the success of their organisations' DEI efforts, a new report has found.

Of all identities, doubts about DEI programmes' effectiveness were most pronounced among black women and disabled women, according to The Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Report 2024, commissioned by HR tech firm Culture Amp.

Men, and particularly white men, were more likely to perceive DEI efforts at their organisation as successful.

Mary-Clare Race, CEO at business management consultancy Talking Talent, did not find this surprising. Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "Research carried out by Talking Talent in 2023 corroborates this finding. It is not surprising when we consider the vast majority of DEI interventions deployed in organisations.

Read more: Ethnic diversity in FTSE 100 companies continues to grow

“These interventions have typically been one-dimensional, focusing on a single facet of identity without considering the unique experiences individuals face when multiple identities intersect.

“As individuals, we are not one-dimensional. We are more than a set of labels and cannot be neatly categorised. Our identities have many layers, presenting various barriers at different times in our lives and careers.”

Culture Amp's data also showed found that fewer organisations shared DEI data at executive meetings – a decline from 56% of companies in 2021 to 46% of in 2023.

Paul Sesay, CEO of the DEI network Inclusive Companies, explained that collecting employee data could improve HR’s approach to intersectionality.

He told HR magazine: “To better understand their experiences, it is crucial for employers to conduct targeted surveys and organise focus groups. 

“Analysing data through an intersectional lens and collaborating with employee resource groups will help to provide the necessary deeper insights.

“In addition, continuous education on intersectionality for HR staff is essential to keep this front and centre in an organisation’s decision making.”

Read more: Are DEI initiatives driven by fear of doing the wrong thing? HR responds

HR practitioners told Culture Amp that their use of external consultants had fallen from 66% to 47% between 2021 and 2023. However the report found that companies that hire DEI consultants build teams that are 8% more diverse.

The report also noted that DEI efforts were most impactful when integrated into business operations and existing programmes, rather than a one-off intervention. 

HR leaders should set regular goals to embed intersectionality throughout their organisation, Sesay added.

He continued: “Embedding DEI into existing programmes requires integrating DEI goals into the business strategy and performance metrics. 

“HR can enhance this process by embedding intersectionality into all training programmes, establishing robust feedback systems, involving affected employees in DEI development and committing to ongoing review and improvement.

“These strategies aim to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace, recognising the unique challenges faced by those with intersecting marginalised identities.”

Culture Amp’s Workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2024 report drew on survey data from 390 organisations that have more than 175,000 employees worldwide, as well as a survey of 165 HR practitioners. The survey of 390 organisations was conducted from 1 January 2023 to 1 December 2023, and the survey of HR practitioners took place in December 2023.