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Is there meaningful progress in DEI right now? Depends on who you ask

This is the third in a series of excerpts from our survey report titled All roads lead to diversity, equity & inclusion in the workplace. But which one do you take?, published in January 2021. Nearly 800 business and HR professionals filled out the 30-question survey, resulting in numerous compelling insights both for business and recruitment interests.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

There is near unanimous support for DEI in society and in business, according to our respondents. Statements are good and well, but they can ring hollow if there isn’t tangible progress in DEI in the workplace. So, we dug into our data to learn whether meaningful progress is being made in diversity, equity and inclusion objectives.

Business logic suggests that progress in DEI is dependent on proactively building and executing on a sound DEI strategy. So, we wanted to learn which industries put priority on DEI and which of those industries weren’t able to simply because they didn’t know how to proceed with such a strategy.

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In this chapter, we address the following questions:

Is there meaningful progress in DEI?

When we asked respondents if they feel their company is making meaningful progress in DEI – a clear majority (73.4%) answered “Yes”.

However, again, there are significant differences when breaking down the respondents across specific demographics. First, 71.4% of females think their company is making meaningful progress, compared with 77% of males who feel the same way.


The dataset also finds 71.1% of those who identify as a minority in both their work and home communities think their company is making meaningful progress in DEI, compared with 74.6% of those who didn’t identify as a minority.

We also identified differences in answers when breaking responses down by industry. Those in Accounting / Finance are much more likely to answer “Yes” with 85.2% seeing progress in DEI, while those in Business / Consulting Services (67.9%) and HR / Recruiting (67.7%) are less likely to answer “Yes” than overall.

 Do you feel like your company is making meaningful progress in DEI_ (by industry)

Different companies, different priorities

While it’s generally agreed that DEI is the right thing to do, that people are the drivers behind that sentiment, and that progress is being made to some degree, the level of prioritization differs especially across industries or company sizes.

For instance, those in IT / Technology / SaaS are the most likely of the seven industries with a significant sample size to say that “DEI is not a priority for my company” (13.3% versus 11% overall). Those in Education, albeit a much smaller sample size, are the only ones with a higher percentage to not consider DEI a priority in their company, at 15.2%.

 Leading industries who answered _It is not a priority for my company

 Leading industries who answered _It is not a priority for my company
Those in Manufacturing are much more likely (22.4%) to report that they are interested in DEI, but don’t know where to start – more than double the percentage of any other sector.

Leading industries who answered _We are interested, but haven_t started yet_ or _We are interested, but we don_t know where to start_

When breaking the numbers down by company size, the disparity between numbers is more striking. Nearly one quarter (23.5%) of those in companies with more than 5,000 full-time employees say DEI is not a priority in their company, while nearly half (47.2%) of those with 1-9 full-time employees report that DEI is a permanent part of their mission / vision / values.

This doesn’t necessarily suggest that enterprise-level companies are less interested – perhaps it’s that the approval process for new initiatives takes longer or is more convoluted in a larger organization, while smaller companies are more nimble in making new decisions.

It’s also noteworthy that exactly one-fifth (20%) of those in companies of 5,000 or more FTEs report that they didn’t know what the current state of DEI is in their company, while 22.6% of those in the 1-9 FTE bracket answered the same.

“[We’re] currently in a state of exploration. We’re investors with a global portfolio, so [we’re] looking at DEI both internally and […] what it means for the companies we’ve invested in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.“

When did DEI become a consideration for your company_ (by employee size)

Local and regional companies (28.1% combined) are more likely to report DEI as not being a priority than their national and multinational counterparts (18.1% combined).

We hope you find our survey results on DEI at work to be helpful to you both professionally and personally. Any thoughts or questions, please feel free to share them with us via Twitter, LinkedIn, or direct email (with “DEI report” in the subject heading). We want to hear from you!

Check out the other excerpts from our survey report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

1. DEI at work: It’s time to take a deep dive
2. What does DEI mean for you and your business?
4. DEI leadership – and who’s actually doing the work?
5. Your DEI strategic plan: The road is fraught with hurdles
6. What are your top DEI initiatives for the workplace?
7. Your DEI recruitment strategy: What are your action items?
8. Time for a DEI action plan: We’ll help you get there


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