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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are critical initiatives for modern businesses. In fact, 94% of CEOs consider DEI activities to be strategic priorities, with 72% planning to disclose DEI metrics to the public. What was once an area of focus owned by the HR team has become a company-wide imperative that employees, customers, and society expect organizations to prioritize. 

Taking diversity, equity, and inclusion to new heights in the workforce and world

At this year’s MuleSoft CONNECT conference, the session Driving Equity in the World and in the Workforce: What You Can Do Now featured transformational ideas for cultivating a company culture that’s better for individuals, teams, and society as a whole.  

The session explored a range of topics relating to DEI with insightful perspectives from the following leaders: 

  • Kavitha Prabhakar, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Lori Castillo Martinez, Executive Vice President and Chief Equality Officer, Salesforce
  • Vicky Wells, Director, Partner Programs & Ecosystem Equality, MuleSoft at Salesforce

Conversations were underpinned by the value that organizations realize when their workforce is made up of a diverse range of perspectives and lived experiences. When diversity accompanies an equitable, inclusive culture, it breeds innovation, deeper customer connections, and an environment that allows individuals to thrive as their authentic selves. 

Here are some main takeaways from the illuminating discussion, plus the actions you can implement now to drive more equitable outcomes within your own organization. 

The importance of transparency and accountability

To create an environment where everyone feels truly valued, organizations need to weave diversity, equity, and inclusion into the company’s DNA. But as we discovered in the session, getting to that place requires a shift in focus from well-intentioned efforts to measurable, meaningful outcomes. And that all starts with employee identification and hiring data. 

Employee identification and hiring data enables leaders to capture an accurate picture of what diversity, equity, and inclusion really look like in their organizations. And while that data may uncover some uncomfortable truths, it’s the first step in acknowledging where you are today, where you want to be tomorrow, and what needs to be done to bridge that gap.

Like any other source of data in an organization, DEI insights need to be continually analyzed over time and leveraged in decision-making. With relevant employee identification data at their fingertips, leaders can inform DEI strategies, reveal areas for improvement, set goals, and track progress, effectively moving the organization past intention and toward action. 

Companies can strengthen their DEI efforts by being transparent about what their employee identification and hiring data reveals. “By making representation data publicly available to all stakeholders, companies can stay aligned with their goals and build an additional layer of accountability from the top down and the bottom up,” said Martinez.

Accountability in action:

  • Each year, Deloitte releases its Transparency Report to provide updates on its commitment to diversifying its workforce.
  • Salesforce evaluates and shares progress on representation across its companies as it works toward building a workforce that reflects society.

Driving diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond recruitment 

The panelists spoke extensively about the importance of aligning recruitment strategy with representation so the makeup of the organization reflects the diversity in our society. 

In conjunction with representation goals across its entire workforce, Salesforce is committed to ensuring that over the next five years, 30% of newly credentialed individuals in the MuleSoft ecosystem identify with communities that have been underrepresented in tech. Similarly, Deloitte has set a target to increase racial and ethnic diversity to 48% by 2025.

But the panelists also stressed how essential it is to push DEI initiatives further than recruitment. 

“Increasing the proportion of employees from underrepresented or marginalized communities doesn’t result in actual progress if those individuals don’t feel that the organization offers them opportunities for growth or a sense of belonging,” said Wells.

Employee opinion surveys are instrumental in identifying the unique experiences of individuals from diverse backgrounds. With these insights, organizations can address areas for improvement to ensure all employees feel seen, heard, and understood. 

The panelists also encourage leaders to look outside of their internal operations when it comes to enriching DEI initiatives. “Businesses have the resources and responsibility to drive positive change in society,” said Prabhakar. “We want to extend our focus so that we can even the playing field and create more equitable outcomes outside the walls of the organization, too.”

Whether that looks like setting diversity goals for suppliers and third-party partners or volunteering to encourage students from underrepresented groups to explore careers in technology, showing up as an advocate for equity beyond the organization can send a powerful ripple effect throughout the community. 

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Engaging the community:

Creating a culture of inclusion 

When it comes to creating an inclusive culture where employees from all backgrounds can thrive, our panelists agreed that it’s important to encourage productive dialogue. That means investing in training, development, and resources that empower employees to navigate difficult conversations and challenge their belief patterns and assumptions. 

Conscious/unconscious bias and microaggression training can help to unravel common beliefs and behaviors that stand in the way of an inclusive culture. Unstated assumptions that are embedded into parts of our culture can find their way into the workplace, even when intentions are good. By proactively addressing and combating these beliefs with training, organizations can eliminate the behaviors that lead to inequities among their teams, processes, and systems.

“Enabling managers is another essential part of this equation,” said Castillo Martinez. “Frontline leaders need resources and training to recognize bias within their teams, make development opportunities more accessible for underrepresented and marginalized individuals, and advocate on behalf of those individuals so their experiences are accounted for.”

Additionally, allyship and advocacy are powerful tools for challenging inequity among organizations, communities, and society at large. Leaders can encourage their employees to empathize with the experience of systematically disadvantaged communities by creating equality resource groups, offering mentorship and sponsorship programs, and elevating the voices of those individuals. 

“Allyship fosters a sense of belonging by building a richer sense of community and demonstrating support and consideration for the well-being of others,” said Wells. 

Cultivating inclusivity: 

Your brand’s DEI journey 

For every company, DEI is a journey that presents continual opportunities for improvement. No matter where your business may be on that journey, it’s important to be honest about the barriers the company has to overcome to keep DEI initiatives top-of-mind as clear, organization-wide priorities.

And as Prabhakar shared in the session, “It’s essential to remain optimistic and recognize that positive change is possible – because every bit of progress matters.”