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What’s the point of DEI if we can’t get past the acronym?

03 October 2022

Global social movements, such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too, have recently placed DEI at the forefront of many people’s minds and front and center in the headlines – this is important, as it is putting pressure on all companies, including investment management firms and portfolio managers, to finally demonstrate the proof of their credentials. Now is the right time to get past the acronyms and cut through the jargon. Now is the time for transparency and improvement.

Diversity, Equity, Equality and Inclusion (“DEI”) is currently a hot topic in the landscape of investment and portfolio managers. DEI initiatives are becoming more advanced and even more nuanced in the attempt to address some of the most complex diversity challenges we face today.  In the wake of the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements, a Forbes article cited that we have seen a rise in DEI (June 2020), when COVID-19 data presented enormous disparities within the workplace. For example, Paid Leave, among many other vital practices, was not seen as an option for many people of colour. Even before COVID-19 and BLM, diversity initiatives were plentiful, but evidently ineffective. In particular, the female workforce has been most impacted by the pandemic in terms of their job security. Social movements have forced companies to address their unconscious biases and to integrate DEI improvements in the workplace now that reputation is at stake.

So, what do we need to understand in order to grasp what meaningful DEI initiatives are and to get past the acronym? What are the challenges presented to managers when trying to create tangible improvements? These questions become difficult to answer when the changing landscape of DEI has gone from being about celebrating differences to now addressing systemic problems and integrating them into management processes.

Firstly, we need to understand what DEI means in the context of the workplace:

Diversity

Diverse workforces statistically “lead to happier and more productive teams and drive innovation among employees.” This means recruitment strategies and internal processes, such as promotions and compensation, must consider equity and equality when it comes to diversity aspects such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, religion and socioeconomic background, among many others.

Equity

Equity is understanding the nuances around fair opportunity and existing inequalities within society. It factors in that as a result of historical inequities, people have different opportunities and come from different starting points depending on their socioeconomic background, race, gender etc. and they need specific provisions depending on their individual diversity aspects. Companies should provide the appropriate levels of support to ensure equal access to employee opportunities depending on their diversity needs, creating a fair playing field.

Equality

With equity as an essential aspect in mind, equality is the over-arching goal in DEI – where all people receive the same opportunities and respect.

Inclusion

Employees should all feel represented and acknowledged without the need to compromise their individual identities. Having an inclusive workplace means being inclusive of all cultures, languages, religions, genders, abilities, races and backgrounds. For example, the recognition of multiple religious holidays.

DEI is arguably one of the hardest practices to get right, due to the degree of subjectivity in terms of geography, background, and gender being so extensive. The complexity of diversity and the uncertainty around what areas are material to collect data on is - understandably - fuelling inaction. The key aspect which makes collecting diversity data difficult, is that data needs to be self-identified, meaning companies cannot assign diversity aspects on behalf of their employees. Companies who can push past this wall of semantics and acronyms are the ones able to clearly demonstrate their practices and thereby reap the benefits and rewards.

Taking a look inwardly, we aim to be transparent around our areas for improvement and to walk the walk in terms of delivering positive change. We have created a Women’s Accelerator Program to address gender disparity at mid-management and senior roles in the Group. We collected self-identified quantitative data on our workforce to help us understand the gender dynamics at each employee level and how different genders were moving through the business, using these collective insights to make some informed decisions to improve gender equity and diversity. The merit-based Program allows high-performing women to fast-track their career progression by nurturing them through discussion forums, additional training and development opportunities, networking and mentoring that enable equitable access to career opportunities.

How can we help?

Our DEI Check solution in our ESG suite of services, helps companies to collect high quality diversity data aligned to the Institutional Limited Partners Association (ILPA) Framework. This product makes data capture easy and provides expert support and independent data verification to ensure accurate data on diversity representation, policies, and practices. The customisable report output is designed to help form the basis for your firm’s change initiatives. Get in touch today learn more.

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