Study Finds 40% of C-Suite Thinks DE&I is a ‘Waste’ of Time, Resources


As the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing is fewer than two weeks away, a study released this morning (May 14) offers a harsh assessment of diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I). It includes the finding that nearly 40 percent of C-Suite leaders say DE&I is a “waste” of time and resources. Moreover, 34 percent of staffers agree with C-Suites on this.

The survey leaves the impression that corporate DE&I is at its infancy. "Businesses and leaders play a critical role in creating more equitable and inclusive cultures, and our benchmark shows that they have a long road ahead," says Tai Wingfield, EVP, DE&I, United Minds, a Weber Shandwick consultancy that conducted the survey, in an email statement. "We found a substantial and concerning gap between ambition and impact that needs to be addressed...."

On the other hand, the survey offers a mixed message. A significant majority consider DE&I crucial to reputation, recruitment and the bottom line, the survey of 1,527 full-time employees at large companies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. clearly indicates.

'Improve or We'll Leave'

Indeed, 24 percent of employees who’ve experienced or witnessed discrimination, harassment or microaggessions at their workplace “are considering leaving," it says. That's three times as many as all employees who are considering switching companies.

While a majority of employees (57 percent) is “very satisfied” with their organizations’ DE&I effort, 31 percent is unsure their company is investing enough to advance DE&I. In addition, in what seems a devastating finding, the survey says nearly 30 percent of staff doubt that their company was “working hard to build a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture prior to the racial unrest in 2020.”

Top Down

As with so many other aspects of corporate culture, DE&I flows from the top. The survey finds leadership's tone and behavior are “the strongest predictors” of employee satisfaction with a company’s DE&I effort.

Despite some of the difficult findings, there's reason for optimism. A healthy majority believes DE&I is important to recruiting, retention, reputation and business goals.

For example, 79 percent of those surveyed believe a diverse, equitable and inclusive company attracts top candidates. Nearly, the same amount, 71 percent, say it’s important to work at a company that values DE&I. And 80 percent say DE&I helps a company’s reputation with customers. Last, DE&I helps a company’s bottom-line, 72 percent say.

A recent PRNEWS/University of Georgia survey of 400+ communicators found attitudes about companies' diversity programs similar to those in the United Minds report. For example, just 30 percent of respondents told PRNEWS/UGA that their organization has a team focused on improving DEI. In addition, 42 percent disagreed with the statement “My organization has diverse leadership.”

While every organization is at its own point in their DE&I journey, they–and particularly leadership–can "benefit from a deep, data-backed understanding of their organization from the inside, out," Wingfield added.

The survey's title is "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: A People Imperative." It's an offering from  Code+ify, a DE&I approach that offers a roadmap for analysis, planning and progress, Weber Shandwick says.

We’ll have more coverage of this study’s findings next week.

Seth Arenstein is editor of PRNEWS and Crisis Insider. Follow him: @skarenstein