Three big threats to diversity and inclusion for 2023

Sara Holmberg
March 10, 2023
Three big threats to diversity and inclusion for 2023

Diversity and inclusion have been topping the agenda for a while. Did you know that DE&I positions were among the most-hired People team roles last year? But despite years of promises, pledges, and pithy statements, progress has been slow. And worrying data suggests it's getting worse.

That’s not good. Or sensible!

In a difficult economic landscape, businesses need a competitive edge more than ever. And diversity and inclusion has been proven to deliver that edge:

• Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry median

• Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to financially outperform their industry median

So if your competitors are starting to regress on their DE&I pledges, it's time to move forward with yours. Here are the three biggest threats to diversity and inclusion for 2023.

1. Layoffs

Late 2022 and early 2023 have seen global mass layoffs across almost every industry. For example, more than 200,000 tech workers globally have been laid off in the past year. But layoffs’ promise of short-term cost reduction comes with the threat of long-term culture and brand damage. And the data shows many organisations aren’t doing a good job here – and diversity and inclusion is one of the biggest victims.

Recent research from workforce intelligence organisation Revelio Labs found that many organisations have seen sharp declines in their share of diverse new hires. And for example, TripAdvisor has suffered a 7% decrease in the share of diverse hires since July 2022.

This decline in diverse hiring could suggest improving representation is not a priority for many organisations. Moreover, the attrition rate at layoff companies was 57% higher for DE&I roles than non-DE&I roles in December 2022.

The problem isn't only losing talents loss. What message does it send, disproportionately laying off the people charged with furthering your DE& goals? What culture are you left with?

Hint: it’s not an inclusive one. McKinsey observed this connection between diversity and inclusion back in 2020, but it seems many organisations haven’t heeded the warning:

“The dynamics around inclusion are a critical differentiator for companies. An emphasis on representation is not enough. Employees need to feel and perceive equality and fairness of opportunity in their workplace. Companies that lead on diversity have taken bold steps to strengthen inclusion.”

If your organisation is forced into layoffs, ask: how are we ensuring those layoffs don’t disproportionately impact diverse employee demographics?

2. High turnover among women and women of colour

Turnover is a costly issue, no matter the employee demographic, and it's estimated to cost 1.5x to 2x the annual salary. And that’s before you consider how hard it is to recuit talents today. But turnover isn’t just expensive in the financial sense. It’s also a major lever for inequality, hurting your representation and damaging your culture of inclusivity and belonging.

McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2022 report says we’re experiencing a “Great Breakup”, as “women are demanding more from work, and they’re leaving their companies in unprecedented numbers to get it.” Their research shows female leaders are switching jobs at record-high rates.

High turnover is also pronounced among women of colour, with over 200,000 Black and Latina women disappearing from the US workforce altogether since the pandemic.

In other words, there’s a declining representation of gender- and ethnically-diverse talent that sends a clear message on inclusion and belonging.

If you have high turnover among diverse employee groups, ask: how do we recognise and accommodate unique challenges these employees might face? How do we build a workplace and culture that’s better for everyone?

3. The rising cost of living

All over the world, employees are struggling with rising costs. The rising cost of living is the most pressing worry for 93% of employees across Europe, and 67% of Americans are increasingly worried. That’s why poor financial well-being is one of the big three drivers of turnover right now.

In theory, rising costs impact everyone. But in practice, the cost of living crisis is far from equal. There’s evidence that the cost-of-living crisis disproportionately hurts ethnically diverse communities. Ethnically diverse people are a third more likely to struggle to afford their bills, rent, or mortgage each month than people from white backgrounds.

And women are also impacted, given they’re typically already earning less than their male counterparts. With less financial buffer, rising costs are harder to bear. And did you know that the gender pay gap sits at almost 15%? At the current rate, the gap won’t close until 2044.)

If your employees are facing rising costs (they are!), ask: how are we protecting our people? Do we understand the pressures different employee groups face financially? What are we doing to ensure the cost of living crisis doesn’t cause long-term inequality?

Are you backsliding on your diversity and inclusion pledges?

2023 could be catastrophic for DE&I, because all these trends play into one another. The result is a powerful negative force: if this situation is allowed to unfold unchecked, we could be looking at years of regression for DE&I. Leaders must act now, to protect culture and ensure big DE&I promises are more than hollow statements. And if you do, there’s a big opportunity to step ahead of your competitors.

To that end, the big questions are:
Do you understand the biggest threats to diversity and inclusion for your business?
Do you know at a granular level what’s really happening for different employee groups? And do you have a systematic way to improve experiences and build an inclusive workplace?

Winningtemp’s employee engagement platform gives accurate, detailed, and up-to-date insight into how your people experience work, so you can build an intentional culture. Read our step-by-step roadmap to using employee insights to improve DE&I.

With a strong background in legal and HR consulting in firms such as Fingerprint Cards, PwC and Flex, she joined Winningtemp as Head of HR in August 2021. Sara is passionate about people and believes that the future of work and HR is moving towards an approach where employees feel valued and have the tools to reach their potential. To achieve this aim, she’s focused on working to give employees their desired level of autonomy within their roles, creating a rewards system that focuses on recognising and understanding the needs of employees, from financial welfare to mental health. Additionally, her commitment to wellbeing is shown by her work as a board member at Räddningsmissionen, a Swedish charity working for social rights ensuring everyone has access to a dignified life.

About the author
Sara Holmberg

Focusing on people

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