When it comes to making significant strides in racial equity, many corporate leaders find themselves at a loss for where to begin. And while no company has all of the right answers, we’ve found one practice can harness executives’ natural expertise and serve as a guide: Treat your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy like any other core business strategy.
Success requires the leadership team to make an explicit commitment, set clear goals, and assign accountability for outcomes. As with other critical initiatives, setting goals entails defining key metrics of success—such as increased representation of underrepresented talent at every career stage, or improved diverse employee engagement—and making key stakeholders aware of them. Accountability means that someone (or ideally, a combination of people and groups) is ultimately responsible for monitoring outcomes, managing roadblocks, and making necessary adjustments along the way.
Why it works
As they do with any element of a company’s culture, leaders set the tone on DEI. They have the power and responsibility to institute the right systems to ensure accountability. When a CEO sets the strategy and frequently communicates DEI progress, a company is 6.3 times more likely to have a diverse leadership team—and to be an industry leader.
Social accountability—the idea that others are monitoring our actions and may judge them—is a key reason why accountability and transparency improve outcomes. To promote social accountability, some companies implement diversity managers and task forces or councils. The result is a strong improvement in the advancement of diverse and underrepresented talent: On average, companies that establish diversity task forces see a 9% to 30% increase in the representation of white women and minority groups in management within five years.
The adoption curve
Despite what appeared to be a wave of corporate statements on racial equity in the six months following the murder of George Floyd, only 18% of the top 1,000 US companies made commitments to improve DEI internally. And while the most sophisticated companies regularly update detailed internal dashboards that home in on a dozen or more indicators of DEI success, they remain the exception rather than the rule.
Formal accountability structures are also uncommon. Only 20% of medium and large employers have task forces, and just 10% have diversity managers. Executives may not be aware of how effective social accountability can be in helping advance DEI goals, but the profound shift in the way leaders prioritize DEI—from a sideline initiative with limited resources in the past to a business imperative today—makes this the ideal time to set up evidence-based accountability structures.
How Intel took action
To underscore its commitment, transparency, and accountability to DEI goals, Intel publicizes all diversity and equity data. It publishes pay equity data (with voluntarily disclosure of its EEO-1 pay disclosure reports) as well as gender and racial representation at all levels of the organization. The company also releases an annual Diversity & Inclusion report on its website. Critically, Intel links a portion of executive and employee compensation to diversity and inclusion metrics.
Recently, through its RISE 2030 goals, Intel has doubled down on its commitment to improving equity and increasing representation within the company, announcing bold public initiatives to increase the number of women in technical roles to 40%, double the number of women and underrepresented minorities in senior leadership, and ensure that inclusive leadership practices and accountability are embedded in its culture globally. Additionally, the company has committed to increasing US Black employees in senior-, director-, and executive-level roles by 30% by 2023. Intel’s 2020–2021 Corporate Responsibility report includes specific details on how it plans to meet its goals.
In 2020, Intel extended its leadership in this space by cocreating the Alliance for Global Inclusion, a coalition of tech companies committed to publicly sharing their DEI data as well as sharing best practices to track and accelerate their collective progress. Dawn Jones, chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of social impact, stated: “2020 has been a transformative year. It is causing us to think differently about the challenges we face as an industry. Open sharing of our data has enabled Intel to both celebrate progress and confront setbacks. It’s our responsibility to keep raising the transparency bar for ourselves and the industry.”