Ask a Catalyst Expert: We’re Ready to Diversify Our Workplace—Where Do We Start?

July 22, 2014What’s the best way for my company to decide which D&I actions to take next?

When discussing a company’s initial diversity and inclusion efforts, I’m often asked, “How many women do our competitors have in senior leadership?” and “Which D&I programs are they relying on to increase diversity and inclusion?”  

After following up with a few questions of my own, I usually discover that my colleague wants this information for two reasons: (1) to figure out which D&I programs to implement in her organization, and (2) to provide it to her company’s executives, who want to compare their own data with their competitors’ to guide their D&I decisions. This type of external benchmarking can be useful, but it doesn’t give a complete picture of how your company is doing in terms of diversity and inclusion. 

Yes, hearing about competitors’ numbers when your company is lagging behind can spur your organization to act. Consider the recent public releases by Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Facebook of extremely similar diversity data, which has opened up an opportunity for leadership on these issues in the tech industry—when no one’s numbers are impressive, someone has a golden opportunity to step up and take the lead! Being aware of competitive organizational practices—and being knowledgeable and nimble enough to implement them—can give companies that wish to be leaders in their industries a crucial edge. 

But there’s a downside to comparing your company’s progress on these issues only to other organizations. If your numbers look like your competitors’ (and many organizations’ do), external benchmarking might give you the misimpression that all is well and that change is unnecessary. Additionally, your competitors’ practices may not be suited to your organization—every organization is unique, and the most effective diversity programs are tailored to fit a specific context.

So where should you look for insight and direction? Inside your own organization! 

Here are some questions to ask: 

You may assume your organization is a meritocracy, but you won’t know for sure until you evaluate the extent of the gaps in men’s and women’s experiences. The most successful D&I initiatives help close those gaps by addressing an organization’s unique challenges.

What is internal benchmarking and why does Catalyst recommend it?

Internal benchmarking means identifying your organization’s D&I strengths, challenges, and opportunities.

Using information your organization already has access to, the Catalyst Vital Signs approach to internal benchmarking helps you pinpoint where you’re excelling and where you’re stuck, identify your organization’s most persistent gender gaps, and zero in on what your company in particular can and should be doing better. 

Most importantly, Vital Signs sets the stage for identifying which actions will have the most impact within your organization, creating the potential to transform your company into an industry leader.

The best athletes don’t just compete against others—they compete against themselves. The further you push yourself, the higher you’ll go—and once you see what you’re capable of, the sky’s the limit! 



The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.