Knowledge Center

Ask Catalyst Express: Starting Diversity Initiative

My company is just starting out on the diversity journey. What resources do you have?

Catalyst has a large collection of research reports, tools, corporate practices, statistical overviews, topic introductions, and other resources covering an enormous variety of topics to help at every stage of an initiative’s development. Below are resources to help you address some key topics as your organization starts to develop an initiative, including building the business case, assessing the environment and collecting data, the D&I office structure, and the D&I strategy. 

Looking Toward the Goal: Inclusion

Although organizations must begin a diversity journey by understanding the current talent in their workforces—including breakdowns by gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, and more—just having diversity isn’t enough. To reap the benefits from increased diversity, organizations need to work toward inclusion. The Society for Human Resource Management defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” Catalyst research shows that when people feel included, they are recognized for the distinct characteristics they bring to the team—uniqueness—and feel as though they are true insiders—belonging. To begin thinking about inclusion, consider it as a state in which everyone can: be authentic; contribute fully and meaningfully; grow, develop, and thrive. As the Royal Bank of Canada put it, “In simple terms, diversity is the mix and inclusion is the mix working well together.” Increasing diversity is the first and critical step. But it’s inclusion that makes companies, cultures, and workforces strong.

Consider the Business Case:

People looking to increase diversity at organizations are often asked to "make the case" for why it is necessary. Much research has been done to demonstrate that when done well, diversity and inclusion in the workplace can lead to increased revenue, reduced costs, greater innovation, and increased employee engagement, productivity, and commitment. Notably, for companies to most effectively serve the market, their workforce needs to look and think like their customer base.

Catalyst Resources for “Making the Case
Other Resources for “Making the Case”

Although Catalyst has produced research and tools about making the case, more recently, Catalyst and others have encouraged companies to “get beyond the business case for diversity.” The business case grew out of a need to explain the business benefits (especially financial benefits) of diversity to stakeholders. However, the connection between financial rewards and diversity is impossible to prove because research can only establish a correlation, not causation, between the two. Further, even though the business case for diversity has been documented by Catalyst, McKinsey, Credit Suisse, and others for over 15 years, it never seems to be convincing enough. Some people still ask for more proof that gender diversity is “good for business,” yet it never occurs to them to ask for the business case demonstrating that the status quo or all-male leadership teams and boards are good for business. Instead of trying to seek that elusive “proof” that diversity causes improved business performance, companies should focus on diversity as a talent issue, and recognize that to be an industry leader, it is critical to tap into the full talent pool. By hiring a limited group of people, companies are missing out on significant segments of talent, so they should be putting energy and resources toward recruiting and retaining diverse employees and creating inclusive workplace cultures where everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and succeed.

Catalyst Resources for Getting Beyond the Business Case
​​Other Resources for Getting Beyond the Business Case

Assess the Work Environment and Collect Data:

Catalyst recommends that organizations look inside themselves and conduct internal benchmarking to identify their strengths, challenges, and opportunities. By asking the right questions—some that can be answered using workforce data, others that are more subjective—a clearer picture of an organization’s talent emerges, sparking often surprising insights into opportunities to become more inclusive and diverse. Catalyst’s Vital Signs toolkit helps Supporter organizations do precisely that.

Organizations often seek to benchmark themselves against industry competitors as well as organizations in other industries. Benchmarking information can be difficult to get. Further, organizations should be aware of the limits of external comparisons. Over many years conducting benchmarking, Catalyst found that the vast majority of companies had poor representation metrics and should not serve as the standard for others. However, there is still value in looking at available numbers to track how D&I initiatives produced results for some organizations. The write-ups for Catalyst Award-winning initiatives list the measurable results of these initiatives.

Catalyst Resources on Collecting Data

Organizational Structures for D&I:

For Diversity Councils or the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to be effective, they need support from senior leadership, the ability to link the organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy with the overall business strategy, diverse representation, metrics to measure progress, consistent communication of goals and efforts, and a long-term strategy.

Catalyst Resources on Creating a D&I Structure
  • First Step: Diversity Councils
  • Practice: Procter & Gamble—Everyone Valued, Everyone Included, Everyone Performing at Their Peak
    Supporter Exclusive
    Excerpt: The Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) is a rotating position among line leaders, is part of the Global Leadership Team, and reports to the CEO with dedicated resources. This positioning of the CDO ensures accountability within the businesses for implementation and emphasizes the importance of D&I to the organization.
  • Practice: Kimberly-Clark Corporation—Unleash Your Power: Strengthening The Business With Women Leaders
    Supporter Exclusive
    Excerpt: The Global Strategic Leadership Team (GSLT)—Chairman and CEO Thomas J. Falk and his 10 direct reports—worked with Human Resources and the Global Diversity Team (part of HR) to integrate the initiative’s goals throughout the global organization and provide structure and framework for the execution and accountability of the initiative. The Global Diversity Team tracks metrics (e.g., hiring, promotion, and turnover) and reports regularly to Kimberly-Clark’s Board of Directors and the GSLT.
Other Resources on Creating a D&I Structure

Create the D&I Strategy:

An organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy should be aligned with its business goals and company values. In addition, the strategy needs to be grounded in the real needs of the organization based on hard data collected and analyzed as a part of organizational assessment. Please refer to Assess the Work Environment and Collecting Data section above for guidance about data collection. A successful strategy focuses on creating an inclusive culture that is both sustainable and unique to the organization.

Catalyst Resources on Creating a D&I Strategy
Other Resources on Creating a D&I Strategy

Additional Topics to Consider:


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