Hunt Scanlon just released their 2021 report on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Recruiting, and the timing couldn’t be better. Diversity has undoubtedly been top-of-mind recently, with social movements and protests driving amplified awareness around corporate short-comings with regards to this issue. More and more companies are coming to the conclusion that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) can be a key differentiator in how companies attract, recruit, and retain top talent – a competitive advantage in the war for talent. And an increasing number of job candidates – 76% according to Glassdoor – have indicated that diversity is a key criterion when evaluating job opportunities. The Washington Post reiterates the sentiment, suggesting that job seekers want employers to be committed to changing themselves. “This includes hiring a more diverse workforce, helping employees of color advance through the ranks, giving them more decision-making power, and facilitating uncomfortable conversations about systemic race.”
Below, we explore some of the key trends that emerged from Hunt Scanlon’s research.
Demand for Diversity & Inclusion Roles
The market has seen increased demand for roles such as ‘Chief Diversity Officer’, ‘Diversity & Inclusion Manager’, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion’, and ‘Head of D&I’. Per Glassdoor, D&I job openings are 54% higher than pre-crisis levels, and D&I executive and leadership roles have increased 2.6x since June 2020. Further, throughout the pandemic, growth in job openings has basically mirrored the pace of economic recovery, but diversity and inclusion roles have seen a steady rise in demand. A report from ZoomInfo found that almost 40% of Fortune 500 companies have recently onboarded an executive whose job focuses on diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Another facet of these roles is that they have emerged as new positions of leadership. D&I has largely shifted from being a function of the HR department to being a strategic leader reporting directly into the CEO. With this reporting structure, D&I initiatives can better align with the overall business strategy of the company and attain top-down support.
Diversity Goals vs Initiatives
In a McKinsey survey amongst executives, one in three indicated that DE&I was a top five business priority for their CEO. At the same time, overall employee sentiment on corporate diversity was 52% positive, but sentiment on inclusion was significantly worse at only 29%. Many companies are now coming to the realization that they were not properly investing in these initiatives.
The misalignment comes from mistaking diversity goals as initiatives. Goals are aspirational statements of direction. Initiatives are the specific actions that will be undertaken to achieve those goals. Best-in-class companies are developing their corporate policies through a DE&I lens and ensuring they’re implementing actionable strategies rather than merely putting on a performance for public relations or optics or for checking a box. This approach is how organizations will be able to drive lasting, sustainable transformation. Per the Hunt Scanlon report, “DE&I is well on its way to becoming the biggest and most impactful systemic change ever to come to the American workplace.”
Creating a Culture of ‘Racial Literacy’
DE&I and culture should not be two stand-alone ideas – they should be intertwined and embraced throughout the business. One challenge cited in the Hunt Scanlon report is finding a leader “capable in leading a dialogue internally and externally as it pertains to civil unrest and racial literacy.” ‘Racial literacy’ is a relatively new concept in the corporate world but one that is key to diversity, equity, & inclusion initiatives. The term ‘racial literacy’ refers to training the workforce on how to recognize, respond to, and counter forms of everyday racism. It’s about having open and ongoing dialogues, increasing employees’ understanding of key issues and their impacts, and addressing those matters. Inequities are often unconsciously reproduced through reluctance or inability to have those conversations, as they can be difficult or even uncomfortable to have. Continues Hunt Scanlon, “With improved racial literacy, more meaningful and enduring DE&I initiatives and strategies will exist, and more organizations will transcend in achieving a sense of belong for all.”
Addressing the ‘She-cession’
The COVID-19 pandemic took a disproportionate toll on women, and women of color fared even worse. Per McKinsey, while women make up 39% of global employment, they account for 54% of overall job losses, making their jobs 1.8x more vulnerable to this crisis.
Morgan Samuels Managing Director Monica Bua contributed to the Hunt Scanlon report:
“[Women] are trying to balance challenges in an evolving workplace with the responsibilities of a home life that requires even more of their attention, from caring for children and elderly parents to schooling their kids in a remote environment. In many ways, the pandemic has amplified social and economic inequities and challenges. With increasing pressure and responsibilities from work and the household, many women are considering stalling their careers, taking a step back, or leaving the workforce all together.”
With regards to women of color, Monica said:
“The remote work environment has also put a strain on minority groups, who are struggling with those same personal and professional responsibilities but also may be experiencing a loss of connectivity and sense of belonging with their colleagues, social isolation, and limited access to allies or support resources at work. All of these challenges can negatively impact inclusivity initiatives. But it’s in times like these that companies could really benefit from diverse leadership; after all, resilience is practically in their DNA. However, in order to continue hiring diverse talent, companies need to be aware of the current climate and embrace the fact that work in the future will look different. Especially since these challenges will likely linger long after the economy has recovered.”
Indeed, the longer women stay out of the workforce, the harder it is for them to return, which has long-term impacts on their economic security and well-being.
Times of uncertainty can be the jump-start to critical change; certainly, diversity, equity, and inclusion isn’t a passing trend but rather a lasting transformation. The executive search industry is uniquely positioned and qualified to reject misconceptions, to educate clients on the value that diverse candidates can contribute, and to be drivers of equality and inclusivity initiatives in industries and organizations across the economy.