17March

Change and evolution in diversity, equity and inclusion benchmarks

The Centre for Global Inclusion launched the latest edition of the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks (GDEIB).  The GDEIB spells out what good, better, and best work looks like. It readily frames where and how an organisation can focus its capabilities to reach best practices.

By Dr Alan Richter, Treasurer of The Centre For Global Inclusion.

Change and evolution in diversity, equity and inclusion benchmarks

Earlier this year, The Centre for Global Inclusion launched the latest edition of the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks (GDEIB). This was the fourth edition of a document begun in 2006, and revised and updated every five years, as the field of DEI keeps evolving.

For our fourth edition we added a third co-author, Nene Molefi, from the Global South, and enlarged our Expert Panellists (EPs) to 112. For the first time, the majority were not from the USA or North America. The GDEIB’s 275 benchmarks encompass 15 categories with five progression levels: Inactive, Reactive, Proactive, Progressive, and Best Practices.

The GDEIB spells out what good, better, and best work looks like. It readily frames where and how an organisation can focus its capabilities to reach best practices. It is offered at no cost to users, so long as they sign a user agreement. The past five years have seen much change and evolution in the field. For one thing, we changed the name of the benchmarks from GDIB to GDEIB, adding the important term Equity into the title, but not just into the title, but also weaving it throughout all the categories.

The backdrop to this change has been the key societal movements and drivers such as Black Lives Matter seen tragically in the context of the brutal murder of George Floyd, along with the global United Against Racism movement, as well as responding to the rising anti-Asian hatred in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the #metoo and #timesup movements in response to sexual predators, and other broad equity initiatives such as decolonisation, climate justice and the disturbing growth of inequality heightened by the consequences of the pandemic.

In our GDEIB we refer to the five Approaches to DEI:

  • Competence,
  • Compliance,
  • Dignity,
  • Organisational Development and Social Justice.

What we have witnessed in the past five years is the growth of the importance of the Social Justice approach across DEI work regardless of the nature of the organisation.

 

Approaches to DEI

approachestodei

A second key theme, addressed in the new GDEIB, that emerged more recently in the past five years, is directly related to the pandemic – the changing nature of work, and the workplace. Where flexible work arrangements were a nice to have benefit pre-pandemic, today, and henceforth, virtual work and hybrid working will be the norm. Hence the rethinking of working conditions and benefits will be a necessity for all organisations as we redefine decent work.

By comparison with the last major worldwide pandemic of 1918, just over one hundred years ago, the contrasts are significant. As awful as Covid-19 has been so far, at this time around 4-5 million people have died worldwide. This contrasts with between 50 and 100 million deaths back in 1918-1919. And back then, there were no available vaccines and no internet to enable virtual work. 

The third theme that our GDEIB attempts to incorporate into the new benchmarks is the unstoppable march into artificial intelligence as it encroaches on our lives in so many ways including the workplace and work in general. Artificial intelligence is based on algorithms and the challenge is de-biasing these algorithms so that we can get objective decision-making that is fair and equitable.

One obvious example, of many, is in recruitment, hence one of the GDEIB’s best practices is: When technological solutions are used for recruitment, the organisation implements practices to minimise or remove algorithmic bias. The advancement of technology may appear to be great – think simply of the impact of vaccines in this pandemic. However, we typically think of technology as being neutral – that is, it can be used for good or evil – to vastly produce carbon emissions, and to vastly reduce carbon emissions, to give but one critical example – so it isn’t the technology itself but the ethical decisions we make with it that matters. Similarly with artificial intelligence, technology can vastly expand the scope of biased systems or it can be used smartly to de-bias the systems in the first place.

What is interesting is that technology can and does change our global frameworks, and hence the conversations we have about ethics, equity and inclusion in the long run. Think about some of the very painful conversations stretched throughout human history – slavery, abortion, meat production to name a few – and consider how appropriate technology may change our framework and how we thenceforth judge matters.

How did automation impact farming and slavery? How did the pill impact attitudes and beliefs about sexuality and reproduction? And if soon technology will enable the sustainable and affordable production of “meatless” meat, will we start to judge carnivores quite differently?

Diversity, equity and inclusion are, and should be, wrapped up in all these discussions.

 


This article was first published in Inyathelo's 2020/2021 Annual Report.