Achieving greater diversity in management is an important goal for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) investments. Approximately 80% of business leaders believe their organization’s DE&I efforts are positively impacting representation among management and executives, according to research AWS commissioned TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) to conduct.1
For mid-level management roles, 40% of business leaders said DE&I has extensively helped boost individuals from underrepresented groups, while 41% said it has had a somewhat positive impact with room for improvement. For executive roles, the results were similar: 40% of business leaders said DE&I initiatives have extensively helped boost individuals from underrepresented groups, while 39% said DE&I has had a somewhat positive impact with room for improvement.
However, there is still a gap between the number of individuals who identify as part of an underrepresented group and the number of managers who identify as members of underrepresented groups: According to the research, 39% of individuals identify as underrepresented, yet survey respondents reported that just 17% of the managers in their functional groups are members of an underrepresented group.
The research shows that one reason for the gap plays out like a vicious cycle: Because there is already a lack of diversity in management, there is the problem of inadequate DE&I advocacy.
When asked about their biggest challenges in making DE&I priorities a success, 32% of respondents cited an existing lack of diversity in their organization’s management and executive roles. That was the third most cited DE&I challenge, behind 1) a higher prioritization of other company goals (37%), and 2) a general lack of understanding of what DE&I is and the various nuances it can entail (36%).
Modeling positive outcomes
By examining the tactics and strategies of the companies that are further along in the DE&I maturity model created by ESG and AWS,2 business and HR leaders can better support the behaviors that have proved to be successful in increasing the representation of underrepresented groups in management ranks. Based on the research, some of these key behaviors are:
- Engaging in frequent communication about the organization’s broad business strategies and goals, with an additional focus on DE&I specifically.
- Treating DE&I as a co-owned strategy, typically co-led by HR and other parts of the business.
- Setting specific—and quantifiable—DE&I goals.
- Ensuring buy-in at the board and senior executive levels, with frequent and regular accountability (see related article “Who is driving DE&I—and why it matters”).
- Conducting regular training: 80% of DE&I leaders conduct DE&I training quarterly with what they consider to be a comprehensive curriculum, according to the research.
- Providing support for affinity groups (see related article “Using affinity groups to foster a DE&I culture”).
The research shows that organizations adopting a more inclusive, communicative, supportive and educational approach have been more successful than others in increasing the numbers of individuals from underrepresented groups in both senior and middle management roles.
Among organizations at the top end of the DE&I maturity model, 55% of business leaders said their efforts have had a positive impact on underrepresented groups in executive roles, versus only 30% of companies at the beginning of the DE&I curve. Likewise, 53% of leaders cited a positive impact on representation in midlevel management roles, versus 31% of companies at the beginning of the curve.
There are many business benefits of a more diverse and inclusive management team. As the research from ESG and AWS indicates, more diversity in management improves brand reputation, makes it easier to hire and retain talent, strengthens competitive positioning and customer relationships, improves ROI and positively impacts the organization’s corporate culture. Plus, it helps organizations achieve one of the most important outcomes of their DE&I investments: contributing positively to social change as a good corporate citizen (see related article “Why DE&I, why now?”).
By following the lead of organizations furthest along the DE&I maturity model, business and HR leaders at all companies have an opportunity to strengthen diversity in their executive and mid-management ranks. It takes a commitment from company leadership, accountability, education and training, and communication. Organizations must also set goals and follow through on implementation, such as with affinity groups. The opportunity is there. Is your organization ready to take the next step?
1“A Mature Approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Delivers Real Results,” TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group Research Insights report commissioned by AWS, March 2023