Employers are more keen than ever to educate about diversity.
“Business leaders can no longer dismiss racial and social injustice as issues outside the workplace, but so many well-meaning employees and managers don’t know how to fix it,” said Stephanie Creary, assistant professor management at the Wharton School.
A common acronym for this type of training is DEI – diversity, equity and inclusion. The work touches on a wide range of cultural and management topics, including cultural celebrations around heritage months, staff discussions on how to avoid pitfalls (like things not to say in meetings), as well as mentoring, recruitment, employee retention and employee affinity groups, according to DiversityInc., a longtime national consulting firm.
The DEI market, estimated at $9.3 billion in 2022is expected to grow to more than $15 billion by 2026 as everyone from corporate America to small business owners holds conversations about unconscious bias, racial inequality and pay gaps.
But careful verification is necessary. The industry has been around for decades, but post 2020 many newcomers have hung a shingle and dubbed themselves diversity experts.
“All of a sudden, everyone who had a passion for justice decided to start a coaching consultancy,” Creary said. “Employers were scrambling for these people.”
She hears from companies after they hire “some new people I’ve never heard of before.” Customers often say, “They sounded good, but they lacked a track record. Then they call me.
The business case for diversity in the workplace has long been well documented. Companies with diverse workforces are 35% more likely to enjoy better financial returns than their respective undiversified counterparts, and companies with greater diversity are 70% more likely to conquer new markets, according to Harvard Business Review. Consulting giants like McKinsey and Deloitte have set up think tanks around DEI.
If you’re hiring to help your company manage diversity, equity and inclusion issues, consider these expert tips:
Experience matters. “If the people you hire don’t have a long track record in DEI, they can’t turn things around,” Creary advised.
A DEI “expert” who has only been in business since 2020? Avoid them, says Creary.
Start by changing the language. “When I hear that a company needs to do diversity training, I think, ‘You’re training seals and dogs – not people. It’s education,” said Ken Shropshire, adviser to Wharton School Dean Erika James.
It takes time. “Fairness is a big issue in a law firm” because partners earn a portion of the firm’s profits each year as part of the salary package, said Virginia Essandoh, hired by the Ballard law firm. Spahr in Center City as Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. in 2008, and promoted in 2021 to Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“We decided not to use the word [equity] if we didn’t think so. We studied what fairness would mean for Ballard,” she said. It took a year to study how partners are named, performance versus potential, and who has produced what in the years after being named a partner.
Find out what your employees want. The DEI business “really supercharged after the death of George Floyd,” said Christopher “CJ” Gross, a diversity educator. “And employees demand it from their leaders,” he said. “Millennials are driving these initiatives at work, and surprisingly so are older white men who have mentored marginalized people in their workplaces.” A former GE engineer, he teaches at the University of Maryland and consults for private companies.
“Employees aren’t happy with a tweet that says ‘We support Black Lives Matter’. They ask, ‘What are you going to do internally?’ They want transparency about strategy, about pay gaps, about promotion gaps. Workers are more sophisticated,” said Leora Eisenstadt, associate professor and director, Center for Ethics, Diversity and Culture in the Workplacewhich will offer DEI certification programs to industry and Temple Fox School of Business alumni.
Have questions ready when verifying DEI educators. Essandoh recommends asking tons of questions before hiring DEI consultants. Do they have a track record? How long have they been in the business? Do they come with references?
Seek advice from trusted colleagues. Often, corporate clients turn to Essandoh for advice on diversifying their suppliers and vendors.
Creary has a list of go-to contacts, some with Philly ties. She recommends Quinette Roberson at Michigan State, who was a longtime professor at Villanova University; oscar holmes, at Rutgers-Camden, who now consults; and Suleiman Rahmanwho is the CEO of recruitment company DiverseForce.
Look for a certification that prioritizes live chat and education. DEI certification programs are a massive growth area for universities and training companies that have sprung up over the past five years. The University of Pennsylvania, Cornell Diversity and Inclusion, Executive Leadership Diversity Academy, Diversity Society, Diversity Institute Certificationand Georgetown University all offer DEI certifications.
But face-to-face workshops and certification programs, online or in person, are more legit.
than passive lectures or self-directed online courses, Eisenstadt said.
“You have to talk about this stuff to fix it. You can’t just passively absorb and make changes to yourself, or just sit there alone.