DEI Benchmarks: Standards by Industry

You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

This is true in many aspects of business, and it’s true of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, too. If you’re interested in building a better DEI strategy for your business, being able to quantify how you are doing is critically important. With solid information you can act on, DEI becomes something you can make measurable progress on.

Before we get there, though, there are two main challenges we should discuss:

  • DEI is a big topic. Diversity can include what you can’t see, including hidden disabilities, ethnicities, mental health concerns, gender identity, & more. Workers might not always share how included & welcome they feel in the workplace. That can be a challenging conversation to have. Gathering metrics anonymously, so your team feels safe enough to be transparent, is often the only way to determine how diverse & inclusive your workplace is & how well your DEI efforts are landing. Without metrics, you’re only getting a tiny part of the picture.
  • You can’t use numbers in a vacuum. Once you have gathered metrics about how diverse your team is and how inclusive and equitable they feel your workplace is, how can you interpret the raw numbers? Without something to compare the numbers to, there is no context for your metrics. This is where DEI benchmarks come in. Diversity benchmarks let you compare your DEI data to others so you can start seeing what your diversity efforts look like in context.

Why Are Diversity Benchmarks Important?

Diversity benchmarks are a standard for excellence in DEI. They offer a way for you to compare your efforts to diversify your community, organization, or sector. Think of it this way — let’s say you gather data about diversity and inclusion at your company. You have the raw numbers but they’re not what you expected them to be. Without comparing your metrics to anyone else, you may think you’re behind where you need to be.

Context is important here, though. Some industries have larger challenges than others. Traditionally, large financial companies and law firms have had lower rates of racial diversity when compared with the tech industry. In 2022, for example, 81% of practicing attorneys in the United States were White, according to the American Bar Association National Bar Association Survey. The tech sector is more racially diverse. At Facebook, for example, 46% of workers are Asian. At Google, 43.2% of workers were Asian in 2022, 5.3% were Black, 6.9% were Hispanic, 0.8% were Native American, and 48.3% were White.

If you’re a law firm and comparing your diversity metrics to Silicon Valley or your community, you’re not getting an accurate picture. With benchmarking, you compare your law firm to other law firms that are facing some of the same challenges.

With benchmarking, you can compare racial diversity, gender diversity, and other data to see whether your organization is less diverse or more diverse within your sector. It doesn’t give you a free pass. It doesn’t mean you don’t strive for more gender diversity, for example, if your sector doesn’t have a great record of gender diversity. Benchmarking does mean:

  • You get an accurate impression of whether your company is diverse contextualized by your overall industry
  • You may have a deeper understanding of why finding candidates may be more challenging
  • You may appreciate some of the ways you may need to change your recruiting & hiring practices to attract a larger or smaller pool of diverse talent in your industry
  • You may gain an understanding of the ways you need to support DEI internally by creating a welcoming workspace, for example, or by offering mentorship & other opportunities to develop leadership internally
  • You can develop appropriate standards & goals for retention, hiring, & recruiting

Diversity benchmarks by industry are one of the most useful types of benchmarking. However, companies can also choose to compare their diversity data to their community to see whether their workforce reflects the community around them. Some organizations also compare diversity metrics across regions or across departments to get a fuller picture of how diverse their company truly is.

Diversity Benchmarks by Industry

Different industries all have different needs and challenges, and this means different companies focus on different benchmarks when it comes to DEI efforts. Silicon Valley, for example, pays close attention to ethnicity, race, and gender benchmarks as they work to build more equitable workplaces across the industry.

The same sector has also placed a focus on supporting neurodiverse employees and making workplaces more equitable to them. The focus on benchmarks in these areas reflects, in part, the needs of the tech industry. The industry has offices globally and has often hired overseas professionals with STEM training, which has led to a diversity focus. Neurodiverse employees have succeeded in tech positions, and so the sector has established benchmarks to support, attract, hire, and retain these workers.

In the energy industry, studies have shown that diverse companies enjoy more innovation and higher profits. There is currently added pressure on the industry from investors to diversify, especially with the shift to sustainable energy requiring creativity and innovation. Despite this, the energy sector has not traditionally been very diverse, with only 18% of executive roles held by women. In this industry, benchmarking often focuses on creating a more diverse workplace when it comes to gender and race.

In the retail industry, the goal of benchmarking may be to create a workplace that reflects the diversity of the community where a store is located. This can make customers feel more welcome and comfortable in the retail space. In this industry, benchmarking may focus on ensuring that the genders and races of workers reflect the local community.

What Are Global DEI Benchmarks?

Global diversity and inclusion benchmarks allow you to measure your DEI progress against the global leaders in DEI rather than against local or industry businesses. Looking at global diversity and inclusion benchmarks allows you to aim high and to see what is possible among the most diverse companies. If you have ambitious goals for DEI, global diversity and inclusion benchmarks also let you see who is leading in DEI so you can learn more about their efforts.

One word of caution when using global benchmarks for diversity and inclusion: use global diversity benchmarks together with industry benchmarks. This gives you a more complete picture. Think of it this way: global diversity and inclusion benchmarks can help you find your “stretch goal” for DEI by showing you the best of what has been done. Industry benchmarks give you a grounded sense of what’s possible in your industry. Your goals may fall somewhere between the two.

Typical DEI Benchmarks

There are many types of data you can use as a starting point for comparison. At many companies, typical DEI benchmarks include race and gender. In other words, companies look at how many men and women are on their teams and how many BIPOC workers are employed. Some may look at the demographics of leadership tips. Great diversity benchmarks look beyond that to get a clearer picture:

  • Hiring rates. Is your organization hiring a diverse group of talent? Are you attracting diverse candidates? Are the team members who join your organization reflecting the diversity of your industry & community?
  • Who is being promoted internally? If you are not promoting candidates equally, do you need to address your process or do you need to offer mentorships or other advancement opportunities to encourage equity? Are other industry companies faring better at promoting a range of talent?
  • Pay equity. When you compare demographics at your company with pay, are workers being paid equitably? Is your pay for different roles on par with pay for these roles in your industry?
  • Performance ratings. Performance evaluations are often used for promotions, pay raises, & incentives, but bias exists in the process. One study, for example, found that 31% of women in the workplace & 43% of employees of color had at least one mistake mentioned in their performance reviews. In comparison, only 26% of White men had at least one mistake mentioned. It can be useful to examine who at your organization is getting excellent performance reviews, & who may not be. How do your performance ratings compare to your industry?
  • Exit rates. Who at your company is choosing to leave & who is being terminated? Is there any sign that some employees may not feel included or welcome at your organization? Is bias leading to the termination of some talent? Do the exit rates suggest some workers need added support? How do your exit rates compare to other companies in your industry?

DEI Benchmarks Create a Better Workplace

If you’re a business leader or any decision-maker at an organization, your leadership can help create an inclusive and welcoming space for all team members. Benchmarking is part of the equation, but for a robust DEI strategy, you also need metrics and support. You may need training and certification.

Diversio is the global leader in complete DEI solutions. Diversio gathers metrics about your company and benchmarks that data using a proprietary dataset of more than 21,000 companies from across the globe. This dataset is simply not available anywhere else and reflects the current work Diversio is doing to accurately gather information about each company.

Our large dataset of companies means we have one of the largest global Diversity Equity, and Inclusion benchmarks and also the industry-specific benchmarks you need. In addition to benchmarking, Diversio offers Diversio Training, Diversio Certification, and more. Explore how we can help your organization today and book a demo to see for yourself the difference Diversio can make.

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Head of EDI, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

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