In my world, the world of diversity, equity and inclusion, I see people every day who possess untold amounts of passion to challenge the status quo and drive change. And, while passion ignites their desire to create a fairer, more inclusive world, it’s data that offers the key to sustaining initiatives and the fuel required for long-term, impactful change. It’s easy to make assumptions, based on what we think we know to be true, but without data to channel it effectively, our passion risks becoming like wildfire: intense and consuming, quickly spreading and leaving us physically exhausted and psychologically depleted.

Knowing your why

Passion, or at the very least, interest, is absolutely necessary. In fact, one of the questions I ask most of people when working with them to advance diversity, equity and inclusion is “what’s your why?” If you don’t have a why for wanting to effect change, sustaining momentum becomes incredibly challenging.

Our motivation might be deeply personal. People often champion diversity, equity and inclusion because it directly impacts their own workplace experience or addresses issues their colleagues have faced. For example, if someone regularly experiences accessibility challenges, they’re probably more likely to advocate for improvements that remove barriers, and foster inclusivity and a sense of belonging – ultimately, creating a better experience for all.

From a moral standpoint, supporting diversity, equity and inclusion represents a commitment to ensuring that everyone can achieve their potential, free from discrimination and systemic barriers. Fundamentally, it’s about righting historical wrongs and promoting fairness. Just because something was done a certain way in the past, doesn’t make it right. We all know that!

And, then, of course, there’s the business case. The correlation between diverse workforces and improved performance; diversity of perspective and its potential to bring about better decision-making and innovation, leading to competitive advantage and growth.

Whatever galvanises you to action, any seasoned change-maker knows that passion must be channelled through strategic, informed actions for it to be effective. Enter data…

The sustaining power of data

As the backbone of strategic decision-making, data establishes benchmarks and drives the development, execution, and refinement of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. It turns passion and good intentions into actionable insights and measurable outcomes and ensures that the path toward a more inclusive workplace is both informed and impactful. By leveraging data, we can identify gaps, measure progress, and hold ourselves accountable. We have a better chance of embedding diversity, equity and inclusion into our everyday practices, making this ‘the thing we do around here’ and not something that’s a tick box or an unsustainable, energy-depleting activity.

With data, we can move beyond anecdotal evidence and put forward arguments that influence organisational change. It helps us identify gaps in diversity, the impact of inequity and the areas where inclusivity is lacking. It enables measurability and accountability which is hugely important because without metrics, it’s incredibly difficult to gauge the success or failure of our efforts. Data allows us to set clear, measurable objectives, track progress and pivot where necessary. It means we’re not just paying lip service to diversity, equity and inclusion but are held accountable for real results.

Data also helps us tailor our strategies to meet the specific needs of our individual organisations, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. I find that bespoke strategies are often more effective as they consider the particular demographics, culture and structure of an organisation.  

Securing support and resources

Let’s say you have a passion project that you want others to get behind. Data is going to be crucial for securing engagement and buy in. Being able to demonstrate how the proposed efforts can lead to increased workforce diversity, enhanced employee satisfaction, and ultimately better business results, will increase your chances of stakeholder investment. People are more likely to invest resources into initiatives that are backed by clear, data-driven outcomes that align with business objectives they have a stake in achieving.

Long-term planning and continuous improvement

Data is not just about looking at the now, it’s about future planning. Pulse surveys, audits and retention rates can offer insights into the effectiveness of current practices. We can then aim for continuous improvement, focusing on where we need to adapt our strategies as new trends emerge and as the workplace naturally evolves. For example, many of us have seen the growing number of employees seeking flexible working arrangements and, armed with these insights, we can consider how such shifts might impact our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. If we don’t adapt, do we run the risk of losing our talent and, along with it, the diversity of perspective, knowledge, skills and experience that our organisations need to survive and thrive?

Engaging the head, the heart and the hands

In my experience, the most successful diversity, equity and inclusion strategies blend the emotive force of passion with the rationality of data which, combined, can then be applied practically. Passion without data risks being viewed as ungrounded or impractical, while data without passion can seem impersonal and disengaging. Together, they ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are both genuine and effective, appealing to both the emotional and logical aspects of human decision-making.

Yellow background with yellow and blue image of a brain. Below the brain is an image of a red heart shape. In between the brain and heart is a plus sign.