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The Importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

The Importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

As organizations seek to quantify the return on investment of implementing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) programs, they can expect to see significant results: decades of research have demonstrated that focusing on DEIB not only creates a better experience for employees, it can also deliver bottom-line benefits for the business.

Defining Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

At Perceptyx, we have reexamined how we define DEIB, focusing on its four pillars – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging – to establish a more precise point of view for each.


Diversity is the spectrum of difference. In the workplace, diversity can refer to a range of identities such as – but not limited to – race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religion, body size, parental status, veteran status, education, values and beliefs, and/or other social identities.

Diversity is:

  • Valuing diversity of thought and experience – "non-traditional backgrounds”
  • Awareness and acceptance of both similarities and differences among people
  • Intersectionality and identity – we are defined by many aspects of our identity
  • A commitment to action that increases representation throughout your organization, across levels and positions
  • Innovation – more approaches and ways of tackling problems

Diversity isn't:

  • Homogenous teams
  • Limited ways of thinking
  • Availability heuristic – only resorting to experiences that are easy to recall
  • A quota
  • Passivity or inaction
  • “Fit”


Equity is an approach that ensures everyone has access and opportunity to reach their full potential. Equity recognizes that advantages and barriers exist, and that, as a result, we don’t all start from the same place. Equity is a process that begins by acknowledging this unequal starting place and making a commitment to correct and address the imbalance.

Equity is:

  • Fairness
  • Access to opportunities that lead to similar outcomes
  • Responsiveness to individual needs
  • Balance
  • An Individualized approach
  • Pay equity

Equity isn't:

  • Equality – same treatment
  • Favoritism or imbalanced development
  • Variable pay
  • Lack of transparency
  • Poorly-developed or antiquated decision-making criteria
  • Sticking with the status quo
  • Microinequities


Inclusion is what an organization does – the actions it takes – to ensure that its employees, including those with historically excluded identities, are welcomed, psychologically safe, supported, valued, and have a voice in the organization.

Inclusion is:

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Grace
  • Camaraderie and collaboration
  • Psychological safety and freedom of expression
  • Collaborative conflict resolution
  • Understanding the person and their environment (i.e., who you are is fostered by your environment)
  • Open communication
  • Transparency

Inclusion isn't:

  • Silos
  • Isolation
  • Ostracism
  • Tokenism
  • Microaggressions/macroaggressions
  • Over-indexing (can be exclusive of others)
  • Selfish
  • Unforgiving
  • “Colorblind”
  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of adoption (e.g., pronoun use)
  • Lack of empowerment


Belonging is being able to bring your authentic self to work, make meaningful contributions and connections, and own all of your identities without fear or risk of negative consequences. Organizational belonging offers a feeling of security, support, and acceptance.

Belonging is:

  • Feeling valued
  • Feeling like you’re part of something
  • Authenticity
  • Acceptance
  • Trust and respect
  • Security
  • Honoring unique contributions
  • Collaboration

Belonging isn't:

  • Withdrawal
  • Outcast
  • Disingenuous or hiding oneself
  • Unable to speak up or express belief
  • Loneliness
  • Ignored
  • Disconnected
  • Self-editing
  • Code-switching

Organizational Impact

When looking at the large-scale impact of DEIB on organizations, research has shown that organizations generally perform better than the industry average when they focus on DEIB. Research by Konrad (2003) stated that for organizations to acquire the best talent, they must hire from a diverse talent pool and that when organizations are made up of diverse individuals, it increases their market share. In addition, diversity within organizations leads to greater innovation, thereby enhancing an organization’s ability to compete in the market. In fact, companies that have active and engaged gender-diverse boards have lower risk and volatility associated with their stocks (Jizi & Nehme, 2017).

Employee Impact

From an interpersonal perspective, data gathered from several decades’ worth of employee surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews have reinforced that inclusion is necessary for engagement, performance, and collaboration Allen, Bryant, & Vardaman, 2010). Equitable organizations that encourage open communication about DEIB are more likely to have happy, engaged employees, appeal to young workers, and retain diverse talent (Kenan Insight, 2021). For people to do their best work as individuals and members of well-functioning teams, they need to have a sense of belonging; to feel recognized, respected, and valued for who they are; and to experience supportive energy from their leaders, colleagues, and others, enabling them to contribute and grow (Miller & Katz, 2002).

Perceptyx Research Findings

Why DEIB is Important in the Workplace

A recent study by Perceptyx of more than 1,500 working women showed that daily microaggressions are a fact of life for most women, ranging from having their expertise questioned, to lewd jokes, to unwanted touching. Two-thirds of women reported they experienced sexist behavior at least sometimes, and 25% report three or more offensive behaviors “frequently” or “always.” While men are often the perpetrators of a sexist incident at work, female managers and coworkers aren’t without fault. One-third of women reported that the most sexist thing they have ever heard in the workplace came out of the mouth of another woman.

One out of every five women (19%) reported that they get interrupted or talked over in meetings frequently, and more than twice that number (42%) said it happened “at least sometimes.” These behaviors, which often fall short of sexual harassment as it is defined in many HR manuals, still have a very high cost for companies: high attrition among female employees. Women who are interrupted often are half as likely to be fully engaged in their jobs, half as likely to feel like they belong, and four times as likely to report being burnt out.

DEIB in Healthcare

Perceptyx also wanted to understand how healthcare systems are handling DEIB. Partnering with the Healthcare Voices at Work Consortium, an active learning forum where leaders from more than 50 organizations come together to understand critical topics, we were able to compile data from 93,000 respondents across 14 academic health systems. These members conducted organization-wide pulse surveys focused on DEIB and collected 600,000 unique responses.

The overall results showed respect is a positive aspect for the vast majority of respondents. 82.7% of those surveyed said that their co-workers treat them with respect, which is a key foundation to overall DEIB in healthcare and provides a sound platform for accelerated and sustained improvement for some of the lower-scoring areas of the survey. Additionally, 76.5% of people felt like they belong in their organization and nearly 73% felt as though they are encouraged to be their whole, authentic selves at work, which are also high indicators of a successful DEIB culture.

However, only 62.7% of respondents felt as though their contributions to the organization are effectively recognized. From prior research, we know that recognition is a large indicator of employee engagement and a driver to retaining top talent. While recognition has a relatively low cost, it carries a high impact and provides the needed motivation that employees need to continue giving their best to the organization and, more importantly, their patients.

Perceptyx broke the data down by demographics and discovered the recognition element differs greatly by group. For instance, only 50% of black female clinical healthcare staff felt they are recognized for their work, while 75% of white male non-clinicians noted appropriate levels of recognition. Therefore, recognizing workers is an area in which consortium members can make significant improvements.

Breaking Down DEIB & Why It Matters in Return-to-Work Policies

Perceptyx asked a panel of 1,000 US workers about each concept individually and the topic as a whole. We inquired about how DEIB is impacting employees as they consider returning to a physical, in-person work environment, the link to their overall sense of health and well-being, and a number of other workplace outcomes.

We found that the notion of equity highly impacted women of color’s desire to return to the office. Women of color are 12% more likely to want to return to an in-person workplace if they believe all employees are treated or will be treated fairly – regardless of age, race, gender, ability, etc. While equity is a key driver of willingness to return to work for women of color, interestingly, it did not impact other groups’ desire to return to the same degree.

Equity should not be misconstrued for equality even though they are similar. It’s important to understand the difference. Equality simply means that each person is treated the same. For example, in a workplace, each employee has the same tools to do their jobs, the same access to benefits, etc. But equity means that people are given what they need to succeed, taking situational differences into consideration. Equity essentially levels the playing field for all involved. In work-from-home environments, equity may mean ensuring all employees have WiFi/Internet access and providing it to those who don’t. There are also equitable advantages to working from home. Each employee takes up the same amount of space in video conferencing calls and is equally included: those Zoom squares are all the same size and microphones are the same volume. People with disabilities are able to work where they are most comfortable or get access to audio assistance, without drawing attention to accommodations. There are fewer instances of microaggressions, especially for women of color (i.e., no unwanted hair touching, comments on their appearance, etc.).

Inclusion may be the key to curbing resignations. It is an active behavior and is the responsibility of all employees. While inclusivity matters to all employees, our panel research found that employees of color are almost seven times more likely to strongly agree that they will stay at their company for at least 12 months if they feel trusted and respected. While white employees also want to feel trusted and respected, it doesn’t have as much bearing on their willingness to stay with the organization. In fact, the magnitude of the relationship is only about one-third as strong.

Key to Perceptyx’s findings was that anti-discrimination matters most. For some organizations, current DEIB initiatives aren't effective enough to create lasting change. Instead, some organizations are working toward taking a proactive stance against discrimination – acting to ensure the organization is free from bias and handling any incidents of discrimination promptly and completely. Based on our research, this has proven to benefit employees in unanticipated ways. In fact, employees who believe their organizations are free from discrimination experience less burnout than their counterparts. They are two times more likely to look forward to going to the office in the morning and only half as likely to be physically or mentally exhausted at the end of the workday. Burnout, and the effects of burnout, are hot topics these days, particularly as the pandemic has increased stress for almost all employee groups. For organizations looking to curb burnout, anti-discrimination should be part of the solution.

DEIB Performance Drives Future Success

Perceptyx’s research has shown that DEIB is important to organizations for a multitude of reasons, but how can your organization start its DEIB journey? A thoughtful listening strategy and action plan can prove to be the difference between reversing a DEIB deficit or letting DEIB issues overwhelm the company culture. We can help you develop and track the right metrics to understand how DEIB fits into your employee experience so you can drive continuous improvements over time. Schedule a meeting with a member of our team today to learn more.

Our DEIB series will continue through four future installments. The next entry will focus on Studying Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the Workplace.

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