How to Make Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives Your Secret Weapon

DEI Initiatives Need Action, Not Lip Service

5 April 2022

Recap of the MIT Sloan Study, DEI Practices That Have an Impact

As many organizations strengthen their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, leaders need clarity on specific positive actions they can take. For more info- read on or watch this clip:

When it comes to DEI programs and initiatives ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t work.


The Two Minute Takeaway

How many organizations say they have “strong DEI programs” yet fail to execute anything truly game-changing for their people?

We would say way too many if we would guess, and we all know that actions speak louder than words!

“We have decades of research saying how fraught diversity, equity, and inclusion can be. How do we change that?” asks Stephanie Creary, an assistant professor of management at the Wharton School, who co-authored a large-scale research study that shows what practices underlie positive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) outcomes.

Research from Creary’s May 2021 report she co-authored at Wharton is called “Improving Workplace Culture Through Evidence-Based Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practices,” which describes evidence-based insights that identify which specific actions lead to which kinds of changes.

This study states to meet in the middle so that everyone can sync around immediate concerns to address. Many DEI programs are “one size fits all,” and when it comes to DEI programs and initiatives, that doesn’t work.

Creary’s research found that certain practices are more influential in driving specific outcomes than others, so the job is to assess the deeper issues that need to be fixed and drive the DEI action steps from there.

There must be an overarching goal to strive for, not a templated approach.

In Creary’s Work/22 video presentation of their research, some of the more significant takeaways are:


There is much talk about how DEI outcomes could be something undesirable or stressful to address and act on, but there are tools to identify the proper actionable steps to take.


Finding the exact DEI tool is vital for the strategy and goal that your workplace/entire organization is trying to achieve around DEI.


Middle management engagement: think of them as humans that need to be met where they are versus classifying this segment as “roadblocks.”


DEI work needs to be taken as seriously as other work and shouldn’t be stopped like it’s not valuable; there must be committed people and consistent actions.

You can watch her full Work/22 presentation video with the seven workplace practices here:

Why This Matters

Swae’s CEO/Founder, Soushiant Zanganehpour, has been researching the “why” behind DEI for a long time, and what is found repeatedly is that many companies like to fill their websites full of marketing fluff that they’re all about DEI. Yet, the actions behind these efforts are often sparse, or worse, lacking altogether.

When it comes to DEI initiatives, companies can’t afford lip service anymore because people are expecting more. Here’s our recap of McKinsey & Company’s research here that states why employees desire more of their companies today to build more inclusive cultures (and what organizations can do about it).

Definition of lip service
:an avowal of advocacy, adherence, or allegiance expressed in words but not backed by deeds

Additionally, data proves time and time again that when inclusive environments are created, everybody wins. If you don’t believe us, believe this research we reported on also from MIT Sloan here with comprehensive insight about why inclusion matters and how it changes the game for all involved (especially the organization that does it right!).

So, how can a company move from DEI lip service to taking DEI actions that matter?

The answer is that it’s crucial to figure out which specific DEI actions lead to which kinds of changes and to start from there. This research provides seven focal points to get started (the report can be downloaded below).

Summary and Next Steps

When it comes to DEI programs, organizations need to act, not just push empty words into their marketing efforts or check off boxes.

The key is to pick one DEI initiative to focus on and keep working on that until it’s done, then select the following strategy and toolkit, and so on.

Trying to do it all at once never works and isn’t practical nor productive for anyone. That’s what sets up a workplace for DEI failure before they even get started.

Where is your organization making positive strides around DEI?

Where can your DEI programs be strengthened?

Comment below, we want to know!

Download the Report

Get the MIT Sloan Report for FREE

This Article references: by Stephanie Creary @stephaniecreary Assistant Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

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