Your diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are missing the point. Here’s how to fix them

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Garkay Wong, Hartley McMaster


  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are crucial to our pandemic response but have been among the first to be cut;
  • Minorities and the economically vulnerable have suffered the most from the virus and its economic impacts;
  • Tying DEI initiatives to business outcomes will ensure their robustness in times of crisis.

Governments have always had to deal with complex and conflicting criteria in their decision-making processes. Take cost versus the quality of services, for example. Increasingly we are seeing private enterprises grappling with similar issues under the label of ESG (environmental, social and governance factors).

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a major component of ESG, but most DEI initiatives are treated as risk-avoidance exercises rather than drivers of positive business outcomes. If the investment case for ESG is here to stay, as current trends seem to suggest, then there is a practical reason for integrating DEI criteria into existing incentive structures.

Incentives should be aligned so that DEI, beyond just being the right thing to do, is also the profitable thing to do. There are a variety of existing methodologies that allow for the integration of both DEI perspectives and goals into corporate decision-making processes. These methodologies are broadly categorized under Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) and, of these, the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is proving to be easiest for corporate leaders to embrace.

Incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into your decision-making

The AHP was developed in the 1970s by Professor Thomas L. Saaty as a support tool for decisions containing either conflicting criteria or objectives or high levels of subjectivity. It is rooted in mathematics and psychology and has historically been used to:

  • Structure business problems;
  • Build criteria upon which to judge potential solutions; and
  • Select the most suitable solution(s) based on the criteria.

A critical question from a DEI perspective might be: “how do we ensure our decision processes benefit from diverse voices and that those decisions are derived in an inclusionary and equitable manner?” While AHP wasn’t designed specifically to address DEI, its underlying structure ensures that diverse voices can be incorporated into a decision model in the following ways:

  • Draw out, via facilitated AHP, diverse views from employees in the decision-making process;
  • Build DEI criteria directly into the model to enable those factors to influence business outcomes.

AHP helps business leaders hear from and take advantage of these diverse voices to evaluate how closely proposed alternatives align with organizational objectives. Besides ranking only traditional criteria such as profitability or risk, we can also rank those against stakeholder views on diversity and inclusion to develop a properly weighted profile against which to assess decision alternatives.

Create an open dialogue around diverging priorities

In practice, the use of AHP in and of itself already aids in the collection of diverse viewpoints in making a decision, even if DEI isn’t explicitly defined as an objective. This is because its structure controls for cognitive bias, ensures that viewpoints are collected just prior to active discussion of the topic and uncovers areas of disagreement.

An alternative approach to decision-making
An alternative approach to decision-making Image: Hartley McMaster

In other words, AHP provides a platform (anonymized where it’s warranted) where even the most junior or soft-spoken stakeholder can feel safe to share their opinion; opinions that senior stakeholders would not otherwise have heard or thought to consider. In the current way of doing things, it isn’t uncommon for many diverse opinions to remain unshared because stakeholders don’t wish to get into an argument with the CEO or otherwise feel exposed. Uncovering conflicting viewpoints provides a valuable opportunity for stakeholders to exchange insights around diverging priorities. A consensus is built around a set of core values against which all decisions can be measured.

Opening a dialogue, facilitated via AHP, when diverging priorities are uncovered
Opening a dialogue, facilitated via AHP, when diverging priorities are uncovered Image: Hartley McMaster

The values-based future of organizations

The final step of the process allows decision-makers to evaluate how closely different decisions align with the organization’s objectives. Those objectives take into consideration the relative preferences of all stakeholders involved. The process ensures transparency and the ability to audit how a decision was made, increases satisfaction with the decision and trust in the model and avoids “hidden” disagreements that can undermine implementation. Far from being just a feel-good exercise, AHP has a proven, demonstrable and well-documented track record of improving business outcomes by doing the following:

1. Build buy-in for DEI initiatives through a participatory process where stakeholders feel they have not just a seat at the table, but also a voice;

2. Enable stakeholders (especially women and minorities) to integrate their knowledge and viewpoints into the decision model;

3. Increase trust that decision was made in an equitable and inclusionary manner;

4. Allow business outcomes to be influenced by DEI objectives.

How well do our projects align with organizational goals?
How well do our projects align with organizational goals? Image: Hartley McMaster

There are some things to watch out for. The AHP methodology could be misused to provide false justification that decision outcomes had considered diverse views if those views were overwhelmed when mathematically aggregated with those of other decision participants. Experienced practitioners can help mitigate these issues and ensure models are deployed responsibly.

If the pandemic has proven anything, it is that financial performance must be evaluated alongside long-term value for society and the environment. The integration of values-based decision-making will be a critical success factor for the long-term survival of companies.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

How COVID-19 is throttling vital migration flows

UN rights chief Bachelet appeals for dialogue in Sudan amid reports ‘70 killed’ in demonstrations

Asian and Pacific economies: decreases in tax revenue highlight need to broaden tax bases

Coronavirus: harmonised standards for medical devices to respond to urgent needs

Turkey: Extension of EU humanitarian programmes supporting 1.7 million refugees receives green light

Health services for Syrian women caught up in war, foster safety and hope: UNFPA

ILO: Progress on gender equality at work remains inadequate

EU plans to exploit the Mediterranean Sea and the wealth beneath it

An entrepreneurial point-of view on tackling the migration crisis and the risks of abolishing Schengen

So, what is your favourite Sustainable Development Goal?

Three ways to improve your corporate culture in the #MeToo era

Social inclusion: how much should young people hope from the EU? 

Athens urged to fast track asylum seekers amid island shelters crisis – UNHCR

Vaccination: understanding the challenges surrounding COVID-19 vaccination campaigns

What India’s route to universal health coverage can teach the world

To what extent are our moral standards responsible for killing people?

5 amazing schools that will make you wish you were young again

How to describe chronic pain beyond numbers? A Brazilian measuring instrument

Security Council must ‘come together’ to address the plight of children trapped in armed conflict, says UN envoy

Mental health as a tool of survival at the Pandemic

European Youth calls on European Council for urgent action on “humanitarian crisis” and questions the EU/Turkey deal respect of human rights

Future EU financing and recovery: MEPs to assess summit outcome

When will Eurozone’s unemployment rate stop being Europe’s worst nightmare?

Mobile World Congress 2015 first to debate EU’s new stance on Net Neutrality and Roaming Charges

Afghanistan: UN mission welcomes new polling dates following election delays

Fairness should be at the heart of the agricultural goods trade

Vaccination: understanding the challenges surrounding COVID-19 vaccination campaigns

A Sting Exclusive: “The Digital Economy and Industry are no longer opposing terms”, Commissioner Oettinger underlines live from European Business Summit 2015

Tiny Iceland teaches the West how to treat bankers

Women’s rights and how medical students can act as aides of progressive change

The results of Finland’s basic income experiment are in. Is it working?

We can decide to live within the limits of our planet

Promoting Health in the Brazilian Amazon: one nation but many cultures

ECB money bonanza not enough to revive euro area, Germany longs to rule with stagnation

New EU rules ensure better protection for 120 million holidaymakers this summer

EU Migrant Crisis: Italian Coast Guard Headquarters and Italian Navy to give host national opening addresses at Border Security 2016 in Rome

UN chief pays tribute to Egypt’s role in avoiding ‘dramatic’ escalation in conflict across the Gaza-Israel border

ACP-EU : Agreement on climate change, migration and post-Cotonou

CO2 can be a valuable raw material, not just a climate killer. Here’s how

Scientists have created biodegradable microneedles to fight eye disease

Annual UN women activists’ summit opens with focus on services, infrastructure

How start-ups will lead India through the Fourth Industrial Revolution

EU Ombudsman investigates the European Commission

EU and UK soon to be in a post-Brexit rush over free trade agreement with Australia

Commission and EIB provide CureVac with a €75 million financing for vaccine development and expansion of manufacturing

Could entrepreneurship be the real cure against the side effects of Brexit?

Rebuilding after COVID: The challenge is digital

Medical students: catalysts to close the gender gap

How the world can ‘reset’ itself after COVID-19 – according to these experts

Threat to biodiversity risks a flood of economic ruin

One third of poorer countries face both undernutrition and obesity: WHO report

State aid: Commission approves €900 million Slovenian scheme to support uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

Google case: A turning point in competition rules enforcement

Australia’s bushfires have pumped out half a year’s CO2 emissions

How Eurozone consumers spend their income when they have one…

25 years after population conference, women still face challenges to ‘well-being and human rights’, says UN chief

Cheese energy could power hundreds of UK homes

5G: How a ‘legion of robots’ could help save the rhino

The European Parliament fails to really restrict the rating agencies

Sponsored content: when QUALITY meets OPEX in manufacturing

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s