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

Thousands of Syrians in ‘life and death’ struggle amid harsh conditions in remote desert camp, UN warns

Meet the Junior Enterprise network at JEWC 2014!

Brussels to point the finger to Washington for lack of commitment over TTIP

European Defence Fund: EU funds new joint research and industrial projects

Plan for troop pullback ‘now accepted’ by rival forces around key Yemen port, but fighting intensifying elsewhere, Security Council warned

New malaria vaccine trial in Malawi marks ‘an innovation milestone’, declares UN health agency

Progress in medical research: leading or lagging behind?

Yemen talks: Truce agreed over key port city of Hudaydah

Girls hold the key to Zambia’s future

New UN report shows record number of children killed and maimed in conflict

COVID-19 threatens the developing world’s small businesses. This is how to save them

ECB to people: Not responsible if you lose money on Bitcoin, your governments are

Bioethics: how to recover trust in the doctor-patient relationship

ECB with an iron hand disciplines the smaller Eurozone member states; latest victim: Greece

Barcelona’s ‘superblocks’ could save lives and cut pollution, says report

This is how we can save millions of people from extreme poverty after COVID-19

Governments should step up their efforts to give people skills to seize opportunities in a digital world

Unity, regional cooperation and international support needed for Horn of Africa to develop sustainably

The shrinking Arctic ice protects us all. It’s time to act

International World Summit Award calls for outstanding digital applications with impact on society from 178 UN member states

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s speech from World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions

Booking.com commits to align practices presenting offers and prices with EU law following EU action

Science leads the response to COVID-19. These 25 scientists are tackling the other global challenges

Europe’s forests are booming. Here’s why.

UN’s Bachelet rejects Sri Lankan official’s ‘spin’ on Human Rights Council encounter, urges reforms

Global South cooperation ‘vital’ to climate change fight, development, Guterres tells historic Buenos Aires summit

Ten UN peacekeepers killed in a terrorist attack in northern Mali

Yemen war: UN chief urges good faith as ‘milestone’ talks get underway in Sweden

Lockdown is the world’s biggest psychological experiment – and we will pay the price

State aid: Commission approves €511 million Italian scheme to compensate commercial rail passenger operators for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

4 ways to deliver social justice during the COVID-19 recovery

This Brooklyn farm company is training a new generation of urban farmers

Why vaccines are not just for children

Online radio and news broadcasts: Parliament and Council reach deal

World’s Press Calls on the United Kingdom to Address Press Freedom Concerns

Turkey: Commission continues humanitarian support for refugees

New UN forestry project bids to help countries meet climate change commitments

Conflict prevention, mediation: among ‘most important tools’ to reduce human suffering, Guterres tells Security Council

5 ocean success stories to chase away the blues

Coronavirus: Pandemic alert should be trigger for countries to do more against COVID-19

Financial services are changing. Here’s how

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Climate crisis and food risks, fresh violence threat for millions of Syrians, calls for calm in Kashmir

The application that encourages us to be heroes

EU shapes its ambitious strategy on India

Chart of the day: When do young Europeans leave home?

Dear Davos: time to declare an emergency opportunity for people and planet

EU Parliament raises burning issues over the FTA with the US

How the world can gear up for the fight against cancer

The World Health Organization has called on countries to ‘test, test, test’ for coronavirus – this is why

Key quotes from China’s Premier Li on COVID-19, the economy and US relations

“ASEM: Global Partners for Global Challenges”, a Sting Exclusive by China’s Ambassador to the EU

There is no patient safety without healthcare workers’ safety

Safer roads: More life-saving technology to be mandatory in vehicles

Canada has the most comprehensive and elaborate migration system, but some challenges remain

Global hunger is on the rise. These simple steps could help eradicate it

The Europe we want: Just, Sustainable, Democratic and Inclusive

Ambassador Zhang Ming Attends the EP Debate on China-EU Relations and Answers Questions

Asia’s plastic problem is choking the world’s oceans. Here’s how to fix it

Guterres censures terrorist attacks in Nigeria, pledges UN ‘solidarity’

UN Mission in Haiti calls on protestors, authorities, to refrain from violence

More Stings?

Advertising

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