DEI Is As Important as Ever. Here’s What Your Leadership Needs to Know

Company leaders need more DEI accountability if they want to hit their talent goals.
Company leader speaking to his team

Gartner polled more than 500 human resource leaders in 60 countries across all major industries to discover their priorities for 2022. Just over one in three (35 percent) said they’re prioritizing greater diversity, equity and inclusion in their workplace, and for good reason. Investing in greater DEI makes for better employee experiences which have a significant bearing on recruitment and retention.


In our 2023 State of DEI in Tech report, we learned that tech talent is not afraid to leave an employer if: they don’t see diversity in the employee base, they feel their employer’s DEI initiatives aren’t up to par or if they face discrimination in the workplace. Additionally, just over three in four (76 percent) of professionals today factor a company’s holistic diversity efforts into their job search and would not take a role at a company that has negative satisfaction ratings among people of color.


With the unemployment rate so low and hiring freezes in effect at many companies, finding and keeping tech talent is of supreme importance. However, it’s up to executives at these companies to take the initiative — creating change can’t all fall on ground-level employees, which it often does. When companies continuously bolster their DEI efforts from the top down, no matter how strong they already are, they position themselves for recruiting and retention success.


In this piece, we outline three ways that company leaders can take action in making their workplaces more DEI-driven. First, we see the need for more representation of diverse individuals in upper management. Then we build a case for a practice known as consequential accountability, before lastly highlighting the DEI initiatives that candidates want to see most at employers.

Diversity Has to Improve at the Top


A top-down approach to fostering more DEI means adding more diversity to the largely homogenous roster of leaders, executive level and above, at most companies.


According to Built In research, around 31 percent of employers said their executive teams were at least 90 percent white and only 7 percent have collected demographic data on their board of directors. Recent research from Gartner supports this as well: women only hold 29 percent of c-suite positions while racial minorities only account for 17 percent.


When ascending up the corporate ladder, individuals from underrepresented communities are often stopped around the middle-management level. In general, minorities and women see slower promotion rates than white men. They’re also unjustifiably seen as having less leadership potential.


True DEI change cannot take place unless these practices are reversed and people from all backgrounds can equitably reach the top rung of the ladder. Increased diversity at the top can also create a positive feedback loop where more underrepresented individuals are empowered to reach new professional heights.

“A lot of companies focus on reaching representation goals by hiring people into entry level roles,” said Ivori Johnson, the director of DEIB at New York-based people analytics company ChartHop. “They’ll report out great diversity numbers, but all the representation is at the bottom.”

The Case for Consequential Accountability


Less than half (49 percent) of companies have a strategic diversity plan and 36 percent of HR leaders say they have trouble holding other leaders at their company accountable for DEI outcomes. Things are improving in this front: Gartner reported that nearly 2,000 CEOs have signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge. However there’s always more work to be done, especially around the idea of “action.”


Getting to the root of creating more action can be achieved with more consequential accountability. It ensures that senior leaders make real progress toward business-wide DEI goals. Most businesses practice collective accountability, which puts shared responsibility across employees at all levels — but that strategy often doesn’t produce tangible DEI outcomes.


“When leaders are not held accountable for advancing DEI goals, yet are personally responsible for advancing talent, this creates a disconnect,” said Caitlin Duffy, research director at Gartner HR. “Consequential accountability helps close these gaps in an accelerated and sustainable way by increasing personal urgency and relevance for leaders.”


The following best practices will help businesses move toward consequential accountability:



Invest in the Initiatives Tech Talent Wants Most


Consequential accountability is a great holistic practice to adopt and maintain. And company decision-makers can use it to invest in the DEI initiatives that tech talent cares about most. With the right investments, leaders will have greater opportunities to build the inclusive and diverse workplaces that professionals want to work in, which will impact their recruitment and retention.


More than two in three (67 percent) of tech talent said they would be more inclined to stay in their current role if their employer improved its DEI efforts, a jump from the 51 percent who indicated this in 2020. This number rose to 84 percent for employees who identify as LGBTQIA+.


We asked tech professionals what investments would keep them the most engaged at their current employer. They said:

DEI initiatives candidates seek out most when looking for a job:

Trickle Down DEI Actually Works


Company leaders — and the HR teams that support these leaders — need to invest in DEI more because it’s not only the right thing to do, but it will meet more of a business’s long-term recruitment and retention goals.


When a company implements more top-down diversity and consequential accountability, paired with the DEI investments talent hopes for, they have the best chances of hitting their staffing marks and developing a workplace everyone can be proud to show up to.