Professional and academic interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives is, to put it mildly, through the roof. ExecOnline, which offers a diversity and inclusion program in partnership with Yale University, saw a 298 per cent increase in enrollment in July, and a 357 per cent increase in September when compared to the previous year, HR Dive reports.

Skillsoft is reporting a whopping 1269 per cent increase in enrollment its course on unconscious bias training, and a 1059 per cent increase in interest for its course on the value of diversity in the workplace

The shift towards diversity initiatives is a welcome one, especially considering that “boys clubs” still exist in business and academia, and they could be keeping well-deserving and more-than-qualified minorities out of leadership roles.


And there’s a big “but.”

Organizations rushing to establish anti-racism protocols without a real understanding of the work involved run the risk of becoming “performative allies” — a term used to describe surface-level activism that does not bring lasting change but allows the perpetrator to feel good about their actions.

Performative allyship often comes in the form of vague statements about injustice. These statements feel hollow because they usually lack self-awareness, accountability, or any understanding of the deep-rooted, systemic issues that made the Black Lives Matter movement necessary in the first place.


So how does an organization ensure it is meeting its DEI goals in an authentic and relevant way?

One strategy, proposed in a new report by HR consulting firm Mercer, is to tie executive compensation to the successful implementation of DEI initiatives.

At present, Mercer estimates only 15-20 per cent of S&P 500 companies include DEI metrics in their executive incentive plans, and only 5-10 per cent have a “quantitative DEI metric.”

“A vocal commitment to addressing equality and racial justice has become critical —with leaders across all industries acknowledging the painful legacy of longterm systemic racism,” reads an excerpt from the report, authored by Gregg H. Passin, a senior partner at Mercer.

“‘Check-the-box’ DEI is no longer acceptable, with employees and society demanding tangible actions from organizations that drive long-term, sustainable change.”

The report suggests organizations begin by examining current DEI initiatives by asking six key questions:

1) Where is the company today on DEI? Where does want it to be? By when?

2) How will the organization create an environment to support real DEI change?

3) Will the company utilize a short-term or long-term incentive plan? 

4) What DEI metrics will be tracked?

5) How will progress be measured?

6) Who will be held accountable?

Read the full Mercer report here.