Why (and How) to Use Metrics for DEI Initiatives

July 6, 2023
Person sitting at a laptop with coffee and a cell phone on the left

Even the most creative businesses rely on numbers. You’ve got to mix innovation with progress reports, and creativity with the bottom line. Without metrics, it’s difficult to know what progress the company has made, what still needs to be done, what’s working, and what’s not. Numbers can provide guidance and a direction. And that’s just as true for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives as any other work.

Why Rely on Data for DEI?

If you don’t know where you are at present, it’s difficult to draw a roadmap to your goals. Data can help companies take a snapshot of their current state, which can then help them plan future goals and measure progress along the way. Data is also essential for showing stakeholders what the company’s DEI initiatives have accomplished, and what the future trajectory will be.

Without metrics, this is all a guessing game. Fortune 500 companies or major nonprofit organizations are not often built on guesswork. A lot of thought and strategy goes into their growth and direction.

But how do you measure DEI progress and initiatives? True, this isn’t as straightforward as sales numbers or marketing metrics, but it is possible to paint an accurate picture of the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your organization and determine which steps are working, and which are not.

What to Measure

Start With Demographics…

While demographics—which fall into the “diversity” category of DEI—are important, they are NOT the absolute indicator of a supportive and equitable work environment. This is, however, an easy place to start when you’re gathering information. How representative is your workplace? How many employees identify as BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, disabled, or neurodivergent? How many of these people hold leadership positions in the company? Keep in mind, diversity is a start—only a start—but it paints a picture of the workplace’s status quo.

Action Step: If your workplace is lacking diversity (in leadership, and in general), take a good look at your hiring process and materials to determine if they are equitable and inclusive. I’ve written a blog post on this topic that can help you get started.

…But Don’t Stop There

While it’s important to take company demographics into consideration, I urge you to go beyond this metric and consider how to measure the inclusion and equity aspects of DEI (which, admittedly, can be a bit more complex). Employee engagement surveys can be an effective tool here, as can assessments of employee turnover rates, promotions, and performance evaluations, all broken down by demographics.

Analyzing who is participating in company-sponsored employee resource groups (ERGs) can also provide valuable insight. Are certain groups consistently underrepresented? Are all employees equally engaged in ERG activities?

Action Step: Evaluate your current employee engagement surveys and assessments to ensure that they are measuring inclusivity and equity in addition to general engagement. Consider implementing new assessments if they are not currently in place.

Bonus Action Step: Consider conducting a pay equity analysis to determine if there are any disparities between different demographics in terms of salary and compensation. This can help ensure that everyone in the company is being fairly compensated for their work.


Keep in mind, metrics are only valuable if they are being tracked and analyzed over time. Develop a system for regularly collecting and analyzing DEI data, and use it to inform future goals and initiatives. With consistent effort and attention, metrics can be a powerful tool for driving progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

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