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How to Write a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement

By Casey Pechan
Updated February 4, 2022
6 minute read

It’s good business to welcome employees across all dimensions of diversity — including race, gender, socioeconomic status, language and national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. But how do you communicate that commitment to stakeholders and shareholders? Even more important, what can you do to hold your company accountable for diversity commitments? A thorough diversity, equity, and inclusion statement can serve both purposes.

Your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statement can send a powerful message about company priorities, often evoking positive reactions in clients, consumers, and candidates. Yet, despite the benefits, many companies don’t advertise their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Only 13 percent of respondents to joint research from ICIMS and Talent Board include a DEI mission statement on their careers site.

But simply posting a one-size-fits-all statement isn’t enough: Your statement must be candid and specific enough to demonstrate where your company stands now, where you’d like to go — and how you plan to get there. 

Leadership’s lack of commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion leaves employees consistently underwhelmed. For three years, respondents to an Accenture survey have ranked their leaders’ efforts as mediocre at best. A good DEI statement provides a roadmap for change and holds leaders accountable for making it happen.

Here’s how to write an effective diversity, equity, and inclusion statement that attracts candidates and consumers while driving positive change within your company.

What Is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement?

Companies often write diversity, equity, and inclusion statements only to use them as marketing documents. While these statements are essential to employer branding, that shouldn’t be their primary purpose. When written and implemented well your DEI statement can be a strategic driver of change.

Why Does Your Company Need a DEI Statement?

DEI statements serve two critical purposes at your company. The more common use is to broadcast your commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace to both current and potential clients, consumers, and employees.

The second use is less common — to align your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion with your overall business strategy. Your statement itself can (and should) function as a roadmap that provides direction and a plan for guiding your company to meet its goals.

What Goes Into Your DEI Statement?

Before sitting down to write your DEI statement, consider what you need to include to demonstrate your commitment. Positive sentiments alone don’t move the needle, so you need to be prepared to back up your words with actions.

Your statement should provide diversity, equity, and inclusion definitions for your culture. It should connect DEI to your specific mission, vision, and values, and demonstrate what living your DEI statement looks like in real life.

A good DEI statement includes the current state of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The truth can be hard to admit if your company isn’t in a good place, but it’s essential to be transparent about where you are now. It’s OK to admit that you’re a work in progress as long as you’re genuinely taking steps to change. 

This process will require you to assemble current and accurate workforce data to determine demographic information, such as the number of women and members of other underrepresented groups in leadership positions.

Your DEI statement must also include where you want to go. Consider what an ideal internal culture looks like and set some metrics for change. For example, many companies have committed to diversifying their boards and leadership while establishing specific, time-bound targets to reach. Sharing these metrics allows shareholders to hold you accountable and helps you ensure DEI remains a priority.

What Should You Avoid Including In Your DEI Statement?

The worst step you could take would be to draft a DEI statement that you don’t intend to uphold. DEI statements are integral to bringing your vision for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to life within your company culture. If you’re writing this as an act of self-promotion, then it’s better not to write one at all.

Leave any pandering and performative commitments out of your DEI statement. Your workforce and the public can spot when you aren’t being earnest. Donating to an external cause or charity is a great thing to do. Still, it can come across as hollow if you aren’t devoting any budget to fixing the internal problems employees experience daily.

Don’t make any commitments your company isn’t willing to back up with a budget. Committing with no effort to follow through will completely undermine any trust shareholders and stakeholders have in you. It’s OK if you don’t meet every goal immediately, but you need to demonstrate that you did your best to achieve them.

How to Write the Best Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement For Your Organization

You can’t simply copy and paste another company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion statement and expect results. Another company’s DEI statement may inspire great things for that organization but won’t be functional for your company and culture. 

Follow these steps to write a DEI statement that drives sustainable change in your workforce.

Look To Your Mission, Vision, and Values

If you want your statement to open the door for change at your company, embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into your business strategy. To do that, align your statement with your big-picture mission, vision, and values. 

Start by reviewing your foundational documents. Consider these questions as you draft your statement: 

  • How does your company’s mission align with diversity, equity, and inclusion goals? 
  • What role can it play in achieving your vision? 
  • Do the actions you need to take to improve DEI align with your company values?

Treat your DEI commitment as you would any other strategic business move, and bring it back to what matters most to your company. With your foundational documents providing the right direction, you can develop an action plan to reach your goals.

Don’t commit to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion unless you plan to take steps to make it happen. Take a look at the specific initiatives you need to implement to create and sustain change in your work environment and processes. 

For example, if managers only recommend male employees for promotion, investigate why and propose solutions. It could be because the workforce is predominantly male or because your workplace culture rewards stereotypically masculine traits. To solve the problem, identify the programs that need to be updated and reinforced (such as attracting and retaining more women and non-binary employees, or perhaps switching to performance enablement in the modern workplace to focus on potential and mitigate bias.

DEI processes will significantly overlap with HR, but you should take the time to look critically at other programs, too. Many companies, for example, are now looking more critically at vendors’ and suppliers’ commitments to DEI before choosing who to work with.

Commit to Being the Change You Want to See

The external commitment is an integral part of your DEI statement. But you must back that commitment up with a real plan to create tangible change. Demonstrate to stakeholders and shareholders alike that you’ve assessed where you are and share the direction you’d like to go.

Part of your statement should include tangible objectives you intend to achieve to create sustainable change. To do that, translate your action plan into public-facing goals. For example, many companies commit to diversifying their leadership in the coming years or providing better resources for employees from underserved communities. 

Set a specific goal that you can realistically achieve and develop metrics for measuring your success. Once you’ve shared those goals in your DEI statement, you’re publicly committed to making that change happen. Your transparency will drive positive reactions and produce a sense of urgency to achieve your DEI goals.

Work Your Statement Into Daily Processes

Don’t promote your DEI statement externally if you aren’t going to live it internally: A commitment must be a living thing. But to truly bring it to life, your statement must be adopted by everyone at your company. 

Living your statement is a cultural phenomenon. Your statement must come to life in individual actions and behaviors every day, but that won’t happen on its own. You need to give employees guidelines and lead by example. Examine cultural norms and unspoken rules that need redesigning to support your commitment.

Move past the traditional diversity training programs. Instead, work with your learning and development team to design diversity, equity, and inclusion training that can function within your specific work culture.  Start by identifying behaviors that promote inclusion and working those behaviors into your existing programs. Help managers assess these behaviors and train them to coach their team members to become more inclusive.

3 Examples Of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statements

One of the most challenging parts of writing an effective DEI statement is distilling all of the elements needed to create change down into a concise, one-page (or less) statement. Here are three companies that have successfully concentrated their commitment into a single statement.

Salesforce

The Salesforce Equality web page includes the company’s DEI statement and so much more. It links the DEI initiatives to its core values, explains why it’s so essential, and acknowledges the work that still needs to happen.

It also includes Salesforce’s current state and future goals, providing data on representation by level and role. The statement lays out a clear path forward so both prospective employees and clients can see its steps towards improvement and hold the company accountable.

Veterans United Home Loans

Values are front and center on the Veterans United Home Loans Diversity web page. The core value of respect for everyone forms the backbone of the United Initiative, the company’s diversity, and inclusion program.

The statement focuses on valuing people and communities, demonstrating how the company lives that value through its various programs. Linked testimonials and recommendations from employees show the substance behind the statement.

Booz Allen Hamilton

The consulting firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion webpage opens with a commitment to empowering employee voices. It lays out specific goals for advancing DEI at the company and introduces the resource groups and DEI officers who collaborate to make them happen.

The statement also includes links to specific programs the company has initiated and its actions to continue changing for the better.

Change Your Mindset To Change Your Actions

Your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement provides an opportunity to change your mindset to achieve your goals. The steps laid out in your statement offer a clear path to embracing diverse teams and diverse talent. 

An effective DEI statement is the first step towards creating an inclusive culture that celebrates all dimensions of diversity and where everyone feels a sense of belonging.

Make your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion public through a DEI statement to hold yourself and your company accountable for change.

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