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02 Nov. 2012 | Comments (2)


“Grown-ups love figures... When you tell them you've made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’  Instead, they demand, ‘How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?’  Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

When it comes to meaningful D&I metrics, are we asking the right questions? Similar to the grown-ups described by The Little Prince, business executives love figures, particularly quantitative measures that definitively measure profit and return on investment. In line with this preference, D&I metrics have evolved to include increasingly better ways to measure D&I outcomes and their impact on valued business results. Along the way, we also have developed better ways to count demographics, comparing mainstream and marginalized representation trends across time and at all levels in an organization. We can easily count the number of anti-harassment policies, the percentage of employees who have attended D&I awareness training, and the volume of discrimination claims. Our scorecards have grown increasingly elaborate, but we still aren’t telling the whole story.

Often, we don’t understand the meanings behind the numbers. Qualitative data can tell us about the lived experiences of marginalized individuals working to contribute and grow careers within organizational systems that tend to work best for the mainstream. Qualitative information enhances our understanding of the subjective perceptions of individuals within our organizations. This data is critical to developing optimal resources and systems that resonate with a broader mix of employees.

As we focus in on employee experiences, our metrics can expand to include questions such as these:

  • How do you feel when you come into work each day?
  • How do you feel about how you spend your time at work?
  • Describe what makes your work worthwhile.
  • What does it cost you to downplay aspects of your true self to blend into the mainstream at work?
  • Describe a time when you felt fully enabled at work.
  • How do you envision an ideal work environment?
  • How can we enable you to do your best work?

By better understanding the lived experiences of different individuals and diverse groups of employees, we are better able to create systems and process that support the meaningful engagement of a broad mix of talent and to tap into the unique value proposition of each diverse person. We can transform workplaces enabling people to stay true to themselves, while making the most of their different perspectives and diverse ways of working, to help our organizations innovate, grow, and better serve a diverse mix of customers. 

In Seasons of Love from Rent, the lyrics question how one measures a year in the life of a person. Is it more meaningful to measure a year of a human life in 525,600 tangible minutes, or, as the song implores us, should we measure it in love? As the global practice of Diversity and Inclusion evolves, we need to ask the right questions and employ both qualitative and quantitative measures that will enable us to create the conditions for belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Cultivating these qualities by creating the best work experiences for your diverse mix of employees will help your organization achieve mission critical outcomes. 

What mix of qualitative and quantitative data will you analyze to help you create the conditions for a broad mix of talent to engage, commit, and perform? 


View our complete listing of Diversity & Inclusion blogs.

  • About the Author: Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele is a senior fellow providing diversity & inclusion (D&I) expertise for The Conference Board. She serves as program director for both the Diversity & Inclusion Executives and…

    Full Bio | More from Rebekah Steele


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  1. Stephanie Turner 0 people like this 15 Apr. 2015 04:46 PM

    Spot on, Rebekah, as this is exactly going to be my approach in establishing an effective D&I scorecard for our organization; thank you for your perspective! :)

  2. Rebekah Steele 0 people like this 17 Apr. 2015 09:10 AM

    That's great to hear, Stephanie, and thanks for posting your comment. Next-generation metrics are one important component of creating more value with D&I, and it is energizing to know that progressive practitioners like you are applying these concepts in their work. Be sure to let me know how I can help.