4 minute read 9 Aug 2019
Computer programmers examining data on futuristic hologram

Using data for evidence based action on Diversity and Inclusion

It is vital that organisations collect their D&I data and use that data to drive a strategic approach for inclusion.

The adage that ‘what is measured gets done’ needs to inform our efforts to implement successful Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) programmes. We need to have an evidence base for D&I. That’s why it’s not just important to set D&I goals and targets but also to measure progress and success. 

However, EY’s 2017 D&I survey reveals that under a third (31%) of organisations are actually collecting D&I data and under a third (31%) are setting those goals and targets. Until we have definitive data, we are just guessing. And just as we don’t guess the figures on a P&L or balance sheet, we can’t play a guessing game on D&I data analytics.

How D&I and data interact 

It takes effort to assess employee experience of D&I, devise a strategy and action plan, deliver on its ambitions and then measure the results. 

Data insights are critical right across the business framework and employee lifecycle; strategy, behaviours, governance, business processes, talent attraction, performance management, leadership, learning development and brand. 

The gender pay gap is an obvious example of where data can be effectively utilised. To be accurate, the gap is measured on an hourly basis to accommodate the fact more women are in lower income bands and work part-time. If the data indicates a gender pay gap we then conduct a deeper dive analysis to determine the causal factors for the disparities. 

Data analytics is critical in a number of other areas, including:

  • Recruitment – Informing recruitment strategy and practical processes including creating diverse slates and panels 
  • Performance & Promotion – Assessing trends related to promotions, performance, talent development and reward
  • Attrition – Visualising attrition across diversity categories and understanding key drivers for same

Predictive analytics

The predictive element of data analytics has the potential to shift the D&I dial.

If we are increasing our efforts to plug the gender pay gap by 5% each year, for example, we can predict how long it will take to achieve gender parity based on current efforts. These figures are stark and highlight just how much we need to disrupt the pattern. Without the data it is impossible to address the issue and make meaningful changes. 

The information you don’t get 

You can also tell a lot from the data you are not able to collect, possibly indicating issues of trust or a lack of inclusivity. For example, if no employees in an organisation of 500+ indicate that they are LGBT or have a disability, it is highly unlikely that is the factual case but more likely people do not think it will be to their benefit to share that information. 

Equally, it is important to remember that data is just one component of a successful D&I programme and it is also important to understand the human story behind the numbers. 

Collecting sensitive data 

Organisations can be reluctant to collect or store D&I data, especially with the advance of GDPR. Generally speaking, you can collect data with permission. However, people tend only to be willing to share that data when they know what it is for. In light of this, it is critical to accompany your quest for D&I data with a communications campaign spelling out your ambition to have a more diverse and inclusive organisation. 

Data must be stored correctly and not used for anything other than the agreed purpose. 


Data analytics is a key pillar of a successful D&I programme. Qualitative and quantitative data helps identify and understand the key actions and measures for a successful D&I programme, improved business performance and the best return on investment for D&I efforts. In addition to helping us measure the gaps, it also helps identify what is working well. Essentially, it enables us to set meaningful, impactful but realistic goals and targets and to measure progress and success. 

Any business success demands investment. Business also demands evidence to justify that investment. In Ireland, we first need to make significant investment in programmes and initiatives that support diversity and inclusion in organisations. However, if D&I is to compete in a sea of competing priorities, we must also gather the vast evidence that is available and justify a business return. The smart money is on the organisations who do both.


If D&I is to compete in a sea of competing priorities, we must also gather the vast evidence that is available and justify a business return.