How performative DEI is damaging your EVP

Performative DEI is everywhere and has unfortunately become a common practice for many organisations. By focusing more on embedding DEI into their EVP, companies will be able to make better progress and attract and retain more diverse talent

4th Apr 2024

Every year our CEO and co-founder Molly Johnson-Jones is approached to participate in International Women's Day (IWD) talks for free. For most of those talks, Molly is asked to talk about helping women thrive in the workplace, how we can invest in women, and what we need to change to reach equality.

This isn’t that surprising and we know she is not alone when it comes to this. You can read Molly’s post on this where many other women share similar experiences.

This got us thinking about just how much performative DEI is thrown our way, and how much we learn to accept. Because a free seat at the table is better than nothing, right?

Not anymore. If companies are serious about DEI, they not only need to put their money (or policies and culture) where their mouth is but also put in the work when it comes to embedding DEI into their Employee Value Proposition (EVP). 

In this blog we will cover :

  • What is performative DEI?
  • Examples of performative DEI
  • Why you need to embed DEI into your EVP
  •  6 ways to start embedding DEI into your EVP

What is performative DEI?

Performative DEI happens when a company's efforts regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are superficial and are more about keeping up appearances than addressing the core issues. It prioritises the company's image over genuine impact. An example of this is International Women’s Day, where many companies dedicate linkedin posts to their female employees. These posts often brush over crucial issues like the gender pay gap, flexible working, and getting more women in leadership roles. Asking women to pose for IWD and a few hashtags isn't enough; we need action.

Examples of performative DEI

You may be wondering if you have witnessed any companies' performative DEI efforts. Unfortunately you will have, but might not have realised at the time. Here are some examples : 

  • One off DEI events: Hosting one-off diversity events or talks without any long-term commitment to change happens a lot, often coinciding with awareness days or months. While these events can be a great way to highlight important topics, it’s equally important to understand what companies are doing for the rest of the year. That’s when the real impact is made.
  • Diverse imagery: Using diverse imagery in marketing materials is not a commitment to DEI. Although representation matters, it’s important to look deeper into what a company is doing to diversify their workforce and how they are addressing systemic inequalities within the organisation.
  • Tokenism: This is when companies hire or promote a few individuals from underrepresented groups to keep up appearances and falsely showcase how diverse they are. Instead they need to focus on broader recruitment practices around attracting and retaining diverse talent.
  • Awareness days/months: We see this happen a lot. A company’s logo will change to support awareness months such as Pride Month yet they will not have a supportive and inclusive working environment for the LGBTQ community. It’s so disappointing. This is now known as ‘rainbow washing’, similar to ‘greenwashing’ and ‘pinkwashing’ whereby companies try to appear supportive with their branding and logos yet no real action is taken.

Why you need to embed DEI into your EVP

An Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is the unique value you offer as an employer to your employees in return for their skills, experience, and commitment to your company. It’s important to embed DEI into this proposition if you’re serious about attracting and retaining diverse talent.

And why would you want to do this? Because having a more inclusive workplace is a win for everyone. Here are just a handful of reasons why : 

  • Access a larger pool of talent: Embracing DEI opens the doors to a broader and more diverse talent pool, bringing in unique perspectives and skills. A poll by SurveyMonkey shows that 79% of job seekers express the importance of working for a company that actively recruits individuals from diverse backgrounds, particularly emphasising the inclusion of women and people of colour. Our Flexa candidates are 2.5x more diverse than the average global tech company in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and neurodivergence.
  • Increase your employee engagement: Inclusive workplaces create a sense of belonging, leading to increased employee satisfaction, morale, and commitment.
  • Improve innovation and problem solving: Diverse teams bring a variety of viewpoints, leading to more creative and effective problem-solving and innovation. A study carried out by the World Economic Forum revealed that companies with above-average diversity scores drive an impressive 45% of their average revenue from innovation. Compared with companies with below-average diversity scores who only generate 26% of their average revenue from innovation.
  • Enhance your employer brand: Companies that prioritise DEI are seen as progressive and socially responsible, improving their reputation and attractiveness to both clients and employees. Creating a positive employer brand doesn't just bring in talented people who want an inclusive workplace. It also makes your company stand out in the market and shows that you're a great place to work.

6 ways to embed DEI into your EVP

So, how do you get started on embedding DEI into your EVP? Every company is different, and DEI strategies will vary. 

However, for now, here are some initial steps to get you started:

Define your commitment to inclusion - Begin by defining your company's inclusive values and mission statements. These serve as your guide to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace and should be visible to everyone who works with or considers working with your company.

Educate and learn - If you want to create an inclusive workplace, you need to engage in a significant amount of learning and unlearning to grasp exactly what DEI means for your workplace and the impact it will have. This may involve seeking honest feedback from your employees and reflecting on your current DEI efforts to identify any gaps.

Data talks - Without access to your company's DEI data, you won't be able to measure the impact of your DEI efforts or make informed decisions. Especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining diverse talent. If you need help getting started with this you can use our free DEI tracker.

Remove bias from job descriptions: Job descriptions and messaging should attract a diverse pool of candidates and promote a culture of inclusivity and equal opportunities. Regularly reviewing and updating your job descriptions to make sure they align with evolving best practices and promote diversity and inclusion in your hiring process is key.

Introduce flexible work policies and company perks: It’s impossible to have a truly inclusive culture without flexibility. That’s not just my opinion, it’s reality. Every one of us performs best in different environments, we all have different needs, likes, and our daily lives may be impacted by things such as disabilities, health conditions, childcare, family caregiving and many more. It's important to offer flexible working options if you want to be an inclusive employer .

Showcase your culture of inclusion: If you have an inclusive culture and you’re not shouting about it, you’re missing out! Instead, consider using an Employer Branding platform like Flexa to attract, retain and engage top-notch talent. Flexa company profiles are designed to spotlight a company's dedication to diversity and inclusion. These profiles go beyond traditional company information by highlighting gender demographic metrics, benefits, flexible working policies, and a designated space to communicate your unwavering commitment to an inclusive environment. By being Flexified, you can be among innovative companies like Amplifi, who have seen a 65% increase in the diversity of their pipeline after using Flexa.