4 D&I Trends to Watch in 2021

Christa Feazell
16 Nov

It seems like only yesterday that we were counting down the days to 2020. Few could have anticipated what this year would hold. The COVID-19 global pandemic brought the HR world to a standstill and forced companies to develop remote workforces on the fly. The death of George Floyd launched protests in every major American city and across the world. We lost the iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, elected a new president, and saw an influx in companies investing in diversity and inclusion, but also a decline due to COVID-19-related challenges.  

It’s safe to say that this year has been a lot. 

But as 2020 begins to wind down, it’s time to look forward to 2021 and make some sense out of the unexpected advancements made in HR, and, more specifically, in the D&I world. This year we saw a variety of organizations and industries commit themselves to creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces. With that in mind, here are some D&I trends to be on the lookout for in 2021! 

#1 - The Rise of the Remote Workplace

remote work, work from home, single mom

The pandemic showed many organizations that work-from-home comes with a variety of benefits. The rise of remote work opens the door for increased diversity. Work from home positions are ideal for a variety of people, and opens a door that might have otherwise been closed to them. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg stated that Facebook has been looking at the advantages of remote work: “...right now, we’re constraining ourselves to a small number of cities. Certainly there’s an advantage to opening up more widely...The advantage is not just on the recruiting side — it’s also on the retention side...So on both sides, it will help us access more talent.”

When all you need is a computer and a stable internet connection to do your job, companies open themselves up to candidates across the country. Location is no longer a barrier, meaning candidates in remote areas now have a chance to show off their capabilities. It’s also ideal for people with disabilities and single parents that might prevent them from working in an office environment. 

We predict that many organizations will increase their workforce diversity by investing in remote workers. The pandemic forced many companies to develop systems to help remote teams manage their workload and maintain constant communication with each other. Now that these systems and processes are in place, it’s unlikely that we’ll see them being phased out anytime soon. 

If companies prioritize their workforce diversity when hiring remote workers, this could be the trend that makes the largest impact in 2021. 

#2 - Even More Chief Diversity Officers

Many companies have already added a new executive position to aid the organization’s D&I efforts: Chief Diversity Officer. Goldman Sachs appointed Erika Irish Brown and Saks Fifth Avenue hired Lori Spicer Robertson, for example. The CDO role is far from new, but in light of the BLM protests, many organizations decided they needed to prioritize diversity at the highest level. CDOs are frequently women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, or some combination of underrepresented identities. 

Lived experience as a marginalized candidate is only one of the prerequisites, however. Many Chief Diversity Officers have been in their field for years, helping companies devise action plans to increase gender equality and racial diversity within their respective industries. Others have been with the organization in question for years, and have intimate knowledge of the business’s culture and day-to-day operations. 

We  expect to see more businesses choosing to prioritize diversity on the executive level and publicize these appointments. Many have tied their executive pay to diversity goals, created mentorship programs, and more to help their new CDOs succeed in their roles. We’re always excited to see more businesses choosing to diversify their workforce and create inclusive HR programs. As more Chief Diversity Officers join the ranks of major corporations, we look forward to seeing what changes they’ll bring in 2021 and beyond.

#3 - Attempts to Repair the ‘Broken Rung’

woman executive, business

This year’s McKinsey report on women in the workplace revealed a dire situation: one in three women are considering leaving the workforce entirely. Last year’s ‘broken rung’ between worker and manager remains the largest barrier to women’s advancement and is taking an alarming turn this year. This might have devastating consequences if not addressed in a serious manner, and many businesses have vowed to prioritize gender diversity in their internal promotions and hiring. These attempts to repair the broken rung mean hiring more women for upper-level positions and considering more women when it comes time to promote someone. 

We predict that some companies will take this year’s report to heart and work to create greater gender parity. Businesses have taken a variety of approaches to this. Some, like eBay, created an initiative specifically designed to help women rise in leadership positions. Others, such as Microsoft and BuzzFeed, choose to make their diversity stats public knowledge to ensure accountability and year-over-year progress. Others still are investing in mentorship programs or partnering with all women colleges to recruit new hires. 

However they do it, we expect to see more companies taking steps to attempt to repair the broken rung and shatter the glass ceiling once and for all. 

#4 - Increased Inclusion for LGBTQ+ Professionals

The Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision this year stating that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends its workplace protections to LGBTQ+ identities. Since marriage equality was achieved in 2016, many companies have pivoted to accommodate the needs of their LGBTQ+ employees. This is evident in advertising, internal company messaging, and the adoption of more inclusive language. 

We expect to see companies making small, but important changes to their messaging and language in order to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals For example, the inclusion of pronouns on employee badges, signatures, and LinkedIn profiles encourages the normalization of sharing pronouns and creates a welcoming environment for trans and nonbinary employees. Other small changes, such as using gender-neutral terms like ‘partner’ and ‘spouse’ normalize their use and signal to LGBTQ+ employees that they don’t have to hide their identities at the office. 

The historic election of Sarah McBride, the nation’s first transgender state senator, and Mauree Turner, the first nonbinary legislator ever elected, signals a new era of inclusion is approaching. More people are realizing that gender is a wide spectrum, and to create a truly diverse and inclusive environment, organizations need to welcome talent of all kinds, whether they’re male, female, somewhere in between, or neither.

Looking Forward to 2021

new year, fireworks

As we look to the new year, we’re filled with excitement and hope. More and more corporations are acknowledging the importance of diversity as a business case, and we’re optimistic about the strides that will be made in the next twelve months. Although the past year has been rough on the world of HR, organizations must look forward to the new year and new ways that they can prioritize diversity and inclusion. 

Now that people are realizing the absolute importance of racial and gender diversity within business, we hope to see more companies take steps to create new opportunities and more inclusive workplace environments. Our team looks forward to any and all advancements that will be made in 2021. After all, each step we take forward is a step in the right direction. 


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