Diversity + Inclusion


  • Sylvia Apostolidis

Dear Jasmar: “What do you mean by evidence?”

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Dear Jasmar,

You say we should use evidence to change how we work in inclusion and diversity. I read reports and see statistics on inclusion and diversity in news articles. What do you mean by evidence?

- Anonymous

Great question. There’s a lot of info and stats out there – it’s overwhelming! And it’s hard to know which evidence is high-quality and worth using for your inclusion efforts. The last thing we want is to spend time and money on a solution that backfires or has no benefit.

But, let’s face it. This is what we’ve been doing. We read an article that confirms our beliefs, and quickly accept the findings as true without checking the source. We copy best practices from the company down the street, just because they seem successful. And we ignore qualitative (non-numeric) information to focus only on quantifiable “hard” information like objective performance quotas and representation metrics. As an inclusion professional, you want to avoid all of this and find the best evidence for your projects. But how?

First, recognize that evidence-based inclusion relies on four sources of high quality information:

  1. organizational data,

  2. stakeholders’ concerns,

  3. expert judgments, and

  4. scientific evidence.

Inclusion practitioners today are increasingly using the first two: organizational data and listening to stakeholders. This is great and we encourage finding ways to make this even more impactful! For example, simply showing majority group data first (for example, 95% of leaders are able-bodied) can increase leadership buy-in. And, demonstrate you’re truly listening to what stakeholders want and need by engaging them in solutions through a design thinking approach.

And yes, listen to the experts – but be skeptical. Many self-described experts are anything but. Not all opinions, even from experts, are an “expert judgment”. Use the Delphi technique to reduce bias in expert judgments, and consider the issues within expert judgment like assumptions and outdated approaches that miss the mark.

But, how well are we leveraging scientific evidence? Scientific evidence is the most difficult to access and understand. Yet, it has huge potential to transform our inclusion practices. For example, high-quality research using controlled experiments shows that diversity awareness training can cause leaders to treat their subordinates of colour worse and mostly changes the behaviour of existing supporters of diversity. Imagine if we’d known this before spending $8 billion in diversity training (not to mention the high cost of disengagement associated with ineffective training).

So, in a nutshell, use multiple sources of information, but get critical about what you hear and read to separate high-quality work from their lower-quality counterparts. You can learn how to do this through short, affordable courses, checklists, or apps. You can also stay up-to-date on relevant research through sites like ScienceForWork.

Want to see how it can all come together? Explore this example of an evidence-based approach to addressing sexual harassment.

Good luck and keep me posted!

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The Jasmar Group is a behaviour change consultancy that helps organizations build team belonging, culture, and performance.


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