Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging: Why It’s Important in the Workplace

Nov 29, 2023
Reading time: 6 min
Lucy Georgiades

Organizations big and small are embracing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). It's not just about doing the right thing – according to a McKinsey & Company report, diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their peers in financial returns. Deloitte's research also shows that organizations with inclusive cultures are 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging aren’t just buzzwords; they are a commitment to fostering a culture that values the perspectives and experiences of every individual, regardless of background. In this guide, we'll explore what DEIB means and why it's essential for any organization’s strategy.

What Does DEIB Actually Mean?


Diversity refers to the range of differences among people in your organization, such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, physical abilities, religious beliefs, and more. There are many different types of diversity:

  • Racial and ethnic
  • Gender
  • Age
  • LGBTQ+
  • Abilities and disabilities
  • Socioeconomic (differences in wealth, education, or upbringing)
  • Religious and cultural
  • Language
  • Educational background
  • Nationality and immigration status


Equity is about ensuring fairness within your organization. It means actively recognizing and addressing barriers that prevent underrepresented groups from having equal access to opportunities and resources. Equity strives to create a level playing field where everyone has a fair chance to succeed.


Inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and heard. It's not just about inviting diverse backgrounds to the table – it's about making individuals feel empowered to contribute their perspectives.

It’s important to mention that diversity doesn’t automatically lead to inclusivity. Many organizations with a diverse workforce don’t emphasize inclusivity, leading to employees not feeling fully welcomed, valued, or heard.

Inclusion practices include:

  • Inclusive Language: Promoting the use of inclusive language and avoiding gendered or biased terms in communications, policies, and job descriptions.
  • Accessible Workspaces: Providing physical accommodations, such as wheelchair ramps, ergonomic furniture, or ungendered restrooms to ensure that all employees can access the workplace facilities comfortably.
  • Mental Health Support: Offering mental health resources for all employees, while recognizing that issues affect people from all backgrounds differently.
  • Open Communication: Promoting open and transparent communication channels where employees can express concerns, ideas, and suggestions. Employees tend to keep silent when they fear they will get in trouble for speaking out or for saying the wrong thing.


Belonging refers to an environment where all individuals feel included and valued. In a workplace context, it means that people feel connected with both their colleagues and the organization.

When employees feel a sense of belonging, they tend to share their perspectives openly, develop meaningful workplace relationships, and contribute their diverse viewpoints.

Belonging also improves employee retention – it’s hard to leave an organization where you have genuine relationships and a sense of belonging, even when offered a higher salary elsewhere!

The Difference Between Equity and Equality

It’s important to note that equity is not the same as equality.

Equity in the workplace focuses on ensuring fairness and justice by addressing individual and systemic barriers, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, even if it means providing different levels of support to different individuals or groups to achieve a level playing field.

Equality, on the other hand, aims to treat everyone exactly the same, regardless of their individual circumstances. This does not always lead to fair outcomes because it doesn't consider the unique challenges and needs of different individuals.

Equity practices in an organization include:

  • Pay Equity: Ensuring all employees receive equal pay for equal work, and transparency into how their pay is determined.
  • Fair Hiring Practices: This may include blind recruitment (removing identifying information from resumes) and using structured interviews to assess candidates based on their qualifications rather than personal attributes.
  • Access to Training and Development: Offering training, mentorship, and professional development opportunities to all employees, ensuring that these programs are accessible to everyone and not just certain groups.
  • Accommodations for Disabilities: This includes accessible facilities, assistive technologies, or flexible work arrangements.
  • Inclusive Policies and Benefits: Developing policies and benefits that support a diverse workforce, such as parental leave, flexible work schedules, and healthcare coverage that recognizes the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals, single parents, and others with unique requirements.
  • Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Measures: Implementing clear and comprehensive policies, and ensuring that all employees are aware of their rights and have a safe channel to report incidents.
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Encouraging the formation of ERGs that support groups within the organization, such as women, LGBTQ+ employees, or racial and ethnic minorities.

Why DEIB Matters

DEIB isn’t just ethical, it also makes good business sense. Research consistently shows that diverse and inclusive organizations are more innovative, make better decisions, and achieve better financial results.

According to a 2023 Pew Research report, 56% of workers say that increasing DEIB is a good thing, and associated it with a positive impact on the workplace. In addition, a focus on DEIB positively affects recruitment efforts. According to a Glassdoor survey, 76% of job applicants say that a diverse workforce is an important consideration when evaluating a company or an offer.

Yet despite the rise of DEIB initiatives and roles specifically focused on these policies, there’s a lot more work to do. In that same Glassdoor survey, almost half of all Black and Hispanic employees say they have quit a job in the past due to discrimination, and 71% of employees would be more willing to share their experiences and opinions around DEIB if they could do so anonymously.

Incorporating these principles into your workplace is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor; it's a journey that requires ongoing commitment.

10 Tips from Elevate’s DEIB Curriculum

Okay, you’re sold on putting together a DEIB program for your company. But how should you do it? Here are 10 practical steps for implementing a successful DEIB program based on Elevate Leadership’s lessons.

1. Integrate with Existing Programs

DEIB initiatives should be deeply integrated with existing leadership and management development programs, not treated as an extra to-do. A great way to start is to align DEIB goals with core leadership competencies.

2. Meet People Where They Are

Everyone is at a different stage in their DEIB journey. A successful program should be inclusive to all journeys and meet individuals with empathy and patience. Survey your employees to see where they currently are and what they are looking for in terms of DEIB support.

3. Simplify Your Content and Approach

Avoid information overload by focusing on a few key concepts to start. For example, incorporate micro-training focused on one DEIB concept at a time.

4. Reflect, Discuss, and Engage Over Time

DEIB challenges won't change overnight. Successful programs incorporate reflection, discussion, and engagement over longer periods. Conduct ongoing surveys to track how opinions of DEIB practices change over time and to help address future needs promptly.

5. Create Goals and Accountability

Establish clear, measurable objectives that align with your organization’s DEIB goals, and create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track these metrics. This ensures that your efforts work and drive real change.

6. Engage Senior Leadership

Senior leadership involvement is crucial. Integrate DEIB discussions and objectives into decision-making processes. Provide senior leaders with opportunities to lead by example and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to DEIB.

7. Embrace Existing Diversity

Create programs that encourage employees from diverse backgrounds to collaborate on projects, share experiences, and learn from each other’s unique perspectives.

8. Create an Inclusive Environment

This includes running inclusive meetings where people don't feel excluded based on gender, race, experience level, or personality. Establish meeting norms that encourage equal participation, embrace viewpoints through active listening, and implement a rotating facilitator role.

9. Have Open and Honest Conversations

Establish a foundation for open and honest conversations about DEIB. Implement regular check-ins with your employees, and allow for anonymous feedback on DEIB initiatives.

10. Learn Continuously

Consider creating a program that ensures employees engage with micro-content regularly, or incorporate learning opportunities into existing workflows.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is not a one-time thing, but rather an ongoing process that’s central for leadership. It should be built into your management training curriculum, and viewed as part of your organization’s beliefs and values.

Lucy Georgiades is the Co-Founder and CEO at Elevate Leadership. In London and Silicon Valley, Lucy has spent over a decade coaching Founders, CEOs, executive teams and leaders of all levels. She’s spent thousands of hours helping them work through challenges, communicate effectively, achieve their goals, and lead their people. Lucy’s background is in cognitive neuropharmacology and vision and brain development, which is all about understanding the relationships between the brain and human behavior. Lucy is an Oxford University graduate with a Bachelors and a Masters in Experimental Psychology and she specialized in neuroscience. She has diplomas with distinction in Corporate & Executive Coaching and Personal Performance Coaching from The Coaching Academy, U.K. She also has a National Diploma in Fine Art from Wimbledon School of Art & Design.

Justin Michael Williams served as an expert editor for this article. Justin Michael Williams is a DE&I expert, bestselling author, speaker, and Top 20 Recording Artist who has keynoted at some of the world's most prestigious companies and organizations. He has shared the stage with Marianne Williamson and Deepak Chopra and is a celebrated leader in diversity and inclusion with a mission to bring us together through connection, compassion, and well-being.

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