Whether you are a founder or people leader, an entrepreneur or corporate veteran, you’re likely thinking about DEI—diversity, equity and inclusion—more than ever these days.
That is as it should be. Workplaces everywhere are emerging from a decades-long fog. Many major corporations are 70, 80 or 100+ years old (General Electric and IBM formed in the late 1800s)—and their rules were created at a time when people of color were not allowed in the corporate workplace. “The old rules are outdated and rooted in bias,” says Dee C. Marshall, CEO of Diverse & Engaged, a diversity consulting firm. “They were created when systemic racism was woven into the fabric of the institution.”
To evolve away from that, companies large and small must be intentional about creating a culture where DEI (or DEIB—with B for “Belonging”) can thrive. It’s a vast undertaking, but absolutely necessary. It’s the right thing to do. And it’s not just about talking the talk, checking diversity boxes or looking good on the outside. It’s about creating real, tangible change to foster more inclusion and belonging at work, for the good of all.
I recently sat down with Marshall to hear her thoughts on the top DEI trends to look for in the new year. Her unique genius is creating programs and initiatives to support a diverse workplace culture, and she has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, the government and beyond. “I’ve spent most of my career empowering women,” says Marshall, “and then developing and advising women leaders from corporate to Congress to other countries.”
Here are Marshall’s top 5 DEI trend predictions for 2023—designed to keep you in-the-know about the future of workplace equity.
1. DEI is moving to inclusive leadership. “DEI no longer just sits ‘over there,’” says Marshall. It’s being relocated to the leadership table. “People leaders now need to become more inclusive. This means that leaders need to be able to manage and lead their teams, and run their business, through a multicultural and multidimensional lens. It’s how leaders show up.”
2. DEI is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s a need-to-have. In the corporate world, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) will be very important in 2023—and DEI falls under the ‘S’ [Social] in ESG. “Corporations are now required to report specifics [on DEI],” explains Marshall. “They are going to hold their vendors and suppliers accountable. They’re going to hold their people accountable. Whether you work in a big corporation or you’re a woman-owned business, you’re going to be held accountable.”
(A bit of background: Since 2021, NASDAQ-listed companies are now required to have at least two diverse board members, or explain why they do not. A year prior to that, Goldman Sachs announced that it would not take a company public unless it had at least one diverse board member.)
3. Outdated rules and policies will be canceled in 2023. Why? “We now have the largest and most diverse U.S. Congress,” notes Marshall. “You have millennial representation. You have Gen Z representation. You have LGBTQ representation. You have Muslim representation. And more people of color. With a change in lawmakers comes a change in policy.”
All those outdated corporate rules from 100 years ago? They will start to fall away as diverse lawmakers challenge the rules and policies around people of color, women and diversity.
4. We will make strides with pay equity. As companies adopt new codes and auditing practices around compensation, we might finally begin to close a pay gap that hurts women—especially women of color—in the workplace. Companies that adopt transparency around pay, across all job roles, will gain more trust and loyalty among employees.
Marshall predicts that women will be empowered by something called the Equity Integrity Code (EIC), which ensures that companies will pay women the same amount as white male counterparts with the same job level experience. “They will be able to go in [to hiring situations] and ask, ‘Do you honor the Equity Integrity Code?’” she says. But we can’t be passive about it. “Women will need to have the conversation and put it in writing.”
5. Diverse partnerships will be essential. A key piece of the DEI puzzle for 2023 will be the need for companies and leaders to disrupt and diversify their entire circle. This means that even if your business is struggling to retain a diverse workforce, they can and should have a supply chain of diverse-owned businesses. More than a trend prediction, this is a call-to-action for leaders everywhere.
“How will leaders do better and win?” asks Marshall. “You’ve got to diversify your network, your workplace, your circle, your vendor. Partner with a Latina-owned business, a Black-owned business. Don’t hire them to pay them the least. Partner and pay them, and you’ll make the most. That is how it’s going to play out for the people who really get it.”