DE&I Within the Ecosystem: Reasons to hope

I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the ecosystem.

When the SIA editorial team reviewed nominations for our inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Influencers list recently, I found myself with mixed feelings as I contemplated the upcoming list.

In the more than 100 nominations we received, we saw much work being done within the industry to make both their companies more equitable and inclusive as well as the ecosystem as a whole. We saw many initiatives that have been running for several years. That was promising, And of course, there were many others that only got their start last year. But still efforts were underway.

So many initiatives. So much goodwill and promise. The optimism slowly started creeping in.

However, there is the current state of things within our ecosystem.

The Reality

We have a long road ahead in terms of DE&I. And yes, it’s daunting.

Consider this. We started our Global Power 150 — Women in Staffing list in 2015 because we have yet to see equity at the leadership level for women, as evidenced by our Staffing 100 list. Year after year, women comprise 20% to 25% of the list. Six years on, the needle hasn’t moved much— though we do field questions periodically on how long we think the women’s list will be necessary (the answer: That’s really up to you. We’ll consider it unneeded when women comprise about half of the Staffing 100 and leadership positions within the industry overall).

Anecdotally speaking, attendance at our industry events, which is geared toward staffing business leaders, is just not very diverse. And we see that across our other editorial lists. On our 2020 40 Under 40 list, there was just one person of color. The Staffing 100 fared better, with 10. Still, representation of 10% when the BIPOC population of the US stood at roughly 40% in 2020 indicates there’s much work staffing needs to do within its own ranks even as the industry tries to help their clients meet DE&I goals of their own.

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Of course, the staffing industry is not alone in having poor representation. Over the Fortune 500’s 65-year history that has seen roughly 1,800 chief executives, only 19 have been Black. Currently, there are just four. One could argue numbers at the top don’t necessarily mean overall numbers are low. However, experts point out that true equity hasn’t been reached if leadership isn’t also representative of your communities.

The good thing is that the industry is not blind to the issues. By the sheer number of nominations we received and the plans and programs shared in them, there are many companies out there committed to changing the status quo both within their own companies and within their communities and clients.

Hope Renewed

And as I’ve read the profiles of the Influencers who comprise our inaugural list, I’m even more hopeful. Some are starting at elementary schools to provide support to BIPOC student populations. Still others are providing second chances to people with nonviolent records. Helping moms get back to work after taking time off to care for their children, which can be a career-busting move. And that’s just a small hint at the work being done.

And for all the people we are profiling, there are more working alongside them and being influenced by them as we speak. They are educating others, challenging others, and encouraging others not to be afraid to have the tough conversations that are necessary to make change happen.

There is reason to hope.

The DE&I Influencers list goes live on May 18. May you be as inspired as I am when you read the profiles.

As you come across people in our ecosystem — doing things with DE&I — that grab your attention, keep them in mind for the 2022 DE&I Influencers list. When nominations open early next year, please submit them. 

Sharon Thomas

Sharon Thomas
Sharon Thomas is senior managing editor at Staffing Industry Analysts, responsible for the Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0 e-newsletter. She can be reached at smthomas (at) staffingindustry (dot) com.

Sharon Thomas

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