Weber Shandwick study on diversity and inclusion efforts at companies

Communications and marketing professionals play a large role in the implementation of diversity and inclusion efforts at companies, according to a new report released by Weber Shandwick in partnership with KRC Research and United Minds.

“Chief Diversity Officers Today: Paving the Way for Diversity & Inclusion” finds that more than four out of 10 senior-level professionals responsible for diversion and inclusion at their companies say their job performance is evaluated on factors that require collaboration with marketing and communications departments. Top among the challenges that they cited is making the business case for D&I, followed by externally communicating D&I values and outcomes.

Trying to align the D&I mission with the overall culture of a company can also be a stumbling block. The number-one reason that survey respondents said stood in the way of D&I goals is organizational culture. Also coming in close to the top was what the report calls “diversity & inclusion fatigue.”

But respondents who said their companies had successfully aligned their D&I goals with their overall agenda often cited communications as a factor that helped them get there. Almost three-quarters of respondents (72 percent) said that corporate communications were pivotal to helping them achieve their goals, and 63 percent said that corporate marketing was a significant factor.

The business case for D&I is also visible in the survey results. Almost eight out of 10 respondents (79 percent) from “well-aligned” companies said that diversity and inclusion efforts are an important driver of a company’s reputation, with 66 percent noting that those efforts also drive stronger financial performance.

Respondents across the board agreed that corporate commitment was essential to creating a successful D&I program. Nine out of 10 either somewhat or strongly agreed that internal support for D&I efforts was integral to the success of diversity and inclusion at their company.

They said that commitment was rather slow in coming, however. Only 28 percent of respondents said that they were able to spend all of their time on the job working on D&I efforts.

The makeup of the D&I workforce could also use a diversity boost itself. Over half (56 percent) were male, 60 percent were white and 57 percent were millennials.

Overall, however, the respondents seemed bullish about what the future holds, with 80 percent saying they were optimistic about the future of D&I in corporate America. In addition, 51 percent said they thought most U.S. companies would have a CDO within the next five years.

The study surveyed 500 professionals between March 4 and 27.