Why DEI is a Must-Do

Author: Shanta Ricks

Editors: Jenna Clark, Judson Bonick & Shaye-Ann Hopkins


What is DEI?

“Diversity,” “Equity,” and “Inclusion” (DEI) have been popular buzzwords within many businesses and organizations for the past few years. The question is what do companies mean when they say they are striving to have “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion”? People use these words interchangeably, but they are different things.


Let’s say an organization is composed of all White males. The company decides to be more intentional about unbiasedly hiring based on merit – hoping to employ a more diverse range of people. They succeed, and as such able to promote diversity within their organization. Diversity is “the presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective. (1)


A diverse workplace is a good start, but it’s not enough – everyone in the workplace needs to be offered the same opportunities as their counterparts. Let’s say that our newly-diverse company examines employee wages and discovered that men in senior positions are making twice as much as women, although they all have similar work experience and expertise. The company decides to pay all of those in the senior position the same amount. We call this equity. Equity is “promoting justice, impartiality, and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems.” (2)


So far, this company is doing a good job. It has incorporated forms of diversity and equity. Unfortunately, senior leaders begin to hear complaints from their employees about how the work environment doesn’t make them feel comfortable with being themselves. Many say they feel out of place. With a diverse workplace, differences in perspective and opinion are expected,  but organizations should ensure that all people feel valued, heard, and welcomed within their place of work. We call this inclusion. Inclusion is an “outcome to ensure those that are diverse feel and/or are welcomed.

Inclusion outcomes are met when you, your institution, and your program are truly inviting to all. To the degree to which diverse individuals can participate fully in the decision-making processes and development opportunities within an organization or group.” (3)

Solving the question of inclusion may be even tougher than those of diversity and equity, but there’s a silver lining: if an organization truly practices equity in its hiring and promotion, management will likely diversify, making it safer for junior employees to bring their true selves to work.


Benefits: Why we should strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

First, and most importantly, incorporating DEI into our organizations is just the right thing to do. But doing so also has many benefits for organizations and society! These include:

    • More profitability. Research shows that diverse companies are associated with higher revenue and profitability. For example, one study by McKinsey (2015) found that ethnically diverse companies are 30% more likely to reach above national industry returns.
    • Enhanced creativity. Workplaces that consist of people of different backgrounds are more likely to foster a more creative environment. Lorenz et al (2017) found that diverse management(e.g., industry background and gender) is associated with increased innovation, and in return leads companies to see an increase in profit.
    • Better decision-making. It’s one thing to be creative and generate ideas, but companies also have to make decisions about how to implement those ideas and move forward. A study by Forbes showed that inclusive teams are better at making decisions up to 87% of the time. They also found that decisions made and executed by diverse teams deliver better results (by 60%).
    • Higher employment engagement. Employees are the key to moving an organization forward. Thus, an important goal is to ensure that employees are content, will stay with their employer, and will be engaged. One avenue to employee engagement is diversity and inclusion. Deloitte (2013) found that employees in a workplace that incorporates both diversity and inclusion report higher levels of engagement, compared to those who experience just diversity or inclusion. They found that these individuals are more likely to stay with their employer, be more engaged, and expend more effort.

How we at the Center for Advanced Hindsight strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion

Nearly two years ago, the Center for Advanced Hindsight (CAH) launched an internal Equity Team. Our goal was to examine how we incorporate DEI into our research, our partnerships, our training, and our own makeup. We’ve taken a few very important first strides (primarily around hiring and research), but recognize there is much more work to do. Check out some of those efforts below.

Diversifying Hiring Practices

We began by examining our practices around hiring research assistants (RAs)—typically these are undergraduate or graduate students who are either paid or volunteer. The Center often sourced RAs from our own institution, Duke University, because internal recruiting is simpler – but that meant we were primarily offering positions to students who would more easily have access to opportunities like this. 

With this in mind, we made an effort to explore recruitment sources beyond our central hub. For example, we began to research and utilize a wider range of job platforms to ensure that our job postings are reaching a wide array of people. By doing this, we have been able to give a much wider range of students the chance to work with us and gain practical experience within the behavioral science space. 

Even more specifically, we have expanded RA opportunities to an amazing school in our backyard, North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a Historically Black University (HBCU) with both Bachelors- and Masters-level psychology students. One of our researchers, an NCCU alumnus, introduced our lab to a psychology professor at NCCU, who helped us to build connections with students who might be interested in becoming RAs. When recruiting researchers, many graduating NCCU students and alumni have applied. 

This has led us to a key understanding which we continue to try to leverage: connections and reach matter when trying to promote DEI.

Conducting Research that Benefits Everyone

Furthermore, our goal at the lab is to ensure that people are engaging in positive financial, health, and environmental behaviors. We acknowledge that the barriers to achieving these behaviors may be different depending on various demographic factors. Based on this, we continue to make a conscious and careful effort to learn how these different demographic factors affect the outcomes we care about.

First, we have made great efforts to include diverse and representative samples in our research. For example, our work on the morality of influencing others’ choices was conducted entirely with nationally representative samples. This is important because it enables us to see if there are any meaningful, demographic-specific findings.

 Second, we are taking into account unique factors (e.g., behavioral biases and structural factors) that are specific to certain demographics to culturally tailor our interventions. For example, from a recent survey we conducted to understand COVID-19 experiences and how that varies by race, we found that Latinx Americans tend to perceive a greater risk for COVID-19 (i.e., catching, spreading, or getting seriously ill from COVID-19) than Black and White Americans. Meanwhile, for Black Americans, the idea that discrimination impacts their ability to receive good health care was one of many factors that were associated with the decision to not get the COVID-19 vaccine. From these findings, we were able to create a list of recommendations on how to develop culturally-tailored messages for unvaccinated Black and Latinx Americans.


Promoting DEI is easier said than done. It requires reevaluating our processes and systems internally and understanding more about how society plays a role externally in our work. It also means that we have to face a tough reality: our work practices may not foster DEI. Still, understanding where we fall short is the first step to improving. Incorporating and maintaining DEI in the workplace will take work and effort, but it’s achievable. 

If you’re interested in learning more about DEI and how to incorporate it within your workplace, check out this article!



  1. https://dei.extension.org/
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid