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Week 1 Analysis

From Allyship to AI: Big D&I Ideas in 2019

The year is young, but already some themes are emerging for what to expect in 2019.

Last year saw a whirlwind of diversity and inclusion progress, from the expansion (and some criticism) of the #MeToo movement to the concept of “allyship” entering the mainstream. What will 2019 bring? Here are some predictions for trends to watch. Look for stories from us on these and more. 

Global D&I continues to evolve. 

  • In PwC’s latest global benchmarking survey, 87 percent of respondents stated that D&I was a stated priority for their organization. But companies still struggle with defining common priorities and programming—even common language—across cultures. In India, D&I has often focused on gender equity, while full employment access for people with disabilities and LGBTQ people has lagged. Europeans can be confused by U.S. perceptions about race (rooted in the U.S.’s history of slavery and immigration), while underestimating the challenges Muslims face in their own societies. And in Brazil, government pressure--including quotas for many public institutions--is leading to employment gains for black citizens. Leaders will continue to experiment with different strategies for local conditions...and experience friction and fall-out when local and headquarters’ priorities diverge.

Transparency will continue to up the stakes

  • Countries around the world have now enacted various forms of pay equity laws, many of which focus on transparency as the primary mechanism for driving equity. Arjuna Capital, as well as other activist investors, have already forced many technology and financial services firms to make pay equity data transparent....and retail is next. And in the US, the new chief data officer for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission says that the agency will release government contractors' mandatory EEO1 surveys to the public by the end of 2019, making government contractors' representation data transparent whether they like it or not. Greater visibility into how companies are performing will create more pressure for progress.

Increased scrutiny around AI and algorithmic bias in HR processes. 

  • When Amazon shut down its experimental AI-driven recruiting engine last year because of biased results, we were reminded that algorithmic bias is already shaping hiring in unexpected ways. And as AI tools expand into other HR processes, such as performance reviews and pay equity analysis, the risk of perpetuating and even amplifying bias grows. The good news is that dedicated people—from academics to customers to employees—are speaking out. Debiasing machine learning and AI will become a business imperative, as both corporate customers and consumers will demand evidence that their AI tools are representative of their values—including their values around diversity and inclusion.

Highly-paid employees using their bargaining power to win protections for more vulnerable workers. 

  • The Google walkout protesting sexual harassment led to Google and some other tech companies ending forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims. However, as Recode points out, the change doesn’t apply to Google’s contractors, who by some measures constitute over 50 percent of their workforce. While some companies are amping up supplier requirements around diversity and inclusion, there is still an enormous gap between the haves and the have-nots in high-performing companies. In 2019, highly-paid workers in tech and finance will follow the lead of TimesUp and fight for their gains to be extended to custodians, cafeteria workers, shuttle drivers and all of the other contract employees who make their work possible.

More big ideas. 

  • A friend recently asked me: “So much of D&I seems to be a game of inches. Where are the big ideas? How do we create change more quickly?” In the long run, the change being seeded now will compound—look at what AI4All is doing if you’d like a dose of inspiration. Presuming the world economy holds, I expect to see more big ideas—which also require more budget—devoted to accelerating change on the ground.

We here at D&I In Practice look forward to this year with you...and to checking back in January of 2020 to see if these predictions come to pass. Thank you for being part of the change!


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