Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) measures have been in place for some time now. But how do we know they are working? In this post we look at two issues related to the efficacy of efforts to improve ED&I. These are: the evidence base for change and attitudes towards issues of equality.
Many ED&I strategies depend on gathering evidence about organisations’ current levels of diversity and representativeness as a starting point from which to measure improvement. This strategy of assessing baseline metrics is also beginning to be applied to the efficacy of ED&I activities.
The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, an organisation that is tasked with generating evidence for policy recommendations for the UK’s Creative Industries, recognises that “Despite growing momentum to address EDI in the workplace and in social impact work, the evidence base for what works remains limited” (Nesta, 2021, p. 15). Similarly, Dave O’Brien describes the problem as being that “until recently, there had not been a systematic look at ‘what works’ to support diversity in the creative economy” because of a lack of the right kinds of evidence:
“For sure, there were examples of great interventions, innovative approaches, and individual success stories. Yet systematic evidence of effective practice, along with insights into the limitations of approaches assumed to be right, was much more common in literature for medicine, business and management, and science and technology.” (O’Brien, 2021)
The ‘Creative Majority’ report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Creative Diversity (Wreyford et al., 2021) is an attempt to redress this lack of evidence. The report starts from the perspective that:
“The UK’s creative industries are a major success story, and yet participation in, and benefits of, this success are not evenly shared, with a small minority dominating the sector and its most senior roles. Creative Majority lays bare the still-too-common belief that ‘talent will always out’ and focuses its lens not on the problem but on ‘What Works’ to increase diversity in the creative industries.” (Wreyford et al., 2021, p. 4)
Combining an extensive systematic literature review with evidence collected at roundtables, the report finds that “Even where interventions have been successful, there is often no systematic record of the outcome or impact” and so turns to “experiments, and observations, and critically, recorded outcomes of EDI interventions, from fields as diverse as education, medicine and management studies, to bring together evidence of what actually works and also what does not” (Wreyford et al., 2021, p. 31).
The result is an ambitious set of 27 policy recommendations for government, organisations and businesses on the five themes of Ambition, Allyship, Accessibility, Adaptability and Accountability. The breadth of these themes is an acknowledgement that a change in institutional cultural attitudes is needed, along with better metrics for measuring ED&I effects.
The discrepancy between ED&I activities and material changes in inequality has been noted. On the issue of gender, Gail Crimmins writes that there is a “contemporary boredom or frustration with the term sexism as a frame of reference, and with an identification of patriarchy and structural gender inequality more generally”, where sexism is considered to be “no longer relevant or applicable” and it is “as if sexism is a thing safely located in the past or only apparent in other/‘lesser’ geographical locations” (Crimmins, 2019, p. 4). However, this is contested by the wealth of data Crimmins presents about inequalities dues to gender and compounded by age, race, caste and parenthood (Crimmins, 2019, pp. 5-11).
Orian Brook et al., in their assessment of inequalities in the Creative Industries find a related problem. They describe how “the language addressing inequality has evolved” so that “Within the recognition of structural inequalities lies the absolution of responsibility for change” (Brook et al., 2020, p. 256). Paradoxically, organisations’ comfort with talking about ED&I issues can lead to a sense that inequalities have been fixed, or are at least on the way to becoming so, and therefore there is less imperative to take action. In this situation “There is a real danger that speaking about inequalities is a new way to marginalise and ignore them” (p. 256); making ED&I practices visible does not necessarily mean they are effective.
Accumulating an evidence base demonstrates that issues of inequality are not yet in the past. The next and final blog post in this series, on Diversity Monitoring Data, looks at one of the most prevalent methods of gathering evidence.
Brook, O., O’Brien, D., & Taylor, M. (2020). Culture is bad for you: Inequality in the cultural and creative industries. Manchester University Press.
Crimmins, G. (Ed.). (2019). Strategies for Resisting Sexism in the Academy Higher Education, Gender and Intersectionality. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04852-5
Nesta. (2021). Advancing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Nesta. https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/Nesta_EDI_Strategy_FA_1.pdf
O’Brien, D. (2021, September 16). What works to support equity, diversity, and inclusion in the Creative Industries? Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre. https://pec.ac.uk/blog/what-works-to-support-equity-diversity-and-inclusion-in-the-creative-industries
Wreyford, N., O’Brien, D., & Dent, T. (2021). Creative Majority: An APPG for Creative Diversity report on ‘What Works’ to support, encourage and improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the creative sector. All Party Parliamentary Group for Creative Diversity. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural/projects/creative-majority