Many Employers Reluctant To Divulge Diversity Workforce, Recruiting Data

Two out of five companies do not disclose employee diversity information, according to a survey of 3,100 senior human resources executives by Novations Group, a consulting and training organization based in Boston.

Thirty-eight percent of companies regard their diversity metrics as proprietary and keep them confidential, while 35% provide such data just to concerned groups, such as employees, vendors, or customers. Only 26% of employers make their diversity recruiting and workforce inclusion data public.

“Releasing diversity data continues to be a sensitive issue for many companies,” says Novations executive consultant Verna Ford. “Employers were never especially open when it comes to divulging metrics that track progress or lack of it, and in the past several years they faced less government scrutiny with respect to diversity. So our finding that there’s been no movement toward greater disclosure is no surprise.”

A report issued by the Social Investment Analyst Research Network last December found that 46 percent of the Standard & Poor’s 100 companies fail to publicly release equal employment opportunity data that would shed light on their efforts to hire and promote women and people of color.

Having accurate diversity data is essential for corporate boards and executive policy-makers, Ford says. “The people responsible for achieving qualitative and quantitative goals need to have all the metrics, and having inaccurate or confusing data is, in fact, even more harmful than having no data. On the other hand, not everyone seeking diversity data has the organization’s best interests at heart, so a corporate counsel’s caution isn’t altogether unreasonable.”

The Novations survey also found that for two out of three employers, diversity is the responsibility of the human resources department.

“When diversity is part of training and development, education is the main objective,” Ford says. “But where the corporate counsel is in charge, it’s likely the company has had some trouble, is under threat of litigation, or realizes diversity has been neglected and were the numbers disclosed there would be major repercussions.”

Likewise, organizations that place a value on their people processes generally put diversity under HR, Ford asserts. “If top management accepts the business case for diversity, it will hold responsible both HR and the line executives that HR supports. When diversity is an independent department it probably means there’s a high-level executive with a personal passion for diversity, and this arrangement works so long as that executive stays visibly involved. Otherwise, as well-intentioned as it may appear, separate status for diversity may soon translate in line managers’ minds as ‘outside of my business’ or an ‘expense item over which I have no control.'”

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Who Has Ownership Of Workplace Diversity Responsibilities?

Human resources department: 69%

Training & development: 10%

Corporate counsel: 2%

Diversity is an independent department: 12%

Other: 7.4%


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