DiversityInc Global Diversity Findings 2014: Executive Summary

August 20, 2014 2:50 pm

More Mentoring, Resource Groups; Emphasis on People With Disabilities

Gaps Continue in LGBT Inclusion, Supplier Diversity

By Barbara Frankel

2014 Global Diversity Report

Photo by Shutterstock

Corporate global-diversity initiatives are increasing, according to the results of DiversityInc’s fourth global-research study, assessing efforts in 24 countries in seven continents/regions. Corporate funding and staffing for diversity-and-inclusion initiatives are rising in most countries, while there has been a significant increase in the number of global and local diversity councils. There also are more employee resource groups, mentoring initiatives, and cultural-competence training, especially for expats.

This progress is reflected in improved overall percentages of women in management and leadership positions, and early efforts in many places to include certain other underrepresented groups, particularly young employees and people with disabilities.

Significant global gaps remain, however, in supplier diversity and inclusion of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) employees. And the overall focus on gender continues to exclude racial, ethnic, religious and non-native employees in many countries. Below is an executive summary of some of our key findings.

For information on purchasing the full report, please contact consulting@DiversityInc.com.


This report relies on 46 new global-data submissions received this year, compared against our 2013 global-survey results as well as against U.S. DiversityInc Top 50 survey data also received this year. For this year’s global submissions, we received data from multinationals’ local operations in Australia/New Zealand, Europe, Asia, Canada, South America, Central America and Africa.

We also interviewed local executives in France, South Africa, India, Japan, Singapore and Brazil to gain understanding of the substantive inclusion issues and challenges impacting multinationals in those countries. We focused on global diversity-management best practices, such as diversity councils, mentoring, employee resource groups and the trend of cultural-competence training for expats and their families. Human-capital results remain largely based on gender on a global basis, although there is increasing emphasis on data on employing people with disabilities as well as by age.

Our corporate sponsors—Accenture, BASF, Caterpillar, Dell, Deloitte, EY, Nielsen and Rockwell Collins—were extremely helpful in providing ideas, feedback and interviews to help us understand global-diversity best practices and challenges.

2014 Global Sponsors
Our report focuses on eight key areas, with charts showing progress in each area by region as well as best practices and case studies of companies succeeding in each area.

Here’s a key point from each area.

I. Staffing, Funding for D&I Increasing

D&I StaffingGlobal diversity is gaining in funding and in full-time staff in individual regions/countries as more multinational corporations recognize the need for global cultural competence on a local level to adhere to corporate values and goals.

The business imperative is clear. As one European branch of a Big 4 firm stated: “Our commitment to diversity is important as we serve clients and employ people from different countries around the world. We see it as a business imperative that is essential to thriving in a competitive global marketplace.”

This statement, from Dell Mexico, eloquently sums up what works: “Each country is at a different level or stage regarding diversity and inclusion. However, the reconciliation to the country culture gets simplified by having a clear definition and a set of easy-to-understand statements.”

II. More Global Councils, Local Councils

Diversity CouncilsMany large multinationals have had global diversity councils for some time, but the truly international focus of these groups has developed more significantly in recent years. Companies like Dell and EY have their CEOs chairing these councils, to emphasize the importance to the entire organization.

Our research shows that most of these councils meet in person at least once a year but have as many as four meetings a year virtually. They often have regional diversity councils, headed by the local leaders, reporting in to them. That includes the U.S. diversity councils.

III. Expat Cultural-Competence Training Increases in Value

This section includes case studies on Brazil, Asia and Europe.

Cultural CompetenceAs workforces become increasingly global, the issue of local cultural-competence training for employees—and their families—takes on even more importance. Many of the companies that participated reported increased reliance on this type of training.

For example, one company provides expatriates with access to a global learning portal that includes knowledge of how to conduct culturally competent business. This expands the reach of global business training to a far wider audience, increases support for investment in global knowledge and reduces the risk of costly mistakes doing business abroad.

IV. Women Demographics (Mostly) Improve

This section includes case studies on France, India, Japan and South Africa.

WomenGender inequity remains the greatest concern in all of the countries we examined. The greatest barrier to women’s advancement continues to be family demands.

Best practices include increasingly flexible workplaces, mandatory diverse slates and programs to find women in tech industries. One company in the United Kingdom insists that all executive short lists have 30 percent women candidates. Another company in the U.K. insists that its headhunters must include at least one credible female on the short list for all major selections.

V. Other Key Underrepresented Groups

People With Disabilities

This section includes case studies on Russia, the United Kingdom and Japan.

1. People With Disabilities

DiversityInc partnered with the National Organization on Disability (NOD) to analyze disability employment policy. The research found that world disability-employment ratios vary greatly, from lows of 30 percent in South Africa and 38 percent in Japan to highs of 81 percent in Switzerland and 92 percent in Malawi.

LGBT2. LGBT People

While the increasing groundswell of large corporations taking an active role in LGBT civil rights in the United States is not evident globally, we are seeing several multinationals take a stronger stand. And the prevalence of LGBT employee resource groups is increasing, with 15 percent of our respondents reporting they have these groups locally, compared to only 5 percent last year.

3. Racial/Ethnic/Indigenous Minorities

MinoritiesIn countries where there are clear racial minorities, there often are increased corporate efforts for economic/educational advancement to increase the available labor pool.

The bigger issue, the corporate diversity leaders in these countries tell us, is in countries such as Brazil, where racial differences are often minimized, even though they exist. As one company stated: “Even though there are many inequalities with minority groups and it is getting better, it still exists. It is not easy to find racial minorities in the market.”

4. Younger Workers

Younger WorkersThere is increasing emphasis on recruiting and engaging younger workers in areas on both ends of the age parameter. At the same time, respect for older people in Asia is key to the culture and European countries are trying to hold on to aging Baby Boomers as long as they can, fearing the “knowledge gap” when they leave.

Many companies have added younger-worker or younger-professional employee resource groups on a global basis—with 18 percent of participating companies reporting they have these groups, compared to 12 percent in last year’s report.
Employee Resource Groups

VI. Growth of Global Employee Resource Groups

The number of global employee resource groups is growing dramatically. Dell, a leader in global employee resource groups, has groups throughout the global regions for women, younger workers, people with disabilities, LGBT people and a group based on environmental sustainability.

VII. Mentoring/Sponsorship Primarily for Women

MentoringWhile formal mentoring is increasing, global efforts at making these relationships cross-cultural are focused primarily on gender. And involvement of senior, local executives is the exception rather than the norm. Sponsorship (political advocacy) is less common and almost entirely restricted to women when underrepresented groups are considered.

VIII. Supplier Diversity Remains a Challenge

Supplier DiversityOutside of the United States, the concept of supplier diversity remains largely unknown and almost completely underutilized. However, there are some signs of progress. WEConnect International (www.WEConnectInternational.org), a partner of DiversityInc’s that promotes global supplier diversity for women-owned enterprises, tells us this: “While very few countries outside of Australia, South Africa and the United States have diversity-and-inclusion spend goals set by the government, most countries are quickly increasing their local content-sourcing requirements because policy makers view it as an engine for SME growth and job creation.”

IX. Conclusion

The global confusion over how to successfully implement diversity efforts is getting more clear—the multinationals participating this year indicated better funding and support from global headquarters and more focus on best practices such as employee resource groups, mentoring and expat/internal cultural-competence training.

Efforts, however, vary widely by country with more Westernized countries modeling U.S. efforts to include groups besides women in the diversity initiatives.

Overall, the results are encouraging and show a growing awareness of the need for measurable best practices. But the lack of initiatives that go beyond gender remains an obstacle to real global inclusion.

For information on purchasing the full report, please contact consulting@DiversityInc.com.

2014 Global Sponsors