Over Dexis’ 20-year history, our company has grown in size and diversity. Women make up 70 percent of staff and half of our executive leadership team. Forty percent of our staff and leadership team are from minority or historically under-represented communities. However, most of our diversity efforts focused on the needs of overseas stakeholders.
Then with the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and the heightened recognition of the need for racial justice across the U.S., we took a hard look at ourselves. Wanting to go beyond passive public statements of support, we began a sustained process of reflecting on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and translating that reflection into action.
Dexis staff immediately expressed a strong desire to support tangible change across a range of issues, which led to Dexis establishing our Charitable Contribution Match Program. Through it, Dexis matches staff donations to organizations that advance positive social change in our communities. Over the past year, the program has led to over $42,000 in donations to organizations including Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Black Lives Matter Global Network, Color of Change, Equal Justice Initiative, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, among others.
Also high on our priority list was gathering data to examine our overall DE&I performance. We hired an outside firm to help conduct a survey of U.S. staff (of which 145 employees responded), review our equal employment opportunity (EEO) demographic data, and benchmark Dexis against similar organizations.
This allowed us to explore some key questions—Is our team representative of the societies we operate in? Are we being truly equitable? How do our own staff perceive issues of fairness and representation at work? To be transparent, we’ve openly shared the results of this review with our staff, including both the areas where we exceled and where we need improvement.
Initially we thought because we’re in international development and valued diversity, we would be fine. Yet the data painted a mixed picture. Dexis was well ahead of our peers when it came to female representation. Although we fared poorly on representation of African Americans at first glance, we ended up being at par when compared to similar labor categories within our industry. Yet we, and the development sector as a whole, need to do better.
Another important area was around compensation. We scored poorly on internal perceptions regarding compensation for women and minorities. However, this view was inconsistent with prior data-driven equity reviews, which did not surface any systemic inequities. In any case, the DE&I review is helping us to distill facts from perceptions and has resulted in appropriate increases in compensation. We will go where the facts take us.
Across most areas, though, Dexis staff rated the organization highly, with over 92% saying all people/cultures are respected, nearly 87% feeling they can be their authentic self, and over 86% believing that Dexis fairly evaluates performance.
The independent experts at the outside firm we hired deemed these and other positive statements where we received over 80% approval as a “superior feature.” While this was encouraging overall, there was also gender divide in some areas. For example, women rated Dexis on average 10 points below men.
Not only are Dexis staff essential to hold the organization accountable to these findings, but they are directly driving change across the company. As a central part of this, Dexis has established a Diversity Council, a permanent decision-making body, along with two initial working groups that address specific areas of concern including recruitment and staff development.
As Harvard Business Review notes, task force entities like the Dexis Diversity Council and working groups are “the trifecta of diversity programs,” in that they promote accountability, engage staff who otherwise might not participate in diversity efforts, and increase contact among diverse personnel.
In the past nine months, the Diversity Council and working groups have brainstormed and launched a series of initiatives to improve DE&I efforts at Dexis. These include the following:
DE&I remains an ongoing, long-term commitment and an opportunity for us to live out our values of ingenuity, integrity, and investment in our people. It is one of myriad expressions of how we exhibit inclusive behaviors toward one another, within our communities, and in partnership with our clients and stakeholders.
We’ve invested in the Dexis DE&I initiatives over the past year because it’s both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Moving forward requires real, continued investment from leadership as well as robust accountability with our teams. We celebrate these staff-led initiatives and encourage our newest employees to bring their unique perspectives, backgrounds, and ideas into the mix as we continue to find new areas for meaningful improvement.
Photo by James Duncan Davidson