‹  Back to Blog

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Guide for 2021

A lot happened in 2020.  And yes, that is quite an understatement. 

In the wake and outrage over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and sadly so many more, America and the world faced a racial reckoning. Individuals who were once silent on this matter were changing their tune. Eyes and ears were beginning to open. People were becoming more aware of their own biases and whether or not they were helping the problem or hurting. Most importantly, a lot of people realized how being uninformed was no longer an acceptable excuse and how not speaking up is a part of the bigger problem. 

As individuals began to grow and do some deep inner work, organizations grew as well. While these topics were once not had in a company forum, they were being discussed openly in 2020. 

Employees started asking what their companies were doing to build a diverse and inclusive workplace. Companies needed answers. Organizations started talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). But talk is cheap. 

2021 is about action. This year revolves around setting goals and taking promises from words to actionable steps. 

However, we know that creating a successful DE&I plan is much easier said than done. That’s why we’ve created this diversity, equity, and inclusion guide to help you better navigate this space. 

What Does Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Mean? 

First, things first. Let’s figure out what diversity, equity, and inclusion actually mean. 


We love how our friends at Culture Amp explain it, “Diversity is a relational concept.  It shows up in the composition of teams and organizations, and it is measured based on a collective whole.“ People are not diverse. In fact, using the word “diverse candidate” or “diverse employee” can be problematic

Diversity can mean different things to different people. For some, it refers to the protected classes, such as race, sexual orientation, gender, and age. And for others, like our CEO, Ben Herman, “Diversity means understanding and appreciating the differences each individual brings to the workplace, including but not limited to national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and family structures. Everyone.”

When thinking about diversity, think about it referring to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, socioeconomic status, education, national origin, political background, language, disability, parental status, geographic location, and career background. 

Ultimately, diversity is truly about what makes us who we are—our background, our uniqueness, our lived experiences, and more. It forms our beliefs and perspectives. 


You may think equity is the same as equality. But they are different. Here’s how: Equality means giving everyone the same opportunities. While that sounds nice in theory, it doesn’t take into account that we don’t start out with the same opportunities in life. Equity is about meeting people on an individual need basis. To help you understand this more, MentalFloss states, “Equality is about dividing resources into matching amounts, and equity focuses more on dividing resources proportionally to achieve a fair outcome for those involved.” 


Inclusion is about having a work environment where underrepresented individuals feel welcomed, respected, valued, and heard. When thinking about inclusion, think about if all of your employees feel included. That means you are including their ideas, their feelings, their thoughts, their backgrounds, and their concerns. Are you giving employees of all backgrounds the opportunity to grow and develop in their careers? Is the work environment a safe place for employees to speak up and voice their opinions and concerns? 

This History of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

DE&I work has come a long way over the past decade. The proof is in the pudding, or actually, it’s in the increased demand for more DE&I roles. According to Business Insider, “There's been a 71% increase worldwide in all DEI job listings over the last five years, with the role of "Head of Diversity" growing by more than 107%.”

Companies are talking about DE&I more than ever before. Along with that, employees are now demanding it be a top value that is central to their organization. Beyond just talking, companies are starting to create public-facing goals around diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

More on that below. 

Why is DE&I Important?

We know that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity isn’t. It’s not enough to just talk about the problem anymore. We all have to collectively come together and take action. 

Organizations that value diversity, equity, and inclusion and are strategic in their efforts to improve it are more successful than the companies that don’t make DE&I a priority. 

A study led by McKinsey & Company examined the performance of organizations with different levels of workplace diversity. They found that “companies that exhibit gender and ethnic diversity are, respectively, 15% and 35% more likely to outperform less diverse peers. The same study found that organizations with more racial and gender diversity bring in more sales revenue, more customers and higher profits.”

Furthermore, in a Deloitte study on diversity on inclusion, they found “Companies with inclusive talent practices in hiring, promotion, development, leadership, and team management generate up to 30 percent higher revenue per employee and greater profitability than their competitors.”

If you needed any more convincing, a company that employs individuals of all backgrounds will also find that their employees will understand their target customers and audiences better, Moreover, if your company cares about employee retention, creating an inclusive work environment is going to be instrumental in keeping your employees engaged and excited to carry out the organization’s mission. 

How Can an Organization Address Each Part of DE&I?


When thinking about how to advance DE&I within your organization, you want to address and focus on each part individually. 

To create a diversified workforce, you’ll want to work closely with your Talent team and Hiring Managers. Think about ways to attract more talent from underrepresented backgrounds. This could look like working with HBCUs and partnering with organizations that are committed to supporting and empowering untapped communities, 

You’ll also want to get laser-focused on the language you are using in your job descriptions. Are you using inclusive language? Would your job post enable people from all backgrounds to apply for that role? 

And lastly, don’t forget to decide on your diversity hiring metrics you want the company to hit. Try getting specific to make your goals a reality. (Example: By 2022, the company will have 50% women on the engineering team) 


To build a diverse and inclusive workforce, looking at everything with an equity lens will be key. For example, when examining a job posting, you’ll want to make sure if requirements, like school or degree, give everyone equal access to apply. Remember, not everyone has the same access and is given the same previous opportunities. Think about how your company is leveling the playing field for all of your employees. 

Most often, people associate equity with pay equity. But let’s go beyond that. Forbes offers a helpful way to look at equity, stating, “There are other forms of equity to consider — like learning and development opportunities and opportunities for growth, success, and promotion. Even parity in the way projects are divided up and assigned can go a long way to ensuring equity. Examine all your HR processes through the lens of equity, too: For example, do you offer mentorship programs? Do you provide scholarships for upskilling opportunities and/or cover employees’ costs directly? Do you hold managers accountable for income structures and distributing equitable bonuses?”


When it comes to creating an inclusive culture, it starts from the top. Examine your leadership team. How are they making their team members feel safe, valued, and empowered? One way to keep leadership and the company honest is to create an Inclusion Committee. According to ATD (Association for Talent Development), an Inclusion Committee can “affect culture change by establishing processes and practices that are sustainable and profitable for the long term. And, assist senior leaders in understanding the complex nuances associated with diversity and workplace inclusion.”

Something else to take note of, is your company being mindful of all religious holidays and cultural practices? Offering floating holidays that employees can use to celebrate their important holidays is a great way to foster inclusion. 

Examples of Companies With Strong Commitments to Diversity

It’s one thing to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion. But it’s another to make positive changes and break barriers in the workplace. How do you go from A to Z? Or, how do you even go from A to B? The best way to learn is by example. Let’s see how other organizations are tackling DE&I and what their commitments look like. 


If you’re looking for DE&I inspiration, look no further. Twilio is a great example of a company that is displaying its DE&I goals front and center on its website. In our podcast episode with Andrew Gramley, Programs Lead on the Early in Career (EIC) team at Twilio, he spoke about the importance of accountability. 

Andrew explained, “If we won't state those objectives, it's really easy to avoid accountability for them. And on our website, we say we are striving by 2023 to hit 30% underrepresented population in the United States and 50% female population globally, and a hundred percent on our inclusion and belonging index as part of our employee survey. We're not hiding behind it, whispering it in the boardroom. It is on our website with progress towards those goals. Will we get there by 2023? I think it's going to be really hard. But to me, it's about accountability, measurability, and being able to demonstrate progress.”  


Nike is a company that everyone knows. But what everyone may not know about Nike is that it’s doing something unique when it comes to its DE&I goals. Not only have they set diversity metrics they are aiming to hit by 2025, but they are also tying these goals to executive compensation. 

President and Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe explained in a letter, “Our Purpose 2025 Targets are not just aspirations. They are a call to action – with clear goals, strategies, and accountabilities. We are also redefining what responsible leadership looks like. For the first time, we will tie executive compensation to Nike’s progress in deepening diversity and inclusion, protecting the planet, and advancing ethical manufacturing.” 

Nike’s 2025 target goals are specific and measurable:  

  • - 50% representation of women in global corporate workforce and 45% in leadership positions. 

  • - 30% representation of racial and ethnic minorities at Director level and above in the U.S.; increase pipeline of Black and LatinX talent at Director level and above. 

  • - 35% representation of U.S. racial and ethnic minorities in our U.S. corporate workforce.

  • - 10 million dollar investment earmarked for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HIS) in the form of scholarships and academic - partnerships to increase intern and direct hires


Asana knows in order for their employees to do their best work, DE&I needs to come first. They are a company that is exemplifying walking the walk. Like Twilio and Nike, Asana is holding itself accountable by displaying its diversity and inclusion initiatives to the public. Going even beyond that, they openly share their diversity data, where you can see a breakdown of their employee population by race & ethnicity, gender, age, LGBTQIA, and disability. 

Asana’s DE&I strategies are bucketed into three categories—build, recruit, and thrive. They are laying the foundation for DE&I by offering a “comprehensive D&I onboarding curriculum for new employees, Robust, customized trainings: Mandatory harassment training, bias training with Paradigm, and inclusive leadership training for managers.” Along with, quarterly Ask Me Anything events with their Head of D&I and guests.  

In regards to their recruitment process, they partner with “organizations aligned with underrepresented communities in tech like Techqueria, Afrotech, YearUp, and The Marcy Lab School.”  Asana makes it a policy to “Interview at least one candidate from an underrepresented group and one non-male candidate for every leadership role.” They also offer apprenticeship programs for individuals from underrepresented backgrounds. 

Under their thrive bucket, Asana offers accessible mental health benefits, and fosters inclusive communities by “social engagement, volunteering, and open conversations.”

How to Create a DE&I Roadmap

Without a roadmap, how will you know if you’ve gotten to your destination? How will you know if you steered off course? Where do you even begin? That’s why your DE&I roadmap is critical. 

  1. Get leadership buy-in. To begin, you’ll start at the top. Make sure all of your executives know the significance of DE&I in the workplace and understand the impact it will have.  

  2. Ask yourself, “Where are we now?” Your team needs to know where you are starting in order to create realistic expectations and goals. Evaluate all parts of the process, from sourcing to interviewing to onboarding and beyond. What can be improved? 

  3. Create DE&I goals that can be measured and have a timeline.

  4. Figure out the “what”. What will be your overall strategy? What do you need to hit these goals? What is your budget? What ERG groups will need to be formed? What tools will you be using to hit your goals?  

  5. Decide on the “who”. Who will be involved? Will you be partnering with HBCUs? Are you going to be working with organizations and nonprofits committed to helping underrepresented groups?
  6. Communicate your goals and strategies to your team and to the public. Much like we saw with companies like Nike, Twilio, and Asana, accountability is essential. By showcasing your DE&I goals for everyone to see, it holds everyone responsible. 

  7. Track your progress. Without tracking your process, you won’t know if an area needs more attention. Being able to track your advancement along the way will help keep you on course. 

How Can You Use Canvas To Promote DE&I?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither was a DE&I strategy. That’s why many talent teams turn to a diversity recruiting platform, like Canvas, to help build a more inclusive workforce. Our platform provides teams with robust applicant filtering of 75+ self-reported candidate data points, inclusive sourcing from a shared talent pool, and full pipeline analytics—so you can make diversity a part of how your talent team thinks every day.

If you don’t know how URGs are progressing in the interview process, or you’re struggling to show leadership metrics around the efficacy of your recruiting initiatives and the ROI, take a look at how Canvas can help. 

Our platform reveals your diversity debt and mitigates biases by tracking how URGs and minorities progress through each stage of your hiring funnel. You’ll be able to make data-informed decisions on what to prioritize in your diversity journey to build a more inclusive workforce. Prove your strategy and ROI with confidence.

Make smarter, data-driven decisions to optimize your entire hiring strategy with analytics—from identifying where the dropoff points are for URGs to maximizing your event ROI. 

Interested in learning more? Request a free demo with us. 

Make The World More Equitable

If this seems like a lot of work, it’s because it is. It’s a company-wide effort, and it should be. It will take a lot of hard work, commitment, and determination. It will take action, not words. By building a more inclusive and diverse workforce, you’ll be creating a more equitable future. A future that we should all be fighting to have.

Stop setting diversity goals.
Start meeting them.

Join hundreds of businesses, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, using Canvas to build diverse teams
See it in action