Integrating Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) into core business strategy is no longer a "nice to have", it’s a requirement for relevance in business today.
Platform and Media companies have an additional obligation to operate and design for inclusion given their outsized impact on consumers’ worldview.
Businesses that are making progress in I&D are not only meeting the changing demands of stakeholders, they're also outperforming their peers.
This essay provides guidance on how you as a leader can design your organization to ensure shared accountability of I&D.
Every company today has to think very hard about how it can meet the demands of all stakeholders to operate as a sustainable and responsible business. Platform and Media companies, perhaps more than in any other industry, play a unique role in society due to their broad reach and influence in shaping behaviors and perspectives. Everyone that matters – investors, employees, consumers, global regulators, and governments – is putting pressure on companies to move beyond standalone Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) initiatives. They want to see tangible outcomes and improvements. They want clear and open reporting and disclosure. And they want to see businesses walking their talk.
Recent Accenture Research, Better to Belong, underscores why this matters so much. It's because customers not only care deeply, they'll also act decisively if they see companies falling short.
of consumers believe that diverse representation within the companies they support is important.
of brand promoters believe that the companies that they shop with should leave them 'net better off'.
of consumers say they will walk away from a brand if they're disappointed by its words or actions on a social issue.
When it comes to finding success in becoming a truly inclusive and diverse Platform and Media company, we look across three dimensions of diversity: in-content diversity (characters, players, actors), creative diversity (producers, developers, authors) and corporate diversity (company executives). Over the course of this Responsible Platform essay series, we will share techniques for succeeding in addressing all three dimensions. Let’s start with the ever-important corporate diversity.
Diversity dimensions of Platform & Media companies
Audience directly interacts with content.
Examples: Characters, Actors, Images, Stories, Quotes, Songs, etc.
Contributors and creators of the content.
Examples: Designers, Producers, Editors, Writers, Marketers, etc.
Company-wide interventions to address institutional challenges.
Examples: All employees in Platform and Media companies.
Start at the top, but make I&D everyone's job
Responsibility for corporate diversity can't be assigned to a function or just one part of the business. Like any successful strategy, if it's not everywhere, it won't get anywhere. So while I&D has to start at the top, leaders throughout all functions must collaborate and take shared responsibility and accountability to make it real throughout the organization. And those that are successful will see some impressive results. Gartner research shows that inclusive teams perform up to 30% better in high-diversity environments. Three-quarters of companies with diverse teams making decisions exceed their financial goals, and more gender-diverse organizations outperform their more homogeneous counterparts by, on average, 50%.
Companies that are achieving results like these are embedding I&D into the fabric of their organizations by design. They’re creating governance structures that include key leaders from every business unit, and not putting unreasonable expectations on a DEI office to meet the challenge alone. Together the governing body is setting goals and taking accountability for their actions.
Accenture’s Managing Director & Leader in Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) CEO Transformation Practice, Blair Taylor, explains how companies are heading in the right direction:
The exciting news is that we are starting to see real shifts in how companies think about success in I&D. CEOs are moving beyond the status quo of considering I&D as a niche area, and are now seeing it span across the entirety of a business...
...and something for which measurements must be carefully tracked to achieve tangible outcomes. The goals and outcomes of I&D efforts are as important as any other business goals. The trick is to make sure the right set of indicators and systems are in place (inclusive products, pay equity, unbiased systems tracking performance and evaluations, etc.) to achieve the goals of a diverse, fair, and welcoming place to work.
While it's encouraging that many businesses are taking concrete steps towards truly embedding I&D, there's still significant progress to be made in corporate diversity. Our recent report, Reflecting Society: The State of Diverse Representation in Media and Entertainment, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, highlights the lack of diverse leaders and decision-makers across Platform and Media companies. In particular, the industry faces a challenge to effect greater representation in the more senior levels of organizations. Hearst’s 2020 diversity report, for example, shows that while 36% of new hires were people of color, only around 20% are in management and leadership positions.
Lack of diversity in leadership is a systemic challenge that requires bold actions to correct. These include focusing on retention and skills development, as well as creating more diverse networks and mentors for employees and leaders, along with making more leadership opportunities open to diverse workers.
While COVID played a part in forcing these workforce strategy areas up the agenda, other pressures from industry leaders and governing bodies are also driving action. Pivotal to the success of progress in corporate diversity is the board. Modern boards – those that are the most responsive to calls for progress on I&D and to engage with workforce strategy – are seizing the moment. Accenture Research on Modern Boards, reveals that compared with their less-engaged peers, Modern Boards are nearly twice as likely to be responsive to inclusion and diversity issues (both internal and external to the business) and more responsive to social issues that have an impact on corporate culture and employee wellbeing.
Design with purpose and accountability for success
There's no single prescription, or one-size-fits-all framework, for how to make real progress in I&D. Every organization will need to develop a clear governance framework that aligns to its needs and the specific values and impact the organization wants to have in society.
A comprehensive and clear governance framework provides the impetus and energy to fuel an I&D strategy for sustained success. This will allow Platform and Media companies to align their I&D initiatives, programs, and/or policies. Ultimately, that means they will be able to embed I&D throughout their organization - and reap the rewards of doing so.
So how should they go about doing this? Accenture’s recent Better to Belong study highlights three key ways to systemically embed diversity and inclusion. Companies need to:
1. Be intentional about recruiting
Create new opportunities to infuse I&D into every aspect of the business—from development to retention to growth, and beyond.
2. Understand where you are in the I&D journey
Implement actions (e.g., parity studies of gender vs. race) that identify equitable advancement pathways for corporate talent and diverse content.
3. Pull on experience levers
Leverage and value what diverse creative and corporate talent can bring to the table versus simply meeting quotas and goals.
Coming up next
Putting this framework for I&D in place is a key step. But it's far from the whole story. In our next essay we'll be looking at some of the most important ways to measure progress towards I&D goals across corporate, creative, and in-content diversity. We'll break down some of the issues that, while easy to overlook, can really make all the difference in ensuring I&D strategies live and breathe across your Platform or Media company.
About the Authors
Managing Director – Talent & Organization, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity, North America Lead