Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) could be the ticket to thriving in 2023 despite an exceedingly volatile economy, DE&I experts say. Companies that invest in DE&I and cater to the evolving needs of their workforce could increase their chances of success this year. Here are some DE&I thought leaders' prognostications for the coming months.
Continued Layoffs Will Disproportionately Impact Women, Minorities
Shelley Zalis, founder and CEO of equality services company The Female Quotient in Los Angeles, predicted that layoffs will continue as the economy remains unsettled in 2023. However, some groups could lose their jobs at higher rates than others.
"Women and minorities may be disproportionately affected as cuts are made," Zalis said.
Layoffs, particularly in the tech industry, have deteriorated DE&I efforts, with many employees of color losing their jobs. In March 2020, when the pandemic caused nationwide lockdowns, Black, Asian American and Latino workers lost their jobs at higher rates than white employees.
Zalis believes that gender and racial bias could be a factor in job security.
"While bias in the workplace is part of a greater systemic issue, identifying the source of such bias in your organization is key to creating lasting change," she said.
Flexibility Will Be the 'Name of the Game'
Zalis explained that companies will need to be more flexible in 2023.
She said that the flexible, hybrid model of mixing in-person and remote work could be beneficial for both companies and workers. Working from home can increase hours worked, which may be good for productivity but could also increase feelings of burnout. Allowing employees to spend some time in the office could help regulate that overwork.
However, removing the remote work option entirely can be detrimental for many underrepresented groups, particularly workers with disabilities.
"Mark my words: Flexibility is the name of the game in 2023," Zalis said.
Josh Saterman, CEO and co-founder of consultation company Saterman Connect in New York City, foresees more employers implementing in-office mandates despite many workers becoming accustomed to having remote options. Taking that flexibility away could create tension.
"Think about what your employees need to balance, who needs to be remote, hybrid or in-office," he said. "Stipends for use to support gym membership, healthy eating or foods, commutes, and at-home office supplies are ways organizations can provide value-added benefits. Whatever their decision, this empowerment speaks to inclusion and meeting employees' needs."
Working Parents Will Be Heard
Sheri Atwood is the founder and CEO of SupportPay, a co-parenting solution service that helps clients manage child support payments, expenses, custody and communication. She predicts that employers will expand their benefits packages to better support single, divorced or recently separated parents.
"Organizations are now beginning to recognize the huge gap in benefits for this group of employees," Atwood said. "They are realizing that they need to provide holistic benefits that meet the needs of different family structures. As a result, companies will be providing more comprehensive benefits packages that support single, divorced or separated working parents to ensure their unique needs are met. "
She explained that this group of workers often oversee caregiving responsibilities of children and older family members, which can lead to financial pressures such as managing health care, living expenses and educational costs.
Adding paid family leave, paid adoption leave and fertility treatment coverage to benefits packages can help these workers.
"To help ease some of this burden, I foresee more employers offering specific benefits for single-parent employees that go beyond the typical health benefits," she said.
Companies Will Improve DE&I Reporting Practices
In 2023, many employers will focus on cultivating current talent and empowering employees from all backgrounds, according to Kate Parente, chief people officer for software company Pega in Boston.
"With an inward focus on developing talent with limited resources to work with, we'll likely see even more of an emphasis on DE&I in the workplace that goes beyond compliance and short-term fixes and instead focuses on belonging initiatives that drive meaningful behavioral change and address barriers to an inclusive, equitable culture and experience."
Yrthya Dinzey-Flores, vice president of DE&I and social impact and sustainability for the software company Justworks in New York City, expects workers to pay attention to whether companies are virtue signaling or making real change related to DE&I.
"The metrics companies use and benchmarks by which they measure their progress need serious consideration [for change]," she added. "As interest in results increases, I expect companies committed to their DE&I efforts to rise to the challenge of improving their reporting practices."
Research shows that diversity plays a key role in innovation, creativity and a positive bottom line while also inspiring more effective solutions to complex problems. For every diverse voice included, the solutions will be that much more impactful, Zalis said.
"Bottom line: We must create work environments that support everyone—especially minorities, women, mothers and caregivers," she added. "Only then will businesses successfully retain the talent they previously struggled to keep."