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March 28, 2022

Key takeaways from our latest DEI think tank for employers

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The organizations that WORK180 endorses and supports as great workplaces for all women vary in size, location, and industry. They even differ when it comes to their stages along the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) journey. However, each and every employer we work with is dedicated to creating workplaces where all women can thrive — and often come together and collaborate for the cause.

To help even more organizations create great workplaces for all women, this article details some of the key learnings from our recent EDGE (Employers Driving Gender Equity) Think Tank: The Game Changing Series. This knowledge-sharing series sees Endorsed Employers sharing their experiences and supporting one another along the DEI journey. 

Please note: To ensure participants of our WORK180 EDGE events feel fully supported and able to engage in an open, constructive conversation, all key takeaways are anonymized.

Key takeaways from EDGE: Game Changers Series

Thursday, 24 March 2022  |  Online via Zoom

As the first in this particular series, this event was designed to identify the themes and topics that will be most useful to discuss in the subsequent sessions. As such, we kick-started by simply asking teams to share the most “game changing” DEI initiatives and approaches they introduced over the last few years. 

For newer Endorsed Employers, the recent years have seen their companies setting up and defining DEI strategies. Other attendees came from companies with well-established strategies, who spent the last few years focused on ways to improve and amplify their efforts. Unsurprisingly (and excitingly), this meant there was a wide breadth of activity and learnings to share. 

Here are some of the topics shared and discussed by the employers in attendance:

  • Successes and struggles engaging an entire business in DEI, especially stakeholders and middle managers

  • The barriers and benefits of implementing a data-driven approach to DEI 

  • Successful campaigns for raising awareness and increasing buy-in for diversity as a whole and individual initiatives 
  • Current company priorities and focus areas, which include;
      • establishing psychological safety;
      • tackling microaggressions;
      • removing unconscious bias

Tip: What does microagressions and unconcious bias mean? Find out using our Diversity and Inclusion Glossary

Top tips and takeaways from the talk 

Here are just some of the most popular, important, and inspiring initiatives shared during the event:

  • Encouraging the use of pronouns in order to normalize what is a vital practice for individuals that are often misgendered.

  • Introducing hair codes to end the discrimination against employees with afro-textured hair.

  • The introduction and/or active promotion of employee fertility packages, which can include financial support and additional leave for this purpose.Tip: To learn more about the benefits of this policy to both employees and employers, be sure to keep an eye out for the third edition of our Driving Workplace Equity Series

  • Support for victims of domestic violence, with one employer’s policy providing dedicated leave and legal support up to the value of £1,500.

  • Thorough audits into levels of inclusivity at all touchpoints, including company policies, practice, and customer-facing products such as the company website.

  • Hosting regular events to both support and celebrate marginalized groups, with themes determined by the participants. Here are just a few examples discussed:
      • With financial independence increasing gender equity, one employer recently provided their women’s ERG with a dedicated talk on “financial fitness”.
      • Many employers establish an inclusive culture by funding and/or supporting the celebration of cultural events in the calendar.
      • DEI events aimed at opening up conversations within the workplace in a real way that will resonate with workers who may not have been exposed or subjected to discrimination
  • Also tackling microaggressions with tactics such as;
      • training on how to ask the right questions in the right way, as opposed to relying on assumptions;
      • open forums for employees subjected to discrimination and regular microaggressions to share their experiences, raise awareness and gain support.
  • Internal mentorship programs, including;
      • programs that encourage women into leadership positions;
      • coaching and knowledge-sharing sessions around STEMM and coding;
      • peer-to-peer mentors who can guide coworkers through the experiences before, during, and after parental leave.
  • Setting hiring quotas for talent acquisitions teams, but also setting them up for success by diversifying the pipeline. A popular approach to this is partnering with organizations such as WORK180, and also harnessing untapped graduate talent by moving efforts away from traditionally elitist universities. In fact, one employer noted that moving their attention to less prestigious universities not only saw an increase in the diversity of applications, but the quality of candidates too.


  • Introducing a diversity panel that will ensure the interviewer’s decision has not been negatively impacted by unconscious bias. The discussion within the Think Tank also prompted the idea that the board would also benefit from conducting a post-interview conversation with the candidate themselves.
  • Monitoring retention numbers to identify issues within the organization. For example, if a large number of protected identities are leaving an organization at a high rate, this is a clear cause for concern. 

Q&A: What were employers keen to know from one another? 

The EDGE events are an open discussion, allowing employers to ask one another for advice and to dive deeper into some of the initiatives they discussed. There were an array of questions asked and answers, but one topic seemed to take the president: How to get everyone engaged.

Q1. Given the social and structural restrictions around collecting personal data, how can we encourage individuals to provide the information required to adequately track, prove and progress DEI efforts in a meaningful way?

Here are some tactics employed by one participant whose team saw an impressive 74% response rate its first DEI data collection exercise: 

  • Sharing real stories: Sharing the stories of internal ambassadors (often found within ERGs) is a great way of catching people’s attention while normalizing the sharing of personal experiences and information.

  • Leadership support: Having the buy-in from individuals in the position of power is an obvious advantage, and worth investing time in. If this is an area you and your team are currently struggling with, be sure to take a look at our free Business Case For DEI Toolkit.

  • Try different tactics: The successful campaign in question even saw the company send fun, themed care packages to the homes of employees. These worked to remind them of the importance of their participation in the project.

  • Trust in transparency: Another organization that saw success in this space (with an impressive 80% participation in their engagement survey of women employees) believes transparency is key. 

The attendee from this employer advised that companies should be clear on why the data is being collected and commit to keeping them up-to-date. Even though it’s not been possible to implement action quickly, this regular and open communication has already had a positive impact on the company’s ability to retain women. 

Q. How to encourage employee engagement with DEI initiatives, such as mentoring programs and ERGs? 

Learning from one attendee whose company has seen particular success in this space, it’s clear that culture is key. By establishing an environment that celebrates and supports such activity in all employees, there is a healthy and organic uptake in their ERGs and mentorship programs. 

Another tip from this attendee is to ensure potential mentors know it’s “ok not to know all the answers all the time”, and to provide plenty of supportive documentation around all these initiatives.  

What’s more, when it comes to encouraging engagement with and participation in ERGs, the attendee said it’s all about making the information accessible — especially when working remotely. This can be done through employee intranets and encouraging employees to sign up for email updates from the specific ERGs they’re most interested in. 

Q. How to encourage all employees/departments to embrace their role in DEI? 

Despite the common misconception that the responsibility for DEI rests solely with those within HR and DEI roles, successful diversity strategies include the full support and active participation of all departments. 

Here’s how some of the participants of the events are achieving such support: 

  • Ensuring DEI responsibilities are included and clearly communicated within the onboarding process.

  • Publicly awarding and celebrating individuals playing an active role within the company’s DEI strategy, such as those within ERGs.

  • Introducing DEI accountability measures for roles beyond HR. For example, one organization added official goals, responsibilities, and/or targets to all employee appraisals around reducing the gender pay gap. Similarly, another company incentivized such targets by attaching them to their company’s annual bonuses. 

How did we conclude the conversation? 

It’s not over yet! Each of the participants will be invited to attend our next session, in which we’ll hone in on one of the topics covered in our first session. 

If you’re an Endorsed Employer and would like to attend one of our upcoming sessions, be sure to reach out to your DEI Account Manager. 

For those yet to be endorsed by WORK180 but would like to be kept up to date with the conversion, sign up to our free monthly newsletter. 

Finally, we’d like to thank all the employers who attended for such an open and honest discussion. Together, we can help create a workplace where all women can thrive. 

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About the Author
Sophie Main is WORK180's Brand and Content Manager, with a background in business improvement and a determination to make the working world a better place. She regularly collaborates with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) experts to create content that will help companies support the careers of all women.

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