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July 3, 2023 | 6 Mins Read

Data-Driven DEI: Q&A with Dr. Randal D. Pinkett

July 3, 2023 | 6 Mins Read

Data-Driven DEI: Q&A with Dr. Randal D. Pinkett


It’s important for companies to create diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs – particularly in industries that have traditionally skewed very white, very male, or both. At the same time, DEI tends to draw a lot of criticism from a number of fronts. Some people think these programs are just a bandaid or corporate whitewashing; others think they aren't necessary at all.

While I’d never agree the effort isn’t necessary, some of these criticisms have points of merit – and it's because, regardless of intent, many DEI initiatives are poorly planned and executed. To gain some insight on an effective way to approach DEI, I interviewed Dr. Randal D. Pinkett, author of Data-Driven DEI. He is the co-founder of BCT Partners, and author or co-author of other diversity and business management books. He is an electrical engineer by training, was the first African American to receive a Rhodes Scholarship at Rutgers and was the winner on Season Four of The Apprentice. 

Your new book is called Data-Driven DEI. What is the significance of data to a DEI effort?

Data represents to DEI what an instrumental panel represents to a plane. Long before there were instrument panels, people were able to fly planes. It was significantly harder without the instrument panel. Instrument panels have made the journey more efficient and effective at every step along the way. Similarly, improving DEI can be achieved without data, but it is significantly harder. Data makes the DEI journey more efficient and effective at every step along the way. 

You say that any effort to mitigate bias and grow inclusivity must begin with people.  What do you mean?

Organizations don’t change. People change. Therefore, any effort to transform organizations with more diverse representation, more equitable practices, and more inclusive cultures, can only be achieved by transforming people. If you don’t change; if I don’t change; if we don’t change, then the status quo remains. That is why the primary audience for Data-Driven DEI is people – anyone seeking greater DEI in their personal and professional life – and the secondary audience is DEI managers, leaders, executives, and champions responsible for the DEI efforts at their organization. The book provides a roadmap and the website ( provides free tools, templates, metrics, resources, best practices, and case studies to embark upon a personal DEI journey or an organizational DEI journey.

For the skeptics, can you summarize the business and personal benefits of DEI?

The business benefits are myriad and have to do with:

  • Win the competition for talent – Businesses that have a strong commitment to DEI are better positioned to recruit and retain skilled workers in today’s marketplace. 
  • Strengthen customer orientation – When you understand and embrace the diverse dimensions of customers and markets, you are best able to capture them.
  • Increase employee trust, retention, engagement, satisfaction, and performance – There is strong evidence that diverse teams increase employee satisfaction and reduce conflicts between groups, improving collaboration and loyalty. 
  • Improve decision making and fostering innovation – Research shows that while diverse teams take longer to achieve cohesiveness and make decisions, they make better decisions.
  • Enhance the organization’s image – Incorporating a strong DEI agenda will improve your organization’s image to employees as well as customers. 
  • Improve the financial bottom line – Several studies have found that corporations that embrace gender and ethnic diversity on their leadership teams outperform their competition financially.

The list of personal benefits is even longer and includes:

  • Enhance personal growth – Diverse relationships with people from different backgrounds and perspectives positively challenge you to move beyond your comfort zone into your growth zone and become a better person today than yesterday.
  • Expand diversity of thought (cognitive diversity) – DEI enables you to tap into the diverse thinking of others to make better decisions, generate better ideas, improve problem solving, and foster greater innovation. 
  • Improve health and wellness – Research has found that individuals with more diverse relationships had a lower risk of mortality and experienced less cognitive and physical decline.
  • Enrich learning and performance at school and work – Diversity of all kinds is generally associated with positive learning and performance outcomes. 
  • Mitigate biases and negative stereotypes – Exposure to diversity can ameliorate negative stereotypes and biases people may have about people from different backgrounds and perspectives. 
  • Enlarge network of relationships – Workers with more diverse personal relationships are better at building a racially diverse network on the job.
  • Increase range of opportunities – Having a larger and more diverse professional network will lead to higher-performing teams and present a wider spectrum of opportunities.
  • Achieve career success – Research has found that individuals with relationships that are rich with opportunities to connect people that would otherwise be disconnected, receive more positive evaluations, earlier promotions, and higher compensation.
  • Expand civic engagement and positive outcomes for others – Increased exposure to diversity is positively associated with civic engagement.

In Data-Driven DEI, you lay out a five-step approach to creating measurable and impactful DEI initiatives. The first step involves an assessment of your current reality. Why is this such an important step?

The five-step cycle in Data-Driven DEI is comprised of the following steps: (1) DEI Inventory (perform an assessment), (2) DEI Imperatives (establish objectives and goals), (3) DEI Insights (leverage promising and proven practices), (4) DEI Initiatives (determine strategies and measures), and (5) DEI Impact (evaluate results). It is a never-ending cycle. Assessment is the first and most important step because it helps you to establish a baseline for where you are along your personal and/or organizational DEI journey. If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you are going. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Ultimately, your DEI strategy will only be as good as your DEI assessment.

How can people and organizations determine if their DEI initiatives have been effective?  

Data-Driven DEI embraces a strategic planning framework, OGSM, which stands for objectives, goals, strategies, and measures. It is a method that guides people and organizations through a DEI strategic planning process:

  • Objectives represent broad and overarching aims such as “To become a more inclusive leader.”
  • Goals are the specific, quantifiable, and qualifiable metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for each objective such as “Increase my rating as a ‘bridge builder’ on the Intrinsic Inclusion™ Inventory from ‘growing to ‘mastering’ within the next 12 to 18 months.”
  • Strategies represent the initiatives, activities and actions that will be taken to fulfill the objectives and achieve the goals such as “Establish a book club to read, Intrinsic Inclusion: Rebooting Your Biased Brain by Janet B. Reid, Ph.D., and Vincent R. Brown.”
  • Measures are the specific, quantifiable, and qualifiable measures to gauge progress against each strategy such as “Complete the book within six months and host four book club meetings to facilitate dialogue and deepen learning.”

Goals allow you to know if you have been effective in accomplishing your objectives (i.e., outcomes). Measures allow you to know if you have been effective in completing your strategies (i.e., outputs). Clearly defined objectives, goals, strategies, and measures enable people and organizations to gauge progress, measure results, and demonstrate impact and, above all, engender accountability. 

What’s the biggest misstep you see leaders make in their DEI efforts?

The biggest misstep I see leaders make in their DEI efforts is remaining on silent on DEI issues due to fear. They are afraid of saying the wrong thing or insulting others or being labelled a racist or sexist and the like. My advice to leaders is to find your voice on matters relating to DEI. You must educate yourself and have command of DEI just as you must educate yourself and have command of other disciplines such as finance, marketing, sales, and operations. Take baby steps to slowly find your voice in safe spaces and smaller groups and very soon you will be able to exercise and amplify your voice in more challenging spaces and larger groups. It’s OK to make mistakes as you can recover from them. It’s not OK to remain silent about DEI issues that, if addressed, promote dignity, humanity, and respect for all. This reminds me of the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who once said, “We will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” A leader should never be a silent friend, but rather, a vocal and active ally.