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How 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada perceive diversity, equity and inclusion statements in job postings

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This Pride month, our focus is on amplifying the voices of 2-spirited,1 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus (2SLGBTQ+) individuals, centring their experiences. We highlight how some companies engage in Pride month-themed marketing and product releases that seem driven more by profit-seeking or reputation-building rather than by a genuine desire to support 2SLGBTQ+ people and rights movements.

More specifically, we delve into organizations’ use of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statements and where 2SLGBTQ+ community members see room for improvement in these.

We also touch upon how LMIC is using its research opportunities for introspection in this area and embracing the resulting insights to fuel change. At LMIC, we are committed to meaningful action and transformation. We aim to ensure that Pride is not a marketing opportunity, but a catalyst for tangible progress and inclusivity.

Why do companies use DEI statements?

In today's rapidly evolving workplace landscape, notable shifts in DEI continue to occur.  

Organizations increasingly recognize that fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment has evolved from a moral obligation to also be a strategic imperative. Integrating DEI principles has become pivotal to shaping organizational dynamics, moulding workplace culture, and ultimately driving organizational success (Wong, 2019). 

As companies increasingly use DEI statements in public-facing documents, like job advertisements, it is becoming more evident that how organizations represent themselves and their commitments matters.  

A small but growing body of literature has begun exploring the effects and impacts of corporate DEI statements. However, there remains a significant gap in the understanding of how equity-seeking and underrepresented groups—including members of the 2SLGBTQ+ communities—perceive these statements and their placements in job postings.

2SLGBTQ+ individuals in Canada face significant differences in various labour market outcomes

Economic discrepancies linked to sexual orientation and gender identity exist worldwide and in Canada.  

While there is not a significant amount of data available to reflect the experiences of transgender individuals in the Canadian or global labour markets, a comprehensive study by Ross et al. (2023) demonstrates that 2SLGBTQ+ individuals in Canada face differences compared to cisgender, heterosexual individuals. These vary across sexual orientations and genders, but are visible across multiple labour market outcomes, such as wages, income, hours worked, and employment in specific occupational sectors.  

Notably, men in same-gender relationships experience poorer labour market outcomes than those in different-gender relationships. Women in same-gender relationships generally experience better outcomes than women in different-gender relationships, but lag behind men regardless of partnership status.  

Transgender workers consistently face significantly worse employment outcomes compared to their cisgender peers, and emerging evidence suggests that bisexual individuals fare worse than both their heterosexual and gay/lesbian peers. 

Statistics Canada research, released in, 2022, examined the economic participation of members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB)  population  using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS, 2015 to 2016 and 2017 to 2018) and found that lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals are more likely to earn lower incomes, experience discrimination on the job, and encounter barriers in finding and advancing in employment relative to their heterosexual counterparts.

The research has shown that LGB workers experience: 

Lower employment

According to the data, a significant proportion (78.1%) of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals aged of 25 and 64 were actively involved in full- or part-time work. Nevertheless, the employment rate showed differences connected to both sexual orientation and gender.

The employment rate for bisexual individuals was lower (71.3%) than for gay or lesbian individuals (81.6%) or heterosexual individuals (78.8%).

Women who identified as heterosexual or bisexual had lower rates of full-time employment (81.5% and 79.7%, respectively) than either heterosexual or gay men (93.6% and 89.9%, respectively).

Lower earnings outcomes

Women of all sexual orientations and gay men have a higher representation in sales and service jobs, which are among the lower-paid occupations.

Men who identify as heterosexual earned the highest before-tax median earnings ($55,000), followed by men who identify as gay or lesbian ($50,100) or bisexual ($39,200).

Lesbian and heterosexual women had comparable median incomes of $48,600 and $47,300, respectively, whereas bisexual women earned less, with a median income of $38,500. 

Lower levels of job satisfaction

In terms of job satisfaction, 2SLGBTQ+ individuals reported significantly higher levels of dissatisfaction compared to their non-2SLGBTQ+ counterparts. Only 62% of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals expressed being "very satisfied or satisfied with their job," while 15.4% reported being "dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the job."

In contrast, in the non-2SLGBTQ+ group, 73.1% indicated job satisfaction and only 8.7% reported dissatisfaction.

DEI statements play a crucial role in how potential job applicants perceive organizations

Online job postings may be the first and possibly the only interaction that potential applicants have with an organization.  

Our recent research illustrated that reading a job posting often launches the recruitment process—but job postings can create employment obstacles for neurodivergent individuals. 

Job postings offer valuable insights into a company’s culture and serve as the primary information source for candidates looking to evaluate organizational fit and job suitability (Brown et al., 2006). As such, they can encourage or discourage individuals from pursuing an opportunity.  

DEI statements (sometimes referred to simply as diversity statements) have become increasingly common in job postings as organizations across Canada grapple with workplace discrimination and bias and affirm their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.   

As one of several possible diversity management tools that organizations can use, diversity statements help an organization signal its culture, values and commitment to diversity and inclusion (Bell, 2021). According to Mestre (2011) (as quoted in Bell, 2021), a diversity statement can convey an organization’s commitment to DEI through various wording choices, and may:

sometimes originate from a mission statement. It may be included to supplement a mission statement by articulating a commitment to diversity. It may be a working definition or statement to use as one goes about trying to accomplish the initiatives related to diversity. Its intention may be to keep diversity at the forefront and may include goals (p. 105). 

Did you know?

DEI refers to organizations’ intentional efforts to create inclusive environments that make use of a variety of talents, leadership styles and perspectives, regardless of individual differences (Olusanya, 2023, p. 23).

It is important to note that a DEI statement is distinct from a DEI policy or DEI initiative.

DEI policies and initiatives are generally defined as the implementation of one or more practices aimed at improving the workplace experiences and outcomes of groups that face disadvantages in society.

A DEI policy outlines the specific rules, guidelines and procedures that govern the company's approach to diversity, equity and inclusion. It serves as a blueprint for how the organization intends to address issues related to DEI, such as recruitment practices, promotion criteria, training programs, and mechanisms for addressing discrimination or bias. Essentially, it lays out the formal framework used by the company to put DEI principles into practice.

On the other hand, a DEI initiative refers to specific actions, programs or projects that the company undertakes to advance its DEI objectives. These initiatives can take various forms, such as unconscious bias training, employee resource groups, mentorship programs for underrepresented groups, or recruitment strategies to attract a more diverse talent pool. DEI initiatives are concrete steps taken by an organization to translate its DEI values into tangible outcomes and positive changes in the workplace.

Organizations use DEI statements to demonstrate their values to interested parties

According to Dover et al. (2020), DEI initiatives, including the writing of DEI statements, are often motivated by one or more of three overarching rationales: the justice rationale, the instrumental rationale, and the signalling rationale.

The justice rationale, rooted in anti-discrimination efforts, underscores the imperative of establishing fair, legally compliant workplaces where all employees are free from harassment and discrimination.

On the other hand, the instrumental rationale, also known as the "business case" for diversity, highlights the belief that fostering diversity and inclusion enhances organizational competitiveness and profitability by leveraging diverse perspectives and experiences.

Central to this perspective is the fact that empirical studies have confirmed that organizations characterized by pluralism and multiculturalism tend to outperform those that are monolithic and homogeneous in nature (Raimi et al., 2022). Research consistently demonstrates that organizations that integrate diverse perspectives into their work processes can achieve better decision-making, higher-quality outcomes, and improved financial performance for a diverse client base. It also highlights that organizations that promote diversity may find it easier to motivate employees and shape their behaviours than those that do not (Olusanya, 2023).

Finally, the signalling rationale focuses on communicating an organization's values to current employees, potential employees or the general public. Organizations generally seek to clarify their values, communicate their values, or convince interested parties that they have certain values. A growing body of research indicates that diversity statements play a crucial role in how organizations are perceived in today's globalized landscape and can have a significant impact. The existing literature suggests that diversity statements, whether featured on an organization’s website or incorporated into job advertisements, are influential. They offer insights into how an organization perceives itself or wants to be perceived (Bell, 2021).

Other research underscores the positive impact of DEI information in job advertisements and suggests that robust diversity statements may dissuade intolerant individuals from applying to positions while increasing interest from minority or equity-deserving groups (Brown et al., 2006).

Above all, diversity statements serve as a formal declaration of a company's dedication to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in its workplace culture. However, organizations can also use other avenues to demonstrate their commitment to DEI, such as mission, vision or value statements. Each of these elements can contribute to a broader narrative of inclusivity and equality within the organization, reinforcing a stance on DEI across a variety of platforms.

As Stephens (2017) notes, applicants report an increase in pride when joining organizations that enjoy favourable reputations, and a company’s image positively relates to applicants’ views of the organization and intention to pursue employment. With this in mind, crafting a presence that interests job seekers is becoming increasingly important, given that attracting applicants is the primary goal of recruitment.

Job seekers are influenced by the fit of their personality with organizations’ attributes

According to Schneider’s ASA framework, three processes (attraction, selection and attrition) shape the composition of an organization’s workforce (Schneider, 1987). Since Schneider’s initial research, a large body of empirical research has shown how these three stages affect organizations.

A basic premise of Schneider’s ASA framework is that job seekers ‘‘select themselves into and out of settings’’ (Schneider, 1987, p. 439), gravitating toward organizations that align with their interests and values.

Numerous studies focusing on the attraction phase of the ASA process have found that individuals are particularly drawn to organizations whose values resonate with theirs. In fact, research from LMIC has found that how job postings are worded greatly influences the decisions and preferences of neurodivergent job seekers.

This illustrates that recruitment materials, including job postings, may serve as filters, influencing which individuals are attracted to an organization's applicant pool. This also supports the proposition that job seekers are influenced by the alignment between their personalities and their organizations’ attributes. This literature primarily focuses on a person-organization (P-O) fit, which refers to a match between individual and organizational characteristics (Kristof, 1996).

Kristof (1996) defined P-O fit as “the compatibility between people and organizations that occurs when: (a) at least one entity provides what the other needs, or (b) they share similar fundamental characteristics, or (c) both” (p. 45).

Researchers working within this theoretical framework have documented the significant effect that P-O fit has at all three stages of the ASA framework. During the attraction phase, P-O fit influences job seekers’ choices of which jobs to pursue and their attraction to a firm, with job seekers being most attracted to organizations that match their values and interests. During the selection phase, organizations tend to select candidates who are most similar to the organization. Following employment, at the attrition phase, perceptions of fit influence employees’ subsequent satisfaction, commitment and turnover intentions: those whose values are incongruent with the organization tend to depart, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Those who remain tend to be more similar to one another, increasing the homogeneity of the organization.

Accordingly, perceptions of fit between individuals and organizations play a pivotal role in determining who applies for jobs and how an organization's composition and culture develop over time.

How do 2LGBTQ2+ communities perceive DEI statements in job advertisements?

To better understand how 2LGBTQ2+ communities perceive diversity, equity and inclusion statements, we engaged individuals who self-identify as members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.2

We sought their perspectives on the importance of a company's DEI statement when evaluating job opportunities and examined specific words or phrases related to DEI that resonated with them. Additionally, we explored whether individuals had ever felt discouraged or encouraged to apply for a job based on the DEI statement or language used in a job advertisement.

We adopted a qualitative approach, employing both an online survey and one-on-one interviews to gather insights from participants. The online survey consisted of structured questions addressing participants' perceptions of the importance of DEI statements and their impact on job application decisions. It included open-ended questions to capture nuanced responses regarding specific language or phrases in job advertisements.

The one-on-one interviews delved more deeply into participants' experiences and perspectives and provided an opportunity for them to elaborate on their responses and share personal anecdotes related to their encounters with DEI statements in job advertisements.

DEI statements raise three primary areas of concern

Diversity, equity and inclusion statements serve as declarations of a company's commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace culture. They aim to showcase how an organization promotes diversity, supports equity-deserving groups, and opposes discrimination.

Some study participants told us that they considered DEI statements to be significant and important. For example, one respondent said they consider a DEI statement to be influential when evaluating a job opportunity:

It determines how comfortable or uncomfortable I will be in that setting, as well as my safety. From my experience, companies that advocate for DEI have been exponentially more welcoming and have in turn, made me feel like I belong.

Similarly, another participant said:

In my opinion, DEI statements serve as a reflection of a company's values and its commitment to promoting an inclusive workplace culture. When I come across a strong DEI statement in a job posting, it signals to me that the company values diversity and is dedicated to creating an environment where everyone feels respected and valued, and that’s important to me.

However, many of the individuals who participated in the study criticized the use of these statements, raising questions about their effectiveness. Participants identified three primary areas of concern:

a perceived dilution of focus on marginalized identities

tokenism and surface-level representation

a lack of accountability and action

Diluted focus on marginalized identities

In Canada, there are legal protections from discrimination, namely through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Acknowledging that specific demographic groups face exclusion, inequality, discrimination, restricted access and limited job opportunities, the Canadian government enacted the Employment Equity Act to address and mitigate these challenges (Employment Equity Act, SC, 1995, c. 44).

The act helps ensure that everyone in Canada has the same access to the labour market. It also requires employers to take actions to ensure the full representation of members of four designated groups: women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and members of racialized groups.

Although the act does not expressly mandate the inclusion of equal opportunity /diversity statements in job advertisements, starting in the early 1980s and 1990s, Canadian companies have increasingly adopted these statements to advertise their commitments to racial and gender diversity.

Since then, organizations have broadened their focus to include not only issues of diversity, but of equity, inclusion and accessibility—and in doing so, have begun to include not only gender and race, but also sexual identities and orientations, disabilities, and intersectionality (Yeo & Jeon, 2023).

As Bray Jr (2023) argues, over the course of the 2.5 years from March 2020 to August 2022, a series of significant events—including the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent worldwide protests against police brutality, racism and lack of accountability (Baum, 2021), the re-energizing of the Black Lives Matter movement, the global COVID-19 pandemic, and socio-political unrest in the United States, Ukraine and beyond—have not only reshaped human interactions, but influenced the corporate landscape regarding DEI.

In response to these events and others like them, corporations began to modify their business and human capital management strategies to align more closely with values espousing fair, just and humane treatment for all people.

Individuals who participated in our study suggested that as organizations sought to broaden their diversity initiatives, attention may have shifted from underrepresented and marginalized groups—such as 2SLGBTQ+ people, racialized people, and those living with disabilities—toward those whose identities are perceived as less controversial or stigmatized.

For example, reacting to a DEI statement in a recent Canadian job posting that said the organization was working to eliminate discrimination “against all people, from all backgrounds,” one survey respondent said:

I understand what the diversity statement was trying to get at, I guess, but it’s a missed opportunity to address the real, specific and systemic issues that marginalized communities face. It just glosses over the systemic discrimination, harm and barriers that folks who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, or people of colour, or those with disabilities face at work and while applying for jobs.

Responding to the same DEI statement, another respondent said:

It's important for organizations to recognize and actively support equity-deserving groups rather than trying to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to diversity and inclusion that completely ignores the bias and prejudice ingrained in our systems.

Likening the phrasing “all people, from all backgrounds” to “all lives matter” (a conservative slogan emerging from a colour-blind politic that accused #BlackLivesMatter protesters of privileging Black lives over others and rejected the acknowledgement of police brutality and ethnic violence) (Carney, 2016), another survey respondent said:

…This is f****** awful. "All backgrounds"? That's some all lives matter shit.

Another participant, not reacting to the specific wording of a job posting, but rather to her sense that DEI statements had recently taken on an “everyone is welcome” tone, also noted:

I’ve seen a lot of job postings that include statements like ‘we want our employees to be comfortable bringing their authentic whole selves to work’ and yes, for sure, but like….as a Black lesbian, it's not just about bringing my authentic self to work. It's about what you as an organization are going to do to make my place of work psychologically safe, to understand my unique experiences of discrimination that need to be addressed directly. I'm always disappointed to see DEI statements that fail to acknowledge this.

According to Bray Jr’s (2023) examination of corporate DEI changes following the events of 2020 to 2022, while some organizations “seemed to fully embrace the notion that marginalization of ‘the other’ is firmly rooted in our national and global cultures, resulting in unfair treatment and discrimination” (183), many others chose “instead to emphasize the importance of inclusion for all versus a focus on equity” (183).

This emphasis on the importance of inclusion for all, and the perception that this is underscored in recent DEI statements, has further marginalized those who most need support and representation, given that their specific challenges and barriers may be overshadowed or neglected in favour of more mainstream diversity initiatives.

As a result, as many participants in this study noted, DEI statements may not adequately address the systemic inequalities and discrimination faced by marginalized communities in the workplace, perpetuating power imbalances and exclusionary practices.

Tokenism and surface-level representation

Another criticism that emerged from the members of the 2SLGBTQ+ group who participated in this study was the perception that organizations’ DEI statements sometimes prioritize superficial diversity over meaningful inclusion. Participants noted that companies may include references to 2SLGBTQ+ individuals in their statements to appear inclusive, yet fail to implement the substantial policies or practices needed to support these employees. This can create a sense of tokenism, whereby 2SLGBTQ+ individuals feel their identities are being exploited for optics rather than genuinely valued within the organization.

According to Kara Sherrer (2018), tokenism refers to “the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly.”

Many individuals who participated in this research project said they often felt tokenized by organizations and that this tendency was often reflected in DEI statements.

For example, one interview participant said:

I often feel like my identity as a member of the LGBTQ community is used as a checkbox for companies to tick off, and that’s clear in their diversity statements. It's as if they're more concerned about appearing inclusive than actually implementing policies and practices that support people like me. It's disheartening to feel like my identity is being exploited for optics rather than genuinely valued within the organization.

According to Wong (2019), a common pitfall in recruitment practices is asking: "Who else could we bring on board?" For Wong, this question incorrectly assumes that simply increasing the number of people who identify as members of historically marginalized groups can make an organization “sufficiently more diverse” without considering the connected issues around relative power, privilege, access or influence, and can ultimately reduce diversity to a mere numbers game instead of fostering genuine inclusion.

This question, or the practice of increasing the numbers of individuals based on their identities alone, can miss the larger issue of needing to shift the culture to be more inclusive so that marginalized and underserved individuals have more opportunities to succeed.

In other words, bringing “diverse” individuals into an organization without having an established workplace culture that is equipped to support and leverage their strengths, identities, skills and backgrounds can exacerbate the challenges that marginalized individuals face daily (Wong, 2019).

Consistent with this finding, another participant said:

I’ve seen statements that say, ‘if you’re a POC [person of colour] or non-hetero, non-heteroromantic, or non-cisgender, we want to hear from you.’ It’s so loud and clear, they're not looking for diversity, they're looking to look diverse without actually being it. It is all such ridiculous tokenism and virtue-signalling.

Another said:

When you craft a diversity statement as simply a tool for the organization to attract a particular “type” of person …you are doing it wrong.

These sentiments are consistent with a growing body of knowledge that suggests that DEI statements (policies and initiatives) may cause more harm than good by sending signals of organizational fairness that can cause individuals to overestimate the organization’s fairness and overlook possible discrimination (Everhart, 2022).

Some participants noted that some DEI statements may lead to a presumption of fairness for underrepresented groups, making discrimination harder to identify and litigate even if the statements turn out to be mere “lip service”—professing commitment, loyalty or support without corresponding action.

For example, one interview participant mentioned the tokenistic approach adopted by many organizations, emphasizing its detrimental impact:

This tokenistic approach that many places have taken exacerbates the problem, as it leads to a presumption of fairness for individuals and groups by masking the reality of discrimination and making it even more challenging to recognize and combat.

Similarly, another said:

Some DEI statements make it seem like the organization is really fair and diverse, which can make it hard for people—current employees and job seekers—to speak up about bias or prejudice. It gives people who want to believe the company is inclusive a reason to deny any problems. Even though marginalized folks can spot discrimination easily, these statements make it easier for others to say, 'No, we're diverse and fair,' and ignore any real issues that come up.

Criticisms like these shed light on how DEI statements can have the effect of prioritizing superficial diversity over meaningful inclusion. This perception resonated strongly among the individuals who participated in the study, who told us that they often feel their identities are exploited for optics rather than genuinely valued, leading to a sense of disillusionment among equity-deserving groups. 

Ultimately, these findings underscore the need for organizations to move beyond symbolic gestures and commit to implementing tangible policies and practices that foster genuine inclusivity and equity in the workplace.

Lack of accountability and action

A related criticism that emerged among the individuals who participated in this study is the perceived gap between rhetoric and action.

According to many, while companies may articulate support for 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in their DEI statements, the actual implementation of policies and practices to support 2SLGBTQ+ employees may be lacking or not well articulated in DEI statements.

Some individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ indicated that without concrete measures to address issues like workplace discrimination, bias and harassment, DEI statements feel like lip service and fail to translate into meaningful change in their day-to-day experiences at work.

For example, one respondent said:

It's nearly impossible to distinguish between an organization that's virtue-signalling versus one that really has taken steps to ensure it is a safe and inclusive space. It's too easy to slap some words together about DEI, or better yet, to copy and paste some stock language from a website and add it to the bottom of a job posting. This doesn't mean the organization has actually done anything to make it a safe and inclusive space. So, in reality, the DEI statement carriers little weight with me.

Highlighting the need for substantive action behind DEI statements, another said:

Anyone can write a statement, but there have to be more layers to how the company accomplishes DEI to hold the statement to be true. For example, if all the team photos of execs are white men, but they have a DEI statement, that’s a red flag.

Reflecting on the challenges involved in distinguishing genuine commitment from mere virtue-signalling, one respondent said:

It all goes back to being able to distinguish between an authentic commitment to DEI, which is nearly impossible from a DEI statement alone. That said, I think what I would appreciate seeing, instead of some generic statement… are concrete examples. What can you tell me you've done to demonstrate a true commitment to DEI? What steps have you taken to ensure all people are respected and allowed to express themselves without judgment or bias? How many members of your Board of Directors are not straight, white cis-men? How many Pride events have you participated in as an organization? Etc. This would be much more informative than a DEI statement as described above.

In another instance, a survey participant emphasized the importance of tangible actions, saying, "I'm interested in seeing evidence that goes beyond mere words. Stuff you can actually take to the bank. Are these DEI statements truly engaging with the communities they mention?" They also noted:

Tell me if your insurance covers trans health care. Tell me if your leave policy includes your chosen family. Tell me you have flexible hours because our lives don't work like cis people's. Tell me you allow work from home because queer justice is nothing without disability justice and forcing people into offices in a pandemic is ableism.

One respondent, highlighting the importance of tangible actions over superficial declarations, said:

I don't need a DEI statement; I need to know what they are doing about providing access to appropriate facilities during and after transition, about benefit coverage for gender-affirming medical treatments, about upholding privacy and confidentiality, and about advocating for trans rights through education and support …you know, things that actually matter in creating inclusive workplaces.

Overall, participants in this study voiced consistent concerns about the gap between rhetoric and action when it comes to DEI policies, initiatives and statements: while many organizations showcase support for 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in their DEI statements, participants noted a disconnect between these statements and the tangible implementation of supportive policies and practices.

This sentiment underscores the need for organizations to move beyond symbolic gestures and prioritize concrete actions that foster genuine inclusivity, diversity and equity.

Participants also emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability, calling for organizations to provide evidence of their commitment to DEI through measurable outcomes and tangible initiatives.

Ultimately, the consensus among participants is clear: DEI statements must be backed by meaningful actions to effect real change in the experiences of marginalized communities in the workplace and to persuade those who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ that a company that mentions DEI in a job application is walking the talk.

The way forward

The contemporary workplace has been undergoing a significant transformation in its approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), recognizing it as both a moral and strategic imperative. As organizations across Canada increasingly prioritize diverse, equitable and inclusive environments, DEI initiatives—including DEI statements in job postings—are becoming more prevalent. Yet recent research suggests these initiatives may not fully achieve their intended outcomes.

Studies indicate that, despite aims to reduce discrimination, increase diversity and support marginalized groups, diversity initiatives are falling short and failing to reduce workplace biases (Everhart, 2023). This raises important questions about the effectiveness and impact of current DEI efforts in addressing discrimination and bias in the workplace.

Beyond that, the participants in our study highlighted several concerns about DEI statements, including:

the perceived emphasis on broad inclusion that has further marginalized those most in need of support within organizations

the significant gap between DEI rhetoric and action in contemporary workplaces

the tendency to tokenize and the risk of contributing to a false presumption of fairness, masking underlying discrimination and hindering real efforts to address biases

Research has demonstrated that underrepresented and marginalized employees are often asked to shoulder additional responsibilities related to educating colleagues about diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, they may be asked to provide their understandings of and insights into discrimination and bias, help draft DEI statements, and take on leadership roles in DEI initiatives at work. These tasks are physically and emotionally draining and often go uncompensated.

While acknowledging this additional burden, we at LMIC, following Wong (2019), recognize that those who are negatively affected by exclusionary policies and practices have firsthand experiences with the issues, and are likely in the best position to identify opportunities for change.

With this in mind, the following table captures some key points that the study participants shared with us during their interviews:

To address the criticism that broad DEI statements dilute the focus on marginalized identities

Organizations should adopt a more targeted and intersectional approach, acknowledging and actively supporting equity-deserving groups rather than employing a generic "one-size-fits-all" approach that overlooks the systemic biases and prejudices ingrained in our systems.

This means creating DEI statements that explicitly address the specific challenges and barriers faced by underrepresented communities, ensuring that their experiences are acknowledged and prioritized in organizational initiatives and policies.

In addition, organizations should prioritize transparency and accountability by regularly evaluating the effectiveness of their DEI efforts and actively seeking feedback from diverse stakeholders to inform future strategies and actions.

To combat tokenism and superficial diversity in DEI statements

Companies need to develop comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion action plans that outline specific initiatives and measurable goals aimed at fostering genuine inclusion and equity.

This should include setting specific, measurable targets for diversity and inclusion outcomes, such as representation goals for underrepresented groups in leadership positions, retention rates for diverse employees, and qualitative measures of inclusion and belonging.

Companies need to hold themselves accountable.

To combat the lack of action

Instead of focusing on creating DEI statements for appearance or compliance reasons, organizations need to highlight authenticity and genuine commitment to DEI, such as by taking meaningful actions that address the unique needs and challenges of diverse employees.

For 2SLGBTQ+ folks specifically, organizations should actively engage with community members to ensure their DEI initiatives are meaningful and relevant—for example, by seeking input from 2SLGBTQ+ employees and external 2SLGBTQ+ organizations to inform DEI policies and practices.

At LMIC, we are dedicated to ensuring that our Pride initiatives go beyond mere marketing and serve to drive real progress and inclusivity. We are committed to taking the necessary steps to foster a culture of introspection and reflection within our organization. Through this process, we are deepening our understanding, identifying areas for improvement, and cultivating a culture of continuous learning and growth.

We acknowledge that true progress requires more than just outward gestures. It demands a genuine commitment to understanding and dismantling systemic barriers. Through this commitment to self-awareness and personal and organizational development, we strive to pave the way for meaningful change and create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all.


1 Two-Spirit (2-Spirit or 2S) is a term used in some Indigenous communities to encompass sexual, gender, cultural and/or spiritual identity. This umbrella term was created in the English language to reflect complex Indigenous understandings of gender and sexuality and the long history of sexual and gender diversity in Indigenous cultures. This term may refer to cross, multiple and/or non-binary gender roles; non-heterosexual identities; and a range of cultural identities, roles and practices embodied by 2-Spirit Peoples. 

2 We aimed for diversity in terms of age, gender identity, sexual orientation and professional background to capture a broad range of perspectives within the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 


Dr. Suzanne Spiteri is a sociologist with several years of experience in both qualitative and mixed-methods data analysis. She leads labour-related projects that explore labour market tightness and the labour market outcomes of under-represented groups.


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