Blog Post

The Global Evolution of DEI: Key Findings from Seramount’s Global Inclusion Index

By Barbara Frankel
April 3, 2023

The story of global diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is just beginning as corporations grapple with the complexity of centralized business goals and practices— and local norms that may vary or be at very different developmental stages. In the global DEI landscape, the strong influence and input of local leaders is crucial.

Without a deep understanding of local norms, history, and laws, corporations may unintentionally do more harm than good in implementing DEI plans and processes. Some employees and leaders globally view DEI as a US issue, originating with affirmative action legislation decades ago and supported by government workforces and procurement initiatives for federal contractors. The challenge for multinationals, those based in the US, and those based in other countries, is to make each country leadership see its unique abilities to create a more inclusive workforce and the business benefits of integrating DEI in its local strategy.

The term “glocal” has been popular in recent years to emphasize global values with a specific focus on local cultural emphasis and buy-in. Harvard Business Review advises multinationals to be as local as possible by not assuming everyone is at the same level, being aware of cultural disconnects, being very conscious of inclusive (and locally inclusive) language, recognizing cultural and historical differences, and being cognizant of different laws and expectations around data transparency.

That’s why Seramount’s Global Inclusion Index focuses on looking at demographics, best practices, and company culture on a local country level. Questions were designed for local input and are refined annually to make it more nuanced on a country-specific basis. Recently, Seramount released a full report that shares the findings of the 2022 Global Inclusion Index, which shows a wide variation in demographics collected, efforts to hire and promote women, ability to use data to set goals, local leadership involvement, and starting supplier diversity practices. Many of the differences are driven by cultural issues, but others are reflections of early efforts in these countries by multinationals to begin to understand what inclusion means in a local area and how it impacts the workplace and the marketplace. These efforts, along with Seramount’s survey, are evolving rapidly.

Key Findings

Corporate support is important; local control is the differentiator:

While gender remains the most universal global demographic, we see increasing interest in asking employees to self-identify based on age, disability, and immigrant status.

Efforts to encourage employees to identify as LGBTQ+ and other diversity dimensions, such as religion and race/ethnicity, vary widely by country.

  • For example, disability status is collected in 67 percent of company respondents in Brazil and Japan but only in 38 percent of company respondents in Canada and 27 percent in Singapore. Information on age is collected in 100 percent of company respondents in Argentina, Germany, Italy, and Mexico but by only 7 percent of respondents in Singapore.

Multinationals often have stated goals for DEI, but actual practices vary widely by country and cultural norm.

DEI leaders or champions on the local levels consult frequently with corporate DEI offices but have significant leeway in implementing strategies.

  • Our data shows the companies in countries that are most likely to have their own local head of diversity are the UAE (100 percent of respondents) and Mexico (88 percent of respondents). Those least likely are Ireland (43 percent of respondents) and Chile (50 percent of respondents).

Most common employee resource groups (ERGs) are women, LGBTQ+, and race/ethnicity.

Other common groups include sustainability and groups for working parents. LGBTQ+ groups vary widely, depending on the country laws and culture.

  • For example, 100 percent of respondents in Ireland and Mexico have LGBTQ+ ERGs, while only 9 percent of respondents in China and 17 percent in the UAE have LGBTQ+ groups.

Countries with the highest rate of women in the top two levels also had the highest rates of formal mentoring and formal sponsorship.

  • The five countries with the highest rates of women in the top two levels are as follows (in alphabetical order): Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Mexico.

Accountability measures for DEI results, such as performance evaluations or linking to compensation, are more common at the corporate level than the local country level.

  • The countries where the country head and senior management, respectively, are most held responsible for DEI goals are India (78 percent and 56 percent), Mexico (75 percent and 63 percent), and Italy (71 percent and 57 percent).

After compiling our findings from the 2022 Global Inclusion Index, Seramount experts have concluded that the bottom line is that a local DEI leader or champion is critical to local success. Support of the country head of diversity matters a great deal as well.

Interested in participating in the 2023 Global Inclusion Index? Register here.

To learn more about how Seramount’s DEI Research Partnership can help propel your global DEI efforts forward, please contact us.

About the Author

Barbara Frankel
Barbara Frankel
Senior Director, Insights