Your D&I data questions answered

Collecting and assessing diversity data can seem like a daunting concept if you are new to diversity and inclusion (D&I) work or new to working with data. But it doesn’t have to be intimidating.   

At its core, diversity data is simply information about the demographic mix of the employees in your organisation. This typically includes, for example, your employees’ Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background, age, carer status, cultural and racial identity, disability status, gender, LGBTIQ+ identity, and social class.   

Why is collecting diversity data important?   

Diversity data is a powerful tool in D&I work. It helps you make informed decisions about the future direction and aspirations of your D&I work and your overall business strategies.  

Firstly, it gives you an understanding of the mix of employees in your organisation. When compared to benchmarks (e.g. diversity in the Australian population) this can help you identify where you might be underrepresented, and what action you need to take to address this (e.g. more inclusive recruitment).   

Secondly, diversity data is a diagnostic tool to identify your D&I priority areas when combined with other employee data points. For example, in combining your data on disability status with your human resource information data, you might find employees with disability are underrepresented in your management and leadership roles. Or you might find your racially marginalised employees are promoted far less than non-racially marginalised employees when combining your diversity data with promotions data.   

Lastly, diversity data can be a great source for understanding the cultural capabilities of your workforce. For example, data on the languages spoken by your employees and time spent working in another country can help you assess your capability to access and better serve different markets, clients, and members of the community you service.   

Without having this data to guide your D&I work, you risk taking ill-informed D&I and broader strategic action that will have limited impact or may cause more harm than good.   

What questions should I ask?   

Leading practice in selecting questions is to remember that self-determination is key.   

This means using questions and response options that have been developed by people or organisations with lived experience of the question being asked or through a process of consultation with people with lived experience. For example, DCA follows the question and response options developed by the Australian Disability Network when capturing data on disability status and those recommended by ACON when capturing gender. It can also be insightful to test the wording of your questions with key stakeholder groups internally, like your employee network/resource groups or D&I Council.   

Without following self-determination as a key principle in data collection, you risk using questions and response options that are disrespectful, inaccurate, and offensive to your employees.    

Should I collect data anonymously?   

Capturing diversity data anonymously (e.g. through a survey) will usually result in a higher response rate. Because of this, it will typically provide you with more accurate data about workforce diversity. It can also provide more accurate diagnostic data when combined with other survey data points (e.g. inclusion or engagement questions) as employees feel safer answering more truthfully when they know they cannot be identified.  

However, the anonymous nature of this data means you will be unable to explore things that require identification, like diversity representation in leadership, or your inclusion pain points (e.g. pay gaps, biased promotions, etc.). This is where capturing diversity data through a human resources information system (HRIS) can be beneficial. 

Because of the limitations of each approach, many organisations will use both anonymous surveys and their HRIS to inform their D&I work. This includes encouraging employees to fill in their demographic data in the HRIS regularly while running anonymous surveys once every 12 to 24 months to fill in the gaps.     

Need a helping hand? 

If you want to measure D&I in your organisation but are not sure where to start, DCA’s Inclusive Employer Index is an easy way to map and track the state of diversity and inclusion in your organisation.  

Participating in the Inclusive Employer Index simply involves administering a comprehensive survey within your organisation and exploring your results on an interactive dashboard. The dashboard is standardised, taking the work out of survey creation, data cleaning, and data presentation. The dashboard also enables you to compare your organisation’s results to different benchmarks: the Australian workforce, other DCA members, and where applicable within your industry.  

Employers who exceed the national index benchmark on a series of measures will be recognised as a 2024-2025 Inclusive Employer and are publicly promoted. They can also demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion by proudly displaying the Inclusive Employers logo for the 2024-2025 period, showcasing their recognition by DCA. 

Register your interest now to participate in this year’s Inclusive Employer Index.