Making The Case for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Nonprofit venture philanthropy firm New Schools Venture Fund recently released its new study, Unrealized Impact, to help deepen the understanding of the racial/ethnic diversity of the education workforce; the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies and practices that leaders have put into place; and the effectiveness of these practices.

The study includes data from more than 200 organizations on organizational demographics, policies and structures and nearly 5,000 individual perspectives on lived staff experiences in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion, with an intentional focus on race and ethnicity.

Frances Messano, a managing partner at NewSchools Venture Fund, and authors Xiomara Padamsee, CEO of Promise54, and Becky Crowe, Senior Advisor at Bellwether Education Partners, brought together a group of five education funders (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; NewSchools Venture Fund; Raikes Foundation; Schusterman Family Foundation; and Walton Family Foundation) to underwrite this rigorous study, which was based on answers gathered to the following questions:

  1. What are the racial and socioeconomic demographics of staff, leadership and boards in education organizations?
  2. What are the policies and practices that education organizations employ in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion?
  3. What are staff perceptions of diversity, equity and inclusion in their organizations and of related practices and behaviors?
  4. What are the perceived links between organizational diversity, equity and inclusion and student success?

“The study’s sponsors and authors came to this work with a perspective: that diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations are stronger and therefore better able to reach their goals,” said Padamsee. 

While progress in the education sector has been made, the results show that organizations still have much to do to improve DEI.

1. Staff & Leadership Racial and Socioeconomic Demographics

The study shows the percentage of black and Latino leaders in American education compared to black and Latino PreK-12 students remains unbalanced:“As American students have become a more racially diverse population over the past decade, there is a stark difference between those who are doing the work and the racial demographics of the communities we serve,” said Messano.

2. Policies and Practices

A wide variety of practices related to diversity, inclusion and diversity were found as well.

  • Organizations of all sizes reported having basic policies in place, but there was no set of universal practices being used, and many reported they do not have anything in place.
  • Only nine of the 50 practices included in the survey are currently being implemented by half of the respondents, however, all but nine of the 50 are being used by at least 20% of the organizations surveyed.

“This study clearly showed that education organizations need to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at the same time,” said Crowe. ”Although the terms may seem similar or even interchangeable, each is distinct and important. Organizations often start with a focus on diversity and think that’s enough.  Diversity, without a focus on inclusion (belonging), and equity (fairness), leaves impact on the table.”

3. Staff DEI Perceptions

The study shows that staff perceptions about DEI in their organizations definitely impacts recruitment and retention:

  • Staff said they are 3x more likely to recommend an organization that is diverse, equitable and inclusive to a friend.
  • 61% of staff (regardless of race) reported that they intend to stay in their organizations for the next three years.
  • 24% of all staff respondents report experiencing discrimination in the workplace.
  • Staff of color were 50% more likely to report a discriminating experience.

“Education leaders are increasingly committed to doing better on diversity, equity and inclusion, but this study shows many organizations aren’t sure where to even begin. The promising practices outlined in this report will give leaders a place to start,” said Messano.

4. Linking DEI & Student Success

While the primary focus in this study is to better understand internal organizational work on DEI and implications for staff, there is also interest in understanding the links between DEI and student outcomes.

In the responses, six areas of impact were frequently reported, suggesting the significant ways in which workplace DEI can positively impact student outcomes:“Teams that reflect the lived and life experiences of the students they serve are better able to design and execute effective solutions that eliminate certain blind spots and potential bias[es]. The tools we create are more effective at engaging educators in realizing and being motivated to respond to equity gaps in their classrooms, schools, and systems,” said one anonymous participant.

The hope is that the study inspires those working within education organizations of all types to recognize diversity, equity and inclusion as a source of unrealized impact and make a commitment to progress an organizational imperative.

Interested in Participating?

It’s not too late for your organization to take the surveys. Visit the survey FAQ page to learn how you can take one or both of the surveys used in this study.

By participating, you are contributing your organization’s data to the field-wide data set. In addition, you will receive detailed, complimentary summary reports with benchmark data and insights.

Interested in Learning More?

You can also explore the data, read the report and find out more about the new Promise54 here.

For more, see:

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Catherine Wedgwood

Catherine is a communication specialist.

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