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Top Five Trends for the Next Decade of DEI

By Shilpa Pherwani, IBIS Principal
As we look ahead to a new decade, I’m eager as always to stay on the cutting edge and to begin working on diversity, equity and inclusion issues in a new way. The DEI field evolves rapidly as people build new levels of understanding, consciousness and empathy, and yet it is needed more than ever as bias and discrimination remain painfully, persistently, everywhere. With more of this work being global, we need common dynamics for our focus.
Below is what I envision to be the next iteration of work for the 2020s.
1.      The next decade will have less talk about the business case. Instead of talking about the business case and the reasoning behind the necessity of DEI work, people will take action. By now, most of us realize it’s important, or can easily access information that gives us the context we need. The data on topics such as belonging, productivity, engagement, and turnover is so readily available and convincing that discussion of these topics will give way to finding the right actions for each organization to make change.
2.      I still feel that there is a lot of confusion about equality vs. equity. The concept of equity helps illuminate the reality that people need different things to succeed, and we should equip leaders, managers and institutions to provide resources based on need, and not on a narrow and outmoded concept of fairness. The coming decade will find many leaders learning how to ensure that their culture is an equitable one.
3.      Put energy into systemic structural changes. Training individuals is always a useful exercise in building awareness, but it is never enough to change organizations. Focusing on what needs to change to create space for DEI in policy, practice and process is a major component of true, ground-shaking, needle-moving capital-C change.
4.      People need to get more comfortable talking about privilege, even when it feels hard at first. The only way to be a true ally for someone else is to be willing to see one’s own privilege in the first place. Different levels of privilege can be found in all dimensions of diversity; it’s far from just being about race, and it exists outside of the United States. Every country has groups that have more privilege based on who they are, if they hold power, and so on. We’ve got to learn how to avoid the scarcity framework of a zero-sum game. The focus needs to be on expanding the pie rather than concluding that what one person gets has been taken from another.
5.      Accountability. Are we ready to hold ourselves and others accountable? Can companies take bold actions to show that they are ready to hold people accountable? Every organization in the next decade will need to have a social justice stance. Millennials are seeking this, and it’s a trend likely to spread across age groups. Whatever your cause might be, can you find room to not just focus on the profit and loss, but also on the question: How can we improve our community?
What do you think of these trends to keep in mind for the next decade? Do they resonate with you? Email me and let me know: Shilpa (at)
I believe in the power of this work to change hearts, minds and daily life – I’ve seen it do just that time and again – but I also know that it takes all of us in collaboration to make lasting change. Working together, we can do it in 2020 – and beyond.

Shilpa Pherwani, the principal of IBIS and a leading expert in diversity and inclusion, has been guiding global organizations for over 16 years on leveraging diversity as a business advantage. An organizational psychologist by training, she partners with organizations to effect sustainable organizational change by conducting cultural assessments, developing comprehensive strategic diversity action plans, and designing compelling and interactive classroom-based and online training.