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Leveraging Data for Good: 3 Ways to Utilize DEI Data to Support Equity and Justice

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

I had the pleasure of speaking with Thamara Subramanian for an episode of our livestream video series, Better Humans @ Work (BH@W).


Thamara is an equity audit and strategy manager for the Winters Group, a black-owned diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) consulting firm, whose goal is to help actualize equity and justice across organizations. Thamara has a background in public health that sparked her passion for uncovering and remedying the root causes of inequity.


During our chat, we discussed what equity looks like in practice, how we can measure it, the barriers we face in that measurement, and the first steps you can take today to have a more data-driven approach to DEIJ in your organization.



What does it mean to measure equity?

Thamara provided some key questions to ask when you’re taking a justice-centered approach to data and assessment:

  1. Who is benefiting from what is offered at this organization?

  2. Who is being harmed (either inadvertently or not) from policies and practices in place at this organization?

  3. How can we shift and redistribute power?

Many of the inequities that exist in organizations are due to an uneven distribution of power. Using these questions as a guide, organizations and their partners can work to understand how the structures in place are advantaging some and disadvantaging others, especially those with traditionally marginalized identities.


Equity means everyone being able to have equal opportunity to thrive regardless of social demographics. In order to answer the above questions in order to start the journey to a more equitable organization, Thamara recommends a mixed methods approach.


What is the best way to measure equity?

A mixed methods approach means, simply, collecting both quantitative, or numbers, and quantitative, or words. What this looks like in practice means using the numbers that often organizations already have on hand, including HR or EEO data, along with qualitative data collected through interviews, focus groups, or listening sessions. These qualitative sources are essential because they can provide a voice to those often silenced in numbers to tell more about their actual experiences in the organization.


Further, you’re able to investigate the experiences of those within a community to unpack differences. These conversations can provide answers to the question to “why?” more so than simply looking at representation numbers.


What are the barriers to DEI data collection?

Thamara and I discussed some of the common ways organizations and partners face challenges when it comes to collecting this data and making actionable changes for equity.


One of the biggest challenges that can halt measurement in its tracks is a lack of support from leadership. If an organization’s leaderships are not champions of their DEI efforts, it is pointless to go through the motions of collecting the data. As we always say here at Mattingly, if you’re not going to do anything with it, don’t collect it.



Another common challenge is fear and reluctance around collecting the data. One way to overcome this challenge is to integrate education every step of the way. By providing understanding of why the collection is happening and what is going to be done with the data, it not only helps reduce uncertainty but also increases accountability for the leadership.


Lastly, there is always the challenge of overcoming backlash to DEI. Thamara advocated for having conversations with people and making sure everyone feels heard but also making sure to not halt the work because of one detractor.


It's important when doing this work to remember that it’s really about changing the minds of those in the middle, who are neither DEI champions nor detractors but simply undecided. Everyone has a role in this work and showing everyone how DEI can play a role in their everyday work, regardless of the function they fill, is essential.


3 Ways to Use DEI Data to Support Equity and Justice

We finished our conversation with three recommendations from Thamara on how to use the data collected to make real change for equity and justice in organizations:

  1. Utilize the data you already have on hand, especially intersectional data

    1. This data can include things like exit interviews or engagement surveys. Rather than collecting new data, be open-minded about how you can use what you already have to learn more about the status of your organization.

    2. Use an intersectional lens to gain insight into how multiple identities play a role in an individual’s experience in your organization. People’s identities are very complex and getting information at these intersections, especially through qualitative means, is very meaningful, especially for the people at those intersections.

  2. Value what employees are saying

    1. Provide confidence that the data will be acted upon, especially the qualitative data collected in focus groups and listening sessions so people feel that their time is being respected and their voices are being heard.

  3. Share small wins on what is being learned from the data and what you are doing with it

    1. Increase transparency to increase buy-in and trust across the organization.


For more information about Thamara and her work at the Winters Group, connect with her on LinkedIn.

Looking to begin the journey of measuring DEI in your organization? Contact Mattingly Solutions today to learn how we can partner to advance your DEI goals. Together.



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