European Blue Chip Firms underreport D&I

Annual reports provide opportunities to talk about progress and success. While large corporations do so regarding their D&I commitment and activities, they are much more modest when it comes to publishing D&I numbers.

Benchmarking, transparency, peer pressure or employer branding – there seem to be so many reasons to communicate D&I and more specifically concrete numbers. The latest report in a series of content analysis looks precisely at this topic: Over the past 12 years, European Diversity Research & Consulting has analysed the corporate communication of European blue chip companies on a bi-annual basis. In 2018, they chose a focus on metrics: Which of their D&I numbers do multinational corporations choose to publish in Annual or CSR reports? Which dimensions and for which populations?

Reporting is easy – too easy?

The overall result of the content analysis shows that all 50 companies listed in the EuroStoxx® provide some D&I data and most do so for their entire organisation, i.e. on a global scale and not focused on their domestic market. This has been one of the (smaller) surprises to the researchers, who had expected National legislation would have a clearer impact on the level of data disclosure. In line with political priorities and in the light of convenience the study found a ranking of D&I data prevalence.

  • Gender continues to be the top priority of Diversity and Inclusion and some gender data is provided by each of the companies – but none of them mentions the third gender as of yet
  • Age data is communicated by 92% of the companies, 20 of them using 4 – 6 age groups to show their demographic profile
  • Unlike in former studies, nationality is very prevalent when taking a data reporting perspective: 72% of companies report the number of nationalities they employ
  • Due to a mix of legal regulations and measurability, disability ranks fourth and is reported by 62% of the companies

While the choice of data appears quite understandable from a pragmatic point of view, experts challenge the focus on these few metrics. “From a business perspective, other dimensions have stronger impact than the passport you carry”, comments The D&I Engineer, Michael Stuber, referring to dozens of empirical findings summarised in the International Business Case Report for Diversity (IBCR). In fact, companies are starting to report work/life related data (N=36) or facts on educational backgrounds (N=8). However, the predominant approach is to leverage personnel data which can directly and easily be extracted from data warehouses.

Board Diversity – Management Diversity – Workforce Diversity

Despite a political focus on the highest decision-making bodies the current analysis shows that 96% of companies report the gender split of their workforce (ranging from 14 to 75% women) and slightly fewer, 90%, do so for their board of (managing) directors (0 to 56% women) and 76% for their supervisory boards (7 to 40% women). Less than half that amount provide gender data for their senior management (32%, from 9 to 32% women) or the management population at large (24%, from 10 to 65% women).

38% of the companies only mention female numbers in their reports (in the same way the previous paragraph does) while 28% always mention both the share of men and women, the remaining group of 32% practices a mix of reporting approaches. “Mentioning all subgroups so that number add up to 100 percent is an underrated driver for acceptance”, Stuber explains.

For Nationality, companies find it easier to pursue this all-inclusive reporting as they simply mention the number of (all the) nationalities represented – in the workforce or the top management team. 20 of the EuroStoxx 50 companies employ between 91 and 170 Nationalities and 22 companies in the sample have between 3 and 8 Nationalities on their top leadership teams.

The next level of D&I reporting

In an attempt to illustrate the comprehensiveness of their D&I strategy, a few companies have started to include numbers, e.g. on their LGBTI workforce or on employees who have recently fled their homeland. For LGBTI, the number of people engaged in an LGBTI-related network (including allies or not) is a a metric of choice.

Ethnicity or religion have not been operationalised by any of the companies. While it seems understandable at first sight, experience in the Anglo-Saxon world shows that metrics in these fields help to identify gaps and make discussions more fact-based.

An obvious gap in the current reporting is the lack of comparative data over time – which is a definite standard in Corporate (financial) reporting. This would be a huge step in the direction of authentic transparency. People sometimes argue that D&I numbers are often not directly comparable year-on-year due to changes in the organisational structure – but the financial results will be directly compared…

Core findings of the previous Stoxx(R) 50 Europe study can be found here

and for EuroStoxx50(R) here

An overview of our body of research is described here