top of page

These Are the 3 DEI Priorities Leaders Should Have for 2023

Updated: Apr 11

What Will Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Look Like in 2023?

To answer that question, I think we need to look much further ahead.

To the year 2045.

In 2045, it’s estimated the non-white population will surpass the historically white majority in this country—both in actual number and growth rate. That means we’ve got less than 25 years before the demographic appearance of the United States changes forever.

For the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) industry, this change will have immense consequences. In a world where more people are racially “diverse” than not, corporations will be unable to avoid or silo the subjects of diversity, equity, and inclusion. From employee experience to consumer relations to product design, the racial and ethnic composition of the largest economy in the world will force every sensible corporation to make far-reaching changes.

Many large and well known brands are already doing amazing things: consumer-facing brands like Nike have a particularly vested interest in ensuring the public sees them leading the charge. But of the roughly $50 billion pledged toward racial equity by U.S. companies, it’s estimated that only $250 million had actually been spent toward that initiative by mid-2021.

We have to do better, but 2022 was not the year to figure it out. It was a year of normalization and calibration, where many of the changes proposed and pledged in 2021 had to pass viability tests. We won’t cross any finish lines in 2023, either, but the time is now to begin preparing for a new demographic—and therefore economic—reality come 2045.

Projecting what the world will look like in 2045 will help us prepare for it in the coming years, so let’s take a step back and imagine what changes the next quarter century has in store for America.


When you look at your workplaces, schools, communities, and public institutions, you’re going to see a lot more color.

In the workforce—assuming the forces of DEI continue to work at improving equitable access to education and employment—you can expect to see many more people of color in positions at all levels of the economy.

More senior leaders will come from (previously) underrepresented backgrounds than ever before, having begun their climb up the ladder in the present decade. When you go to work, as a person of color, it will be increasingly unlikely that you feel like the “only” based on your race. Meetings, boardrooms, interviews, pitches—these will all look and feel very different for people of color.

Investment and capital will start to flow increasingly toward founders who don’t fit the typical mold. As Limited Partners (capital providers to institutional investors) continue to demand it and funds are set up to focus on under-represented founders, we’ll see their efforts bearing major fruit by 2045.

It’s not just the people and composition of workplaces that will change, either. The representation of people of color in products, communications, and all forms of media will have become an economic necessity, not simply an exercise in branding and product innovation.

From a broader cultural perspective, the changes we’ve all invested in over the past two years in personal education and growth will have altered our relationship to race, history, and their legacy. We won’t shy away from conversations about race in the same way. We will face the dark sides of our history bravely and with greater nuance. We will have become accustomed, 25 years after the murder of George Floyd in front of immobilized bystanders, to calling out prejudice and injustice and maintaining our intolerance to both.

This may sound like a rosy picture, but think about how different things are now compared to the late 90s. Representation of people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community has skyrocketed in the media, compared to what it was back then. We elected a Black president and a Black, female vice president.

Things will change immensely when the country looks physically different—for business, culture, and daily life. But given how vital corporations and non-governmental organizations have proven themselves in the last year in responding to crises and committing to change, we should consider how they can start investing their efforts to prepare for 2045.


1. Finding Purpose in DEI

First and foremost, corporations need to find their purpose in DEI, both in the short-term and long-term, as well as with a view to internal and external operations.

So much noise in the DEI industry is made about the progress everyone has to make. But the reality is every company and industry has its own needs, pain points, and objectives. The definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion have to be sufficiently unique in an organization if anyone is expected to know what to do about them.

We often talk about the need for a DEI strategy in an organization. But that strategy can’t be limited to a glorified roadmap for your new Chief Diversity Officer. If DEI is a matter of business and people, then its relation to financial and human capital must be clarified. In other words, your DEI strategy will collapse unless it’s meaningfully tied to your overall business strategy. Brands and businesses spend millions on defining their purpose in the world. Why should your purpose in DEI be any exception?

Once you’ve established your company’s purpose in DEI—externally and internally – everything else in a strategy can logically fall into place. Not least the definition of roles and responsibilities at all levels of the organization for implementing programs of change. DEI is not the sole purview of a CDO or their team—it certainly won’t be by the year 2045. So the time is now to start baking your purpose into tangible actions that employees are expected and incentivized to deliver against.

2. Investing (Actual Money) in DEI

I’ve written about the pitfalls of corporate DEI efforts and CDO’s roles before. Much of them come down to a lack of adequate investment, both in the CDO’s team or department and in the implementation of strategy.

While more money flowed towards diversity hiring programs in the past two years, it’s important to focus on specific goals. In 2045, senior leadership will necessarily look more diverse. The best talent will be attracted to firms that have diverse leaders already. So it’s in everyone’s interest in 2023 to start investing in diverse leadership hires.

The same goes for retaining, not just attracting, diverse talent at all levels. The best talent will tend to prefer to be where they see themselves represented. Candidates are actually choosing lower-paying jobs in this economy in order to work in better cultures where they feel they’re doing something worthwhile. It takes investment to keep the diverse talent you have, which ensures that more and more keep coming your way at the highest caliber.

And of course, for the large corporations that have hired a CDO, investment means providing them with meaningful budgets in keeping with your DEI purpose and program.

3. Measuring Impact

There is a well-known dearth of data for CDOs and anyone trying to look at companies’ key objectives in DEI, many of which tend to fall within hiring and retention practices.

The benefit of defining a DEI purpose for your organization is that you can actually identify what needs to be tracked. I’ve seen major companies this year invest in massive research projects, internal and external, that track diversity data on the company and consumer side. Tangible change cannot be recorded and improved upon unless you have this data.

But it’s not all about quantity. The qualitative side is equally important. It’s perfectly doable for an organization to implement new hiring policies that attract diverse talent—but what are they measuring once they get them in?

Inclusion is the oft-forgotten sister of Diversity and Equity. It’s equally important that companies empower their employees to share their experiences, innovating and iterating so that policy and process changes from above actually translate to meaningful outcomes in employee experience.

These are some of the most important ways organizations can enact meaningful change. Making commitments and forming committees is only the first step. True corporate citizenship means incorporating economically and psychologically necessary DEI objectives into the strategy and operations of your business.

The brands, businesses, and institutional players who invest in DEI will find they attract more customers, better talent, and greater reputations. They will also become more resilient and prepared for the foundational demographic changes that will unfold over the next 20 years.

Those who don’t may survive for now. But come 2045, I doubt it.


43 views0 comments
bottom of page