Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and practices have focused on a limited range of interventions aimed at reducing discrimination and inequities. Evidence shows these interventions—such as trainings, grievance systems, and hiring targets—have met with mixed success in creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. Experts say they don’t address structural inequities embedded in job structures and employment systems—such as pay, promotion, and scheduling—thereby impeding the economic mobility of workers of color, women, and others facing structural disadvantage. In addition, research on DEI policies and practices has focused on large employers and white-collar workers, creating a knowledge gap on whether and how DEI policies shape outcomes for workers receiving low wages, particularly those in small- and midsize enterprises.
The Work Equity initiative, based at the Boston College of Social Work, aims to address this gap by fielding a new panel survey of small- and mid-size business on their DEI policies and practices. Fielded in partnership with the Society of Human Resources Management and NORC at the University of Chicago, the survey will generate evidence on small businesses’ approaches to equity in their practices and employment systems and the unique characteristics and needs of their workforce. The project aims to field this survey at regular intervals to create a new open-source longitudinal dataset tracking DEI practices in small- and midsize businesses. The project team will share its findings through publications and conferences aimed at both practitioner and academic audiences.