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Why DEI Work Is Critical to Advancing Women in the Workplace

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are critical to a successful organization. Research has proven that diversity drives innovation and employee engagement, and that companies with greater gender and racial diversity financially outperform their peers. 

Still, DEI progress is slow. Women and minorities are still largely underrepresented, especially in leadership roles. According to the Women in the Workplace study, at the start of 2021 women of color represented 17% of entry-level positions versus 30% represented by white women. At the VP level, women of color held 7% of representation, and white women held 25%, while white men held 56% of VP level positions. 

Even while being underrepresented in leadership roles, women, compared to men at the same level, are twice as likely to support their teams and advance DEI at their companies. The same study found that 49% of women managers or senior leaders who spend time on DEI are doing it outside of their formal job responsibilities. This leads to critical DEI work going unrecognized. When DEI work isn’t recognized, it isn’t considered in performance reviews, which doesn’t help advance women into leadership roles. Their financial compensation suffers. 

Following proven results, more and more businesses are prioritizing DEI efforts. Almost 70% of the participating companies say that the work employees do to promote DEI is very or extremely critical, according to the study.  

CalPERS’ Commitment to DEI  

DEI initiatives have helped CalPERS be more customer-focused, operate more efficiently, drive team engagement, and be a best-practice leader. Our DEI Report (2020-21) shows our progress and how DEI has been a guiding light for our policies and processes. 

This past August, we also hosted the Pathways for Women Conference in Anaheim, aiming to help close the gender gap in leadership and create opportunities for more inclusive, innovative business solutions. The event speakers featured leaders in business, health care, and government. Topics of our panels included:  

  • The Firsts: Women Who Pioneered New PathwaysPanelists discussed what it takes to make history, as the first women to accomplish something outstanding in their fields, and the significance of forging new paths for others. 
  • Reframing Health Care Leadership to Include Women’s PerspectivesHow COVID-19 may have opened opportunities to reframe leadership and take on new approaches to innovation in health care and public health. 
  • MENtoring: How to Be a Powerful Male AllyPanelists shared their perspectives on what women bring to the workplace and strategies for mentoring, coaching, and generally helping women pursue their goals, plus why men’s involvement is critical to women’s advancement. 
  • Achieving a Woman-Led OrganizationFor the first time in its history, three top positions at CalPERS are simultaneously held by women. The leaders discussed their journeys, their vision for a new era of leadership, and how they’re clearing the path for more women in top roles. 

Be sure to keep an eye out for next year’s Pathways for Women event. We hope to see you there!

This article was updated on 10/17/22.