Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of business leaders have increased their organization’s investment in diversity, equity and inclusion over the past 12 months, according to a new survey by the World 50 Group, a global community of business leaders.

Direct reports to the chief executive officer were most likely to feel they have access to sufficient talent as well as support from their board and other C-suite leaders, but only 41 per cent of respondents — a decline of eight per cent from 2022 — said middle managers were supportive.

“This year’s survey shows DEI investments are steadily rising, demonstrating both commitment and understanding among large businesses,” said Jennifer Bird Newton, World 50’s chief impact officer, in a press release. “However, continued focus, transparency, constant communication and accountability are necessary for lasting [inclusivity and diversity] change.”

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The momentum for DEI initiatives remained particularly strong in larger companies (above $50 billion in revenue). A quarter (26 per cent) of respondents that said they’ve seen an increase in momentum said it came from leadership pressure. And 81 per cent said their most senior DEI leaders report to either the chief human resources officer (69 per cent) or CEO (12 per cent), compared to 59 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively, in 2022.

The majority (81 per cent) of respondents said their DEI budgets have either stayed the same or increased during the past year. This is a 15 per cent increase from companies that said they had sufficient funding for these efforts in 2022. In addition, 59 per cent of leaders also reported having sufficient talent to support their DEI initiatives, a six per cent increase from the previous year.

In terms of measuring DEI, 94 per cent of survey respondents said they track employee representation, while 78 per cent measure workforce inclusion and belonging.

Despite the increased momentum of DEI, 22 per cent of respondents identified their initiatives as “low” on the maturity scale this year compared to previous years. As well, while 62 per cent of respondents said they don’t think their leaders are effectively held accountable for DEI results, that percentage decreased to 53 per cent among those who directly report to the CEO.

“We are at a critical inflection point for DEI. What is evident is that those who are committed to this work are getting the support and resources they need to move forward,” said David Wilkie, CEO of World 50, in the release. “Building cultures of belonging takes time and, while there is still much work to be done, we are encouraged by the progress we continue to see.”

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