Data on diversity in the workplace: what is diversity data and how to collect it?

Diversity Data - Data has a better idea

Teresa Norman, a consultant at EW Group, evaluates how to collect diversity data and why it is so important to progress your D&I journey.

When I am running diversity and inclusion workshops, I often ask participants: “What do senior managers want?” The answer is always: “They want data”.

More than 70% of business leaders have said that increasing diversity and inclusion is a top business priority.  And it is data that tells leaders what is working and where they need to take action.

Learning how to collect and understand diversity data is a critical part of the work of Diversity and Inclusion. There is no point collecting data unless it is analysed and leads to real world change where there is a greater experience of belonging through inclusion.

The first step is to understand what company diversity data is and how to collect it.


  1. What is diversity data?
  2. How to collect diversity data
  3. How to use diversity data and overcome challenges

What is diversity data?

The basis of diversity data is the different protected characteristics of your workforce and job applicants. It’s a way of collecting data on people’s ethnic identity, sexual orientation, disability status, gender identity, and other characteristics.

Some organisations are also collecting information on socio-economic status. To find out how to do this, go to: Socio-economic background – GOV.UK.

All data should be anonymized, so it is never about identifying one person but about looking at trends across different processes.

Analysis of your data can tell you if you are representative of your local community or the community you serve. It will tell you which groups are in the majority in your company and if any groups are under-represented.

It will also tell you if any diversity initiative you are working on is having an impact.

Diversity data will help businesses understand if action is needed. Analysed diversity data could, for instance, tell you if some groups are not promoted at the same rate as other groups, or if certain groups do not breakthrough at different points in the recruitment process.


How to collect diversity data

In recruitment, diversity data is typically collected by asking candidates to fill in a form giving their protected characteristics. These must be kept separate from application forms and are never given to the panel in case they skew the interviewing panel’s decision making.

There are different ways of asking staff to share their diversity data, through creating a section on your HR records, through the staff survey or some clients ask EW Group to run a questionnaire for them.

Communicate why diversity data is important to job applicants and employees

It can seem intrusive that an organisation wants personal information, so you need to be really explicit about why it is so important. To reassure everyone, explain why you want to collect the information, how you will use it and how it will inform your Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy. It is vital that everyone understands that it is held in confidence and who will have access to the information.

The Behavioural Insights unit has done some research on what works: Improving equality, diversity and inclusion starts with good data. They advocate making it as easy as possible to fill in the forms and providing sharp, key messages on is purpose.

Work out what is measurable

What can your systems tell you? If you want to, for instance, focus on promotion rates of different groups, can your HR systems give you this information?

Do you have a system for analysing your recruitment data so that you can identify diversity patterns? Are you collecting information on service users so that you can report on the take up of services?

Working out how to collect diversity data can be complex, so you will need to decide what you wish to know, and what information you can collect. You will achieve greater analysis if your diversity data collection is purposeful and focused.

At EW Group, we can support you to effectively learn how to collect diversity data and analyse diversity data through our in-house Diversity Data Course and Diversity Audit and Analysis services.


How to use diversity data and overcome challenges

When collecting your data on diversity in the workplace, you may come up against some challenges. Here are our top tips on how to collect and use your diversity data in the workplace:

1. Gather baseline evidence

Your baseline diversity data could be the composition of your workforce or your service users. Using this benchmark, you can show how it changes over time and effectively demonstrate the success of any future initiatives.

If you don’t have enough information about the service users, you can use sources like the Office of National Statistics to gather approximate diversity data e.g. ONS could give you the overall profile of an industry.

2. Assess trends over time

After you have collected your diversity data, you might find powerful evidence for your initiatives from looking at trends over time.

The Civil Service is, for instance, able to look at the proportion of women in different grades in different departments over years.

If this kind of evidence is available to you, you could make a powerful case for the need to accelerate progress or that enough progress is being made. You can then show how your initiatives are making a difference over time.

3. Decide on your reporting points

Sometimes the reporting points will be dictated by legislation e.g. on the Gender Pay Gap or if you are in the public sector, to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty, you will need to make annual reports.

In other sectors, you can choose the times you will be reporting back. Give yourself reasonably long lead times. It takes time to make a difference.

4. Analyse and coherently present the data

Collecting diversity data is not enough on its own. It needs analysis, and it needs to be coherently presented.

If the diversity data shows that certain groups are not accessing your services or breaking through in recruitment, then this needs an explanation as to why it is happening and why it matters, and of course, what you are going to do about it.

Senior managers are busy people who need to know why they should invest time in changing outcomes. As you progress your strategy, ideally, you will be explaining how the action you have taken has created improvements in results.

Your diversity strategy has the power to make your organisation more innovative, improve staff engagement and deliver better results. But it can only do this if it is underpinned by robust data. Your data gives you the power to act.

Once your diversity data has guided you to where you should focus, you can then set your evidence-based strategy. You can then go back to your baseline data and see whether your actions have generated results.

Ask us about how we can help you to capture and analyse your diversity data.

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