Evaluating your higher education institution's DEI progress
Article | Higher education

From action to awareness: evaluating your institution's DEI progress

Fostering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in higher education is not just a noble aspiration but a fundamental necessity in today's world. In higher education, the need for a robust focus on DEI cannot be overstated. The landscape is evolving, and the student body as well as faculty and staff are becoming more diverse than ever, both in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic background and much more. To meet the ever-changing needs and expectations of this diverse population, institutions must continually adapt their strategies for promoting DEI.

To effectively adapt strategies, institutions must formally evaluate their progress toward DEI initiatives and objectives to ensure that intentions are being translated into meaningful actions. A lack of assessment may result in initiatives that remain stagnant, leading to a sense of futility and frustration among faculty and staff, students and other stakeholders.

Why is a DEI strategy evaluation important?

  1. Understanding the current state of progress will provide valuable insights for making informed decisions about the necessary steps to maintain progress toward objectives.
  2. Limited direction or resources, particularly when dealing with multiple campuses, can hinder an institution's capacity to achieve their objectives effectively.
  3. Absence of clear responsibility, oversight and outcome assessment may lead to irregularities or inadequate advancement toward set goals.

Key risks associated with not evaluating your institution’s DEI progress and maturity

 The risk of not evaluating your institution's progress toward DEI goals may be substantial. To create a more inclusive and equitable environment, institutions should commit to ongoing evaluation and data-driven decision-making to ensure that impactful strides toward DEI objectives are being taken. Failure to do so can have long-term consequences for an institution's success, reputation and social impact. Some key risks include:

  • Lack of progress – without regular and formal evaluation, an institution may struggle to make meaningful progress toward its DEI goals.
  • Absence of accountability a lack of formalized monitoring and measurement of staffing, resources, key performance indicators (KPIs) and outcomes may result in inconsistencies or insufficient progress.
  • Loss of trust and credibility failing to assess DEI and show measurable improvement may impact trust and credibility internally and externally.
  • Legal and regulatory risks – many jurisdictions are subject to anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws and regulations. Failing to evaluate DEI progress may ultimately expose the institution to related risks.
  • Talent retention and attraction – a lack of development around DEI initiatives may further impact the widespread talent retention issues in higher education. Faculty and staff from underrepresented groups may seek more inclusive workplaces if evidence of progress is not available or progressing in a positive direction.
  • Reputational impacts – in today's interconnected world, negative publicity, specifically as it relates to DEI, may deter potential students, faculty, staff, donors and vendors.
  • Missed academic opportunities – shortage of formal DEI progress evaluation may lead to a less inclusive and enriching learning environment for students, ultimately limiting students' preparedness for a diverse world.

How can Baker Tilly help?

Baker Tilly can offer valuable support and expertise to institutions by evaluating their existing tools for monitoring progress toward DEI initiatives. Our team assesses the effectiveness and alignment of these tools with specific DEI goals, identifies gaps and provides customized recommendations for improvements.

For more information, or to learn more about how Baker Tilly can help your institution evaluate DEI program progress, contact our team.

What we do What you get
Assess the institution’s policies, resources and tools related to monitoring DEI initiatives’ progress.   A facilitated discussion with key process owners across the institution/system to gain insight into existing guidance, communication, staffing and other tools.    
Identify the roles and responsibilities across the institution involved in the monitoring and evaluation processes.   A clear understanding of processes or collaboration efforts in place to facilitate effective progress towards goals.  
Evaluate current procedures to assess the metrics and KPIs that align with DEI goals achievement.   Actionable recommendations to address identified gaps, challenges, risks or enhancement opportunities related to the evaluation of the institution’s progress.
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