Creating Strong Leadership Buy-In for DEI

Fair HQ Team

Jun 10, 2024

Building genuine leadership buy-in for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives is crucial for any organization aiming to create a truly innovative culture. However, achieving this buy-in often presents significant challenges.

We’ve had 1,000+ conversations about leadership buy-in and gathered industry leaders’ experiences and strategies for securing effective leadership engagement in DEI efforts.

First, Why is Leadership Buy-in For DEI Crucial?

Leadership Accountability & Impact: Research from McKinsey emphasizes that a systematic, business-led approach to DEI, with bold actions on inclusion, is critical for progress. Companies with strong leadership accountability for DEI initiatives show significant improvements, regardless of their size. And where leaders actively engage in DEI initiatives and link them to performance reviews and rewards see better outcomes.

Resource Allocation: According to a survey by Culture Amp, only 34% of HR and DEI practitioners believe their organizations have sufficient resources to execute DEI initiatives effectively. This indicates that leadership’s commitment to providing necessary resources is crucial for DEI progress rather than the size of the organization.

34% of HR and DEI practitioners believe their organizations have sufficient resources to execute DEI initiatives effectively.

Key Challenges with Leadership Buy-In:

  • Leadership Diversity Struggles: A lack of diversity at the leadership level can impede DEI efforts. If there’s a lack of representation of different people at the top, it also often hinders DEI buy-in or slows it down.
  • Superficial Commitment: Leaders may express verbal commitment to DEI but fail to allocate the necessary budget, time, or engagement. This disconnect can prevent meaningful progress.
  • Perceived Responsibility: There’s a misconception that DEI should be driven solely by the People or ESG teams, without leadership involvement. Without active engagement from top executives, DEI initiatives are unlikely to succeed.
  • Inconsistent DEI Data Measurement: Consistently measuring DEI data and understanding what benchmarks constitute “good” is challenging. This inconsistency can make it difficult to gain and maintain buy-in.
  • Middle Management Engagement: Even with leadership support, cascading DEI strategies down to middle management can be difficult, as these managers are crucial for implementing day-to-day DEI actions.
A diverse group of people sitting around a conference table with laptops, engaged in a meeting. The woman at the center is speaking, and everyone is focused on her, indicating a collaborative discussion environment.

Source: Unsplash

8 Strategies for Achieving Leadership Buy-In:

1. Link DEI to Financial Performance (EBITDA): Demonstrating how DEI can positively impact the bottom line is essential. Examples include:

  • Cost Savings: Saving money on recruitment fees or training due to low employee turnover and great employer brand is always a great argument.
  • Revenue Growth: Being ready for supplier diversity programs increases sales potential and speeds up procurement processes.
  • High Productivity: Diverse and inclusive teams are more engaged and innovative and are a happier workforce. This also future-proofs your talent pipeline as the best talent looks for great culture
  • Attracting ESG-conscious Investors: Many investors and loan providers review companies’ ESG & DEI progress and can provide more favourable if the company scores highly.

2. Tie DEI to Objective Scores: Align DEI initiatives with metrics that CEOs and your investors (e.g. Private Equity) prioritize, such as those tracked by ESG platforms.

3. Data-Driven Approach: Focus on collecting and benchmarking DEI data against industry peers to provide a clear picture of the company’s maturity and areas for improvement.

4. Regulatory Drivers: Use regulatory requirements like the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSDR), pay transparency and gender pay gap reporting to build a compelling business case for DEI.

5. Active Leadership Participation: Encourage leaders to join employee groups and listen to their challenges directly. This involvement can deepen their understanding and commitment to DEI.

6. Specific and Tangible Actions: Instead of discussing DEI in broad terms, focus on specific areas, such as improving the hiring process. Tangible actions are often more engaging and face less resistance.

7. Identify a DEI Champion: Find at least one advocate within the leadership team to champion DEI initiatives and help bring others on board.

8. Long-Term Planning: Show that certain metrics, like the gender pay gap, will take time to change. Outline clear steps and a timeline to demonstrate a structured, ongoing commitment to DEI.


Securing leadership buy-in for DEI is not just about verbal commitments; it requires active engagement, clear links to financial performance, and a focus on specific, actionable steps. By addressing these key challenges and implementing the strategies, organizations can foster a more inclusive, equitable, and high-performing workplace.

Have insights about how you secured (or not) leadership buyi-in? Book a call with us and we can share more specific resources.

Have insights about how you secured (or not) leadership buyi-in? Book a call with us and we can share more specific resources. 

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