DEI continues to redefine and strengthen equity in the workplace, emphasizing pay transparency and support for health and careers.

Authors: Leah Reynolds Jenna Sneed


Many total rewards decisions once followed a templated approach that met many basic needs, but often overlooked the concerns of specific populations. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) related to pay, health and career are essential to today's workforce and require a more nuanced focus.

Marginalized employees, including women, come into their own and perform at their best when they're treated equitably based on policies, practices and cultural experiences. DEI is a prerequisite for helping to recognize them as colleagues whose contributions are differentiated — just as important as what others bring but not necessarily better. As change agents for organizational solutions and growth, marginalized employees fully apply their abilities and insights.

Overlapping identities are formed from a person's life experiences, and differences exist in how individuals express or interpret them. As employers recognize the value of these layered and complex distinctions, they're more likely to support them with initiatives and programs. A genuinely inclusive work environment emerges when employees feel empowered to offer diverse perspectives and share unique experiences, including challenges. Maintaining a safe space for this purpose promotes sustainable results.

Closing the equity gap with pay transparency

Pay transparency is a cornerstone of equity in the workplace that helps address gender pay gaps and promote fairness for marginalized populations. Research shows that these gaps narrow and close for employers when their employees rate their organization's pay practices as highly transparent.1 Upholding this standard requires regular audits and ongoing evaluation of compliance with equity standards.

High pay-transparency employers post salaries even when not required by law, and their employees know their position in the pay range.

Salary negotiation processes are demystified by pay transparency. Compensation studies should include a pay equity analysis and identify risks. Transparency includes updating job descriptions as needed and having appropriate discussions to manage expectations and help ensure that differences are objective, not gendered.

Clear information on salary ranges, along with criteria for pay raises and promotions, leaves employees better equipped to negotiate salaries and advancements, especially women. For example, dashboards improve line of sight into metrics for job qualifications, pay equity, gender bias and promotions. Knowledge and resources can be empowering, and they're critical for those in leadership roles whose salary negotiations may influence their career trajectories.

Because it signals a decisive stance on equity, a transparent pay structure is an attractive compensation feature for many employees and a persuasive factor for job candidates. Women whose aspirations include leadership are especially likely to place a high value on this indicator. Along with other fair compensation practices, a pledge to pay transparency helps to improve employee engagement, promote better labor cost control and mitigate compliance and discrimination risks.

Equitable and inclusive health programs and policies

Workplaces that foster DEI simultaneously promote both mental health and emotional wellbeing. Women in leadership positions often carry significant personal as well as professional responsibilities, which can make them more vulnerable to stressors such as gender bias and imposter syndrome. Employers can counterbalance the effects by offering stress management programs, resilience training and similar types of support.

DEI policies formalize and enforce fairness standards for health and wellbeing, including flexibility. They show a decisive commitment to helping leaders succeed in all spheres of life, regardless of gender or other characteristics. Among leaders, normalizing their conversations about mental health contributes to a supportive environment, and when leaders use platforms to share personal experiences, they add credibility. Employers can get a sense of the impact of these ongoing efforts through engagement surveys with embedded indices for DEI and psychological safety, and other established methods.

People of different backgrounds may have different physical health concerns. From a DEI standpoint, it's important for employers to understand their unique needs and to offer support based on individual interests. Making health benefits more inclusive is a foundational goal, which can be met by examining current programs and resources and by identifying opportunities for improving equity in the workplace. Two relatively simple and inexpensive investments are revising the benefits guide and customizing employee communications for more inclusive language.

To evaluate health equity: Seek analytics data; find info source for marginalized subgroups; assess design progress; evaluate communication success; measure program data.

Creating a reliable career support structure

Challenges that affect many women and other marginalized groups at work — whether or not they're leaders — range from implicit bias and stereotyping to limited networking opportunities. Using analytics, such key issues can be diagnosed, and effective solutions for improving career equity can be pinpointed. Transparent evaluation allows employers to clarify advancement criteria for employees. Equitable application through evaluations based on job-related competencies with supporting examples is the next step in breaking down systemic barriers that introduce bias and hinder the progress of marginalized groups.

Internal recruitment offers an engaging solution to the career equity dilemma. This process shows appreciation for employees' contributions while providing support for achieving their career goals — in the present. Those who benefit can envision a career with the organization that allows room for their other key priorities, helping to strengthen retention.

Women in opposite-sex marriages still do more housework and caregiving than men.4 Even when they're on the job, they tend to take their personal responsibilities and work-life integration concerns with them. To acknowledge and address this disparity, employers should consider strengthening their foundation of support through flexible work arrangements, remote work options and parental leave policies. Forty-two percent of employers already have flexible work schedule policies in place, and 23% are considering them.5

Workforce policy revisions and periodic awareness training help minimize bias and dismantle other barriers that broadly contribute to overall equity in the workplace. Mentoring and other sponsorship programs specifically designed for women — such as affinity groups for leaders — add individualized guidance on career navigation, visibility and advancement. These opportunities may also connect women with experienced colleagues who are willing to offer career advice and advocate on their behalf. For aspiring leaders, access to development programs can give them a foothold on gaining the necessary skills for targeted roles.

Improving DEI through leadership, communication and measurement

Leaders should be intentional in creating a bias-free culture and addressing inequitable situations as they arise. When defining or revising DEI guidelines, leadership review and input are necessary to help ensure thee guidelines reflect organizational values. Incorporating performance metrics into business goals and aligning objectives with executive compensation and other incentives can drive accountability.

There's a growing emphasis on reviewing metrics that benchmark both internal and external progress. Internally, dashboards provide a line of sight into metrics for job qualifications, pay equity, gender bias and promotions. They can also calculate an inclusion score. Data is most useful when system capabilities also allow external benchmarking for broader comparisons and richer insights.

Sharing regular updates on DEI progress with employees, inclusive language in corporate communications and forums for open discussion are other key ways to improve transparency and strengthen inclusion. Uniquely, storytelling adds a human dimension to the meaning of statistics and policies. By sharing real-life examples and relatable stories, employers can demonstrate the varied paths women and other marginalized groups take to leadership roles. Support for diverse careers helps to break down stereotypes about what successful leadership looks like and what careers are valid — highlighting the most empowering aspects of non-linear and unconventional paths.

Support for diverse careers helps to break down stereotypes about what successful leadership looks like and what careers are valid — highlighting the most empowering aspects of non-linear and unconventional paths.

The representation and visibility of women and other marginalized groups, at all levels of leadership and decision-making, inspires and motivates others. DEI strategies that target equity in the workplace closely align with organizational goals. Not only do they promote gender diversity, but they also tap into a wide range of talents and perspectives that drive business innovation and success.

The journey of DEI in the workplace is a dynamic and ongoing process, requiring an understanding of potential challenges, a commitment to establishing inclusive cultures and a willingness to adapt and evolve. Initially, efforts to improve these metrics add complexity to work processes and procedures. But over time, learning curve momentum leads to higher and more sustainable levels of employee engagement, innovation and business success.

Author Information

Leah Reynolds

Leah Reynolds

Principal, Engagement Practice


1Stewart, Amy. "The Gender Pay Gap Is Real and Meaningful, and It's Starting to Close in 2023 — But There Is Still Work to Be Done," Payscale, 15 Mar 2023.

2"What Your Organization Needs to Know About Pay Equity and Pay Transparency," Buck, A Gallagher Company, 27 Oct 2023. Gated webinar.

3"Health Equity: Pursuing Equity in an Inequitable Landscape," Council on Employee Benefits, Apr 2023. Unpublished presentation, Council on Employee Benefits 77th annual conference.

4Hsu, Andrea. "Women Are Earning More Money. But They're Still Picking Up a Heavier Load at Home," NPR, Apr 13 2023.

5"Organizational Wellbeing Poll: What's Hot in People and Benefits Planning," Gallagher, Dec 2023. Unpublished internal data.


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