DURHAM – Some 30% of employees report that they’d felt excluded in some capacity at their organization, according to a new survey of more than 2,100 employees at several well-known North Carolina-based companies.

But the survey findings also revealed that a majority of employees reported high levels of belonging, feelings of fairness, and psychological safety. So reported Laura Brooks Dueland, a cofounder of Inclusion Analytics, which conducted the analysis for the North Carolina Technology Association.

Employees from Pendo, SAS, Relias Learning, Brightly Software, Terra Dotta, and Spreedly as well as others participated, according to Emily Adams, a cofounder of Inclusion Analytics.

NC TECH released the findings of its inaugural benchmarking project in partnership with The Diversity Movement and Racepoint Global, known as the Diversity Benchmark Initiative. The data was disclosed at  today’s Diversity + Inclusion in Tech Summit held in person and virtually.

Screenshot of virtual NC TECH Diversity + Inclusion in TECH Summit presentation.


Purpose of the benchmarking project

“In an effort to move the needle, to help diversify North Carolina’s technology workforce, and its leadership,” said Stephanie Styons, a senior vice president and the Research Triangle lead at Racepoint Global, explaining the rationale behind the benchmarking project.

“There’s no way of doing this without establishing some kind of baseline,” said Styons.  “NC TECH, along with The Diversity Movement and Racepoint Global,” she said, “knew with the growth of North Carolina’s technology sector, diversity, equity and inclusion would be critical.”

Together, they set out to produce a study, which Styons described as “first of its kind in North Carolina,” and brought in the team at Inclusion Analytics.

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Other findings

One of the core aspects of the benchmarking project was identifying a baseline among the participating companies when it comes to demographics, said Adams, “about who works for these companies, as reported by these companies themselves.”

The findings show that employees who identify as white are “overrepresented in top management and top leadership positions,” said Adams.


Screenshot of virtual NC TECH Diversity + Inclusion in TECH Summit presentation.

And a different pattern emerges for employees who identified as Black or African American, Adams noted.

That’s why it is important for each individual business to analyze their own data, against the benchmarks, to determine whether there are similar trends or different trends within their own workforce.

“It might tell us that we have policies and practices in place that are inhibiting certain individuals from advancing,” said Adams.  “This data tells us where we are today.”

Screenshot of virtual NC TECH Diversity + Inclusion in TECH Summit presentation.

In the dataset, said Adams, there is also a difference along gender identity.  Though the data set only enabled the analysts to consider those who identified as men and those who identified as women, not other gender identities, there is a clear difference in pattern among the findings.

Screenshot of virtual NC TECH Diversity + Inclusion in TECH Summit presentation.

Adams described the pattern as a “stair step” and while there are more individual contributors who identify as women than there are managers or top leaders, the inverse is true for male counterparts.

Adams called this the “broken rung,” referring to the term coined in a five-year study by McKinsey & Company and Sheryl Sandberg through LeanIn.Org.

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Recommendations for companies

The analysis found that while there are some areas for growth, there are also other areas that are strengths.  One such area is in measures of belonging, psychological safety, and fairness.

But companies still have much they can change, in order to better integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion across their organizations.

One change recommended by Dueland was for companies to rethink how they conduct, and then analyze, exit interview data.

“Almost all organizations conduct exit interviews about why employees are leaving,” said Dueland.  But the recommendation, based on their analysis of the data, would be for companies to update their processes and procedures in order to analyze exit interviews by identity.

Dueland said that while analyzing exit interview data overall may lead a company to conclude that people were leaving because of a lack of opportunity for career development, when incorporating best practices, they might identify that this is primarily a concern reported by new parents.

Taken without the identity analysis, an organization might conclude it needed to invest in new career development programming, whereas the organization’s resources might be better spent in other areas to support their current workforce, particularly around providing more equitable access to career development for new parents.

Another suggestion Dueland made, as companies work to “make sure that the advancement and development opportunities are truly equitable for all in our organization,” is to make inclusion competencies a part of every employee’s performance review.

The data analyzed by the company found that while managers and top leaders often had these types of measures in their performance review processes, fewer individual contributors had such competencies as a part of their process.

Tthe initiative’s website will be updated following the conclusion of today’s conference.

“The 2022 benchmark will be the first of what will be an annual benchmark to provide information for business leaders, government officials, economic developers, and others to utilize as the state’s tech sector is spotlighted as a national tech hub,” the NC TECH website states.

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