How Competent are Diversity & Inclusion Professionals?

There are many people that are passionate about Diversity & Inclusion. But is that enough for effective Diversity & Inclusion professionals?

Driving a change initiative throughout an organisation requires a specific skill set. You need to be able to manage programmes, influence people, set a strategy, create buy-in and know how to measure results. On top of that you need to know about a wide range of specific topics ranging from Diversity and Equality Law to de-biasing recruitment to designing accessible websites. Or if you don’t know about these topics, you need to know how to find out about them and where to find the best experts.

The question than is, do Diversity & Inclusion professionals have these skills? Rina Goldenberg Lynch from Voice At the Table and I were keen to find out.


Levels of competence of Diversity & Inclusion professionals vary widely

So we ran a survey and asked other Diversity & Inclusion professionals whether they believe their fellow D&I professionals are competent. Only about half (46%) of respondents believe that their fellow Diversity & Inclusion professionals are only slightly to moderately competent. Or as one of the respondents worded it “The D&I community is a very mixed bag of trained and untrained professionals” So there is lots of expertise and experience, but levels vary widely.


A real need for more formal training methods of Diversity & Inclusion professionals

So, how can you become more professional then? Where do people go to get the right knowledge and skills? We asked that question in our survey and it turns out that people use a wide range of learning methods to develop D&I knowledge.

Most of their learning comes from public sources such as books, blogs and social media, and quite a lot from events and networking. This also reflects my own experience over the last 9 years of working with people keen to get D&I right; they ask others and are keen to build their network and learn what worked in other organisations.

This confirms my own impression that anyone working in diversity & inclusion is pretty much left to gather their own information, and suggests a real need for more formal training methods and mentoring.

Of course 10 years ago, no one really knew what Diversity & Inclusion professionals looked like. We didn’t really know which initiatives were doomed to fail, and which worked. We didn’t know what was required to really move the numbers on gender or ethnicity. But now we do. There is a lot of experience, there are success stories, and there even is (some) scientific research into what is and isn’t working. So it’s a real shame to see that many people working to improve diversity and inclusion are left to their own devices and may well be starting initiatives that have already been proven to be ineffective.


The Big Fish D&I Academy is born

That’s why Rina and I are setting out on a journey to support Diversity & Inclusion professionals, HR people and anyone responsible for D&I. We are keen to share lessons learned, provide tools and templates and train Diversity & Inclusion professionals in the skills they need to be effective at their job and have real, strategic impact.

Are you keen to be more professional in your D&I approach? Why not join us for the first event of The Big Fish D&I Academy! We have many really good speakers and you will get tools, best practices and the right network to have a real impact in D&I in your organisation.


Big Fish Academy banner

Share this article

Author: Inge Woudstra

Would you like to know more or have a question? I am always happy to have a chat to discuss your needs. Why not drop me a line or pick up the phone? Call me at 01372 457 907 or Just contact me to discuss your requirements by e-mail.

I can help you recruit, retain and advance women, and typically work with organisations in tech and engineering.

Or just check out my book 'Be Gender Smart - The Key to Career Success for Women'

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *