In 2016, women represented over three-quarters of foundation staff in the US but among the largest grantmakers, fewer than half of foundation CEOs were women. In the same year, racial and ethnic minorities made up only 10 per cent of foundation CEOs. Given these statistics alongside current political and social discourse on race and inequality in the US, American philanthropy is increasingly focusing on the themes of diversity, equity and inclusion - known in a sector addicted to abbreviations as 'DEI'.
The business case
The business case for DEI is fuelled by the sector’s quest to advance the common good. Talent diversity within foundations can create a ripple effect – shaping the lens through which the foundations view their grantees, thereby leading to greater cultural competence within the foundation and a better understanding of community needs, which in turn contributes to a more equitable grantmaking process.
In the US, philanthropy often addresses diversity, equity and inclusion as a collective – ‘DEI’ has become a buzzword – but it is important to view each of these elements individually. Diversity refers to the full range of human and/or organizational differences and similarities, from the personal (race/ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability) to the organizational (work experience and function, for example).