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Using data in DEI is essential to track progress and understand the impact the DEI strategy is making.  Over the last few years, I’ve doubled down in taking a data-centric approach to DEI because data is power in the tech industry. I dove into sharing DEI goals with my company, tracking monthly progress, and reporting on our progress during quarterly company meetings. This approach motivates those who are driven by data; however, taking a narrow data-driven approach to DEI is incomplete because it can miss opportunities to build a compelling case for others. I recently reimagined how I deliver data as part of my DEI strategy and now incorporate storytelling to get large-scale buy-in and forge partnerships across the organization.

I came to this epiphany as I watched my CEO use storytelling to get employees to understand and rally around our company goals this year. As she shared these, she weaved the metrics into a story about her own personal commitment and then used data to paint an inspiring picture of why it’s important for employees to support company goals. In observing her approach to using storytelling to inspire commitment and action toward the company goals, I learned the incredible impact storytelling can have when paired with DEI data to motivate employees.

How it Works

My thoughts on how this works are:

  1. Storytelling reaches more people.
    • Although numbers alone resonate with many people who prefer to deal with data daily, some still prefer to understand the context. In addition to logic, emotions, and imagination are powerful tools that help with decision-making.  Storytelling helps to connect all three to inspire a greater personal commitment to the DEI goal.
  2. Storytelling helps prioritize what data to share.
    • As you think through what you’d like employees to take away, it becomes clear that not every data point is relevant to the story or motivates action.  Some details are not necessary to share depending on the audience, the objective of the meeting, and the allocated speaking time. Use relevant data points to drive home the story’s message and the ask. More detailed data can be shared via email or on the intranet for employees to dig into.
  3. Storytelling keeps the goal top of mind.
    • As a DEI leader who tracks a myriad of metrics and administers many DEI programs, it can be easy to get lost in the numbers and forget the big picture of why this work is important and why people need to care. Storytelling forces you to take that step back to understand the why and articulate it in a compelling way for others.

Next time, I’ll provide a great example I’ve used to partner with managers to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace.  

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile