Leveraging Metrics to Make
the Case for DEI (Again)

by Lucerito Ortiz and Sammi Wong | Mar 6, 2024

Finding yourself making a case for DEI and antiracism…AGAIN? Collecting and sharing out strong metrics to demonstrate the impacts of DEI investments on staff culture and mission outcomes can help. But beware of the common pitfalls!

Here are three challenges we often see organizations struggle with when tracking, capturing, and understanding DEI and antiracism data:

Common Pitfall #1: Collecting data without a clear purpose

When staff consistently see data collection (and invest their own time and energy in data collection efforts) without subsequent action, they can lose confidence in the organization’s commitment to acting on learnings to create real change. Beyond that, the staff responsible for collecting, analyzing, and drawing insights from data can get overwhelmed or burned out. Just because an organization can collect a certain data point, doesn’t mean it should. Organizations that collect data from staff too frequently or collect data without appropriate follow-up may start to see low participation rates (this includes surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.) Metrics should be focused on and aligned with broader organizational goals and help answer specific questions that leadership is ready to reflect and act on. 

Common Pitfall #2: Focusing disproportionately on actions vs. outcomes

We often see a tendency to measure whether DEI and antiracism actions have started without a parallel focus on whether they are producing the desired outcomes. While holding organizations accountable for implementing initiatives is a starting point, the more powerful metric (leading to stronger organizational accountability) is to evaluate whether DEI and antiracism initiatives are having the intended impact

For example, in a hiring process, an input measure could be: “How much outreach did we conduct to Hispanic Serving Institutions?” – this data could give you starter information on attempts made at creating a change. A complementary, and more powerful, outcome measure could be: “What proportion of our finalist pool identify as Latinx” or “What proportion of Latinx candidates advanced to the final stage of the hiring/interviewing process relative to other racial subgroups?” Looking at both input and outcome data can help illuminate a path forward, whether it’s more training for hiring managers, an assessment of a hiring process, and/or a re-evaluation of outreach practices.

Common Pitfall #3: Resisting results about staff perception

We often see well-meaning organizational leaders display hesitance – or downright resistance – to accept what perceptions data is saying about how the organization is being experienced today. This can come from a protective (or defensive) place given that leaders may have had disproportionate influence in creating the systems, structures, or relational conditions that led to those experiences. It can come from a place of surprise when perceptions data tell a story that doesn’t align with a leader’s personal experience of the organization. But ultimately, when perceptions data is effectively collected, it provides factual information about how some (sometimes many) experience the organization, and as such, resistance to accepting these data as others’ truth can lead to harmful “prove it” follow-ups and/or inaction to solve current challenges. Even when perceptions data tells us something surprising or hard to hear (especially given positional power), as organizational leaders we need to accept it as someone’s truth and move to a focus on why this is true today (root cause analysis) and what to do to address the challenges.

For example, the Internal DEI and Antiracism Metrics resource in our 54Hub resource library includes questions that get at staff perceptions, such as:

  • % of staff who agree that the leadership communicates regularly with the organization
  • % of staff who believe they are being paid competitively for their role
  • % of staff who agree the organization has a clear performance management system

Such questions are an important way to know how the organization’s culture is felt, but we’ve seen leaders get stuck when interpreting these results.

Let’s say that 75% of staff at an organization disagree with the statement “All staff regardless of racial identity have equal access to promotional opportunities at the organization.” Staff perceive inequities in promotional opportunities along racial lines. Leaders may be tempted to say “But that’s not true” if promotional data do not display racial inequities. And because perceptions about promotions opportunities do not align with actual promotions data (not an apples-to-apples comparison, actually two very different things), they want to dismiss the data point as if there is not a problem to solve But staff may not have access to the data from a transparency perspective, they may not understand the data from a clarity perspective, or perceptions in this area may simply be indicative of a different, deeper concern that needs to be isolated and addressed. 

Or perhaps disaggregated perceptions data shows that a very low % of staff in one position or team of an organization agree that the leadership communicates regularly with the organization. A leader may resist that data thinking, “That’s not true, I communicate all the time!” But if the experience of staff is that leadership is not communicating regularly then perhaps those frequent attempts at communication are not reaching staff in a particular position or team; perhaps they are not clear, not understood, or not landing effectively; or maybe staff don’t perceive that important things are communicated about or that communications are frequent and timely enough. Time and energy spent resisting staff perceptions data simply takes attention away from understanding why these data are what they are to inform an effective solution.

While it is completely natural to feel frustrated or saddened or even defensive when perception data tells us something we don’t want to hear, leaders need to accept perception data as factual information about how the organization is being experienced and focus – with authentic curiosity – on digging in to understand why the perception persists and then to solve the underlying root challenge(s). 

We recently convened eight powerhouse leaders in the field for a year-long facilitated exploration of how to effectively measure DEI and antiracism in our organizations. The robust resulting Internal DEI and Antiracism Metrics resource offers concrete ideas on how to define and measure the impact of internal DEI efforts, as well as key considerations for how to select metrics, collect data, and leverage it toward action.  This resource, along with many others, is available to download for free on our 54Hub.

Additionally, Promise54 has created and thoroughly tested a suite of surveys to help organizations across the social impact space gather clear, effective, wide-ranging data about how they are doing today on talent, DEI, and antiracism. More than 600 organizations and 50,000 individuals have taken these surveys, leading to the most robust benchmarking data out there! Let us know if you would like to learn more and conduct these surveys in your organization.




Lucerito is: the proud daughter of immigrant parents from Guatemala and Mexico, a sister, friend, native Angeleno, data nerd, foodie, Lime Hot Cheeto connoisseur, escape room lover, and very easily distracted by dogs. Lucerito's 8-plus years of experience include roles as: Senior Manager of Data and Impact and Escalera Manager at UnidosUS, Education Pioneers Fellow at The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, and Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard College. Lucerito holds a BA in Social Studies with a focus on race and education from Harvard College, and an M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Contact Lucerito: lucerito@promise54.org


Senior Associate


Sammi is: a Chinese-American immigrant based in Chicago; a first-generation college graduate; a bilingual speaker; a dog mom of two; an avid learner by way of podcasts and books; a semi-professional ultimate frisbee player; and an aspiring storyteller who seeks to challenge the way our society has historically perceived the value and worth of individuals and marginalized communities. Sammi's years of experience in education include roles as a classroom teacher, a policy advisor, and most recently as the Director of Insights and Operations on Teach For America's Professional Recruitment Team. Sammi holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Southern California and a MA in Early Childhood Education from Dominican University.

Contact Sammi: sammi@promise54.org

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