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Recent protests against racism and police brutality, along with the #MeToo movement, have increased pressure on businesses to measure and improve their recruitment and promotion of women and people from underrepresented racial groups. Chicago Booth’s Marianne Bertrand, the Chris P. Dialynas Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and Willard Graham Faculty Scholar, and Mekala Krishnan, a senior fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute, discuss with Caroline Grossman, executive director of the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, how businesses use data and social impact research to track diversity and inclusion.

The following is an edited and condensed transcript of a panel discussion held during the Corporate Social Responsibility Revisited conference hosted by Chicago Booth.

Caroline Grossman:

Research and data must play a role when it comes to implementing Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategy that actually moves the needle on equity. If you don’t collect data, it’s hard to diagnose how your company is performing. If you don’t track data, you won’t know how you’re improving. A necessary complement to putting a diversity and inclusion plan in place is using research and data to ensure change is actually happening. Our two panelists today offer that complementarity a two-way lens: Chicago Booth Professor Marianne Bertrand and Mekala Krishnan, Senior Fellow at McKinsey Global Institute.

Much of Marianne Bertrand’s research on this topic uses data to quantify the effects of racial and gender bias and to understand which mechanisms work better than others. Because many firms are in early stages with these topics and may not have great data, it’s also useful to have Mekala’s voice on what this looks like in practice today.

One possible lever to pull that may make sense for some industries more than others is the question of quotas. On the topic of hiring, quotas have been adopted in a few countries, especially here, for those of us who are in Europe as they’re tuning in, and recently in the US in the State of California. Proponents see quotas as mechanisms to increase gender and racial diversity, but they can also lead to concerns like tokenism. Research, including some by you, Marianne, suggests that quotas aren’t a panacea. Based on the data you’ve seen, what’s your take?