AUSTIN (KXAN)— As the state takes aim at diversity equity and inclusion initiatives (DEI), data presented during South by Southwest shows how these efforts impact workplaces.

Downtown Austin—one of the most diverse places in Texas— was a fitting backdrop for Dr. Tana Session’s presentation: “Driving Diversity Forward with Data.” Session is an HR, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant.

“There’s still a lot of skepticism out there,” Session said, opening her chat with a crowd. She admitted many people and companies do not fully grasp DEI initiatives.

Session talked about data and research showing how DEI initiatives help recruit and retain employees and creates a two times higher cash flow for workers.

According to data and research compiled by Session’s team, greater diversity in management teams helps companies earn 19% more in revenue, and companies with board seat members who are not white or are women have a higher year-over-year revenue.

Still, just more than 30% percent of executives view DEI initiatives as a top business priority, according to Sessions.

Some ways to measure DEI initiatives are the hiring, promotion and termination ratios.

“I understand people are uncomfortable, I understand people are afraid [but] I think they have not done the full research around what this work is,” Sessions said.

Texas State and Houston Universities have already stopped DEI hiring, after a directive from Gov. Greg Abbott, arguing the efforts are harmful.

“While they are saying they want to increase diversity, which is a noble cause—what they’re actually doing is, instead of uniting us, they’re dividing us based on things like skin color, sexual orientation and things like that,” CEO of Texas Public Policy Foundation, Greg Sindelar said.

Sindelar feels those helping shape younger minds should not be hired just to fit a diversity quota.

“That is not what we want to see in our institutions of higher education,” he said.

Session said while those who do DEI work could be influenced by personal experiences, proper training and a thorough understanding of how DEI initiatives work will have a more positive impact long-term.

“The important part is understanding why the work is being done, understand the important impact that it has thinking about, not just the current generation, but the future generations.”
A lack of resources and commitment to DEI initiatives is one of the biggest challenges companies run into when trying to implement changes, Sessions said.

Many businesses, as well as universities, have become more public with their initiatives and progress, though there is still a divide on whether they should be considered or not.