Why DEI Will Always be a Priority at WE

Our sense of security is being shaken. War tops the nightly news. The cost of living is going up, the earth is warming, and anxieties about AI are building. For business leaders operating in such an uncertain environment, it’s difficult to know where to focus and what to prioritize when it comes to supporting their employees and their organizations.

WE’s latest Brands in Motion report, “It’s Personal: The New Rules of Corporate Reputation,” points to a range of global concerns that, to the public, are immediate and feel personal.

Although our survey of nearly 15,000 people in seven global markets highlights these issues as most pertinent, it also pointed to the continued need for recommitting to social justice causes and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

As Head of DEI at WE Communications, I believe in the benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to our organization. Here’s why.

The value of different points of view

Globalization is diversifying our world, with populations becoming increasingly multicultural and complex.

Although the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the use of affirmative action in college admissions has had a chilling effect on some companies’ DEI efforts, research shows the long-term value of a company composed of different racial, social and cultural points of view. In fact, McKinsey & Company found that companies with diverse teams and leadership outperform their competitors, in large part because their ideas and work are not funneled through the experiences and beliefs of one dominant group.

In the communications world, diverse teams are more insightful about the wants and needs of our vast and varied audiences, helping brands show their credibility with the products they deliver to customers, the campaigns they launch and the stories they’re telling.

The public is holding all of us to a higher standard, as it should. Our Brands in Motion research shows that about 40% said it would not be acceptable for companies to delay their commitments to ethnic and racial justice or gender equality.

At WE, more and more clients and prospects have sought to understand our agency’s commitment to DEI and how that will be represented in the work we deliver.

In short, if we want our messages to land in a richly diverse world, our employees must reflect this cosmopolitan cocktail of cultures.

Earning the loyalty and engagement of your people

As a purpose-led organization, WE places its people at the center of everything it does. To make this real requires that our actions as an organization reflect our values, and DEI is a critically important element of that. Inclusive cultures foster greater innovation and stronger employee engagement by making employees feel seen, heard and valued for their different perspectives. Prioritizing DEI shows a commitment to inclusion and establishes your workplace as one where talented people will want to come and build a career.

Our Brands in Motion research backs this up, showing year after year the value and importance of looking after your people, and how employee loyalty will reflect positively in your reputation and business success. In terms of attracting new talent, diversity is a top quality people look for in their future employers.


Last fiscal year at WE, we were able to increase the “belonging” score among our Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) employees by 4%, which was a meaningful uptick and just 1 percentage point off from the “belonging” score of our North American employees overall.

When I first took on the role of leading WE’s DEI efforts, our employee engagement survey data showed lower engagement scores for our BIPOC employees, particularly in their sense of belonging at the agency. By taking a data-led approach to our efforts, we focused on a multitude of ways to improve the experience for our employees of color.

Our increased focus on investing in growing the number of Employee Resource Groups, investing in leadership development for BIPOC talent to cultivate the next generation of agency leadership, and providing practical training to expand people’s cultural awareness and giving them tools for more effective conversations is having an impact.

Our DEI efforts remain a priority at WE, because we know that when employees don’t feel like they belong, it leads to lower organizational commitment and engagement. Belonging is a fundamental human need; when we create workplaces where employees know they matter, our teams and the work we do are better for it.

Read our latest Brands in Motion report, “It’s Personal: The New Rules of Corporate Reputation” to understand how to protect your reputation in a changing world.

October 17, 2023

Elizabeth Herrera Smith
Executive Vice President, Head of DEI