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Take the Challenge: Five Recommendations to Advance DEI Efforts in the I-O Field

Tunji Oki, Lars U. Johnson, Victoria Mattingly, Tracy Powell-Rudy, and Tem Lawal

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) continues to be a complex, layered topic in the I-O field. From understanding how to measure and evaluate it within companies to knowing the most relevant interventions to enact change, broad DEI goals often include finding ways to amplify historically marginalized voices to effect change through increased sharing and perspective taking. As organizations continue to push past and dismantle barriers that hinder or inhibit widespread belonging, two points are abundantly clear: (a) many organizations lack the structure, systems, and institutional knowledge to edge against the rigid structuring of yesterday’s standard; and (b) interests in, and need for, sustainable DEI processes and integration are of increasingly high interest to students, academics, and practitioners. I-O psychology has evolved from the early days of signaling diversity values (e.g., adding racial/gender-diverse pictures to the company’s website) to at least attempting equity work that stems beyond adverse impact analyses (with varying degrees of success). That is, we see some evidence that the I-O field has expanded its approach, shifting inclusion from an afterthought to the focus of top-down conversations, addressing macro issues related to culture and such micro issues as intersectional experiences and microaggressions. This shift stems from the field’s craving for more knowledge, research, understanding, and nonperformative behavior as evident by the over 100 SIOP submissions that centered diversity and inclusion as the main content area (the largest volume for a content area by far). This paper seeks to spotlight several industry leaders in this space to call out reflections of the DEI field after attending the 2022 SIOP conference. These leaders represent a wide variety of professions in the academic and applied sectors of our field and are all committed to seeing SIOP, and I-O psychology more generally, lead the charge in transforming organizations and institutions to be more inclusive, equitable, and representative. With our collective belief that organizations and institutions are not actively seeking to do things counter to DEI and the belief that “closed mouths don’t get fed,” the current authors wanted to leave you with personal challenges for academia, organizations, and SIOP as a whole on ways WE can step it up in terms of being better DEI allies, researchers, and practitioners. (Note: The viewpoints of the authors are their own and not the viewpoint of their respective companies and/or university affiliation.)

Challenge 1: Allies Need to Get in the Game to Impact the Score (Victoria Mattingly)

Something that was disappointing about the DEI sessions I attended was low overall attendance, especially when it comes to allies (those from a majority group who seek to learn more about other identity groups, the challenges they face, and strategies allies can use to leverage their status/power to support underrepresented/marginalized groups). We cannot place the burden of diversifying SIOP and creating a truly inclusive and equitable community on those who have been historically left behind. It’s not just a numbers game; there needs to be a redistribution of resources and power to more effectively support and elevate these groups who bring so much value to SIOP by substantially diversifying our community, and with that, bring all the other advantages of a more heterogeneous membership base. My personal goal for next year’s conference is to encourage everyone who attends a DEI session to bring along 2–3 potential allies, as research shows that explicitly inviting allies to the table is an effective strategy to get more DEI involvement from majority group members who don’t typically see themselves as part of these efforts (Sherf et al., 2017). We ALL must contribute to DEI efforts if SIOP is ever going to reach its goal of diversifying and growing our SIOP community and fostering a culture where EVERYONE has the opportunity to feel like they belong.

Challenge 2: Don’t Forget Neurodivergence in Your Inclusion Strategy (Tracy Powell-Rudy)

After attending my first SIOP conference, I was impressed with the focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in presentation topics, content, and representation within panels. As a late-diagnosed autistic woman who has held leadership positions in the corporate arena and now serves as vice president of Corporate Engagement for Integrate Autism Employment Advisors, I found this quite encouraging. I would challenge the SIOP conference planners and the attendees to increase their focus on disability, more specifically, hidden disability, in the planning and execution of the event itself. Furthermore, I challenge the conference planners and attendees to establish a neuroinclusive standing committee (not merely an “adhoc committee” as exists today for disability in general), with a specific focus on and inclusion of neurodivergent individuals to consider and make recommendations regarding the following:

1.  How can the conference be more considerate of and inclusive for neurodivergent (and/or autistic) individuals?

a. For example, the “best poster” cocktail event—the sensory stimulation (noise, extremely crowded space) can be overwhelming for an individual with sensory sensitivities. How might the event be set up to be more conducive for those who want to engage in conversation but cannot focus in the space? Similarly, for an attendee with social anxiety, speaking up in a large or small ballroom can be daunting. Could a QR code allow them to raise their question (in writing) during the session without calling all eyes upon them?

2.  Identify the barriers and opportunities for both research and practices around autism at work.

a. For example, how can we facilitate a connection between corporations and researchers at SIOP to address the problems we presented in “Studying Autism, Hiring and Tech from Many Perspectives: Mashup + Research Incubator” session (Willis et al., 2022). Some of these challenges include accessing the neurodivergent population for research, ensuring neurodivergent individuals are invited to participate as researchers, and identifying and measuring successful hiring, job, and departure outcomes to ensure the workplace is equitable for all people regardless of neurodivergent status.

In support of creating a more neuro-inclusive event, the SIOP planning committee and presenters/attendees could participate in a brief training on autism sensitivity and awareness. For example, Integrate Autism Employment Advisors (the company for which I work) consults to corporations interested in starting autism employment hiring programs. We provide assessment, education/training, sourcing and employment support that enables companies to successfully identify, recruit and retain autistic professionals.

Challenge 3: Organizations Need to Examine Within to See Outward Change (Lars U. Johnson)

I challenge organizations to step away from an “economies of scale” approach when addressing the often-concerning intersection of homology and homophily. Organizational leaders must look within to identify how structure and lack of heterogeneity within and between units undermine current and post diversity efforts. Namely, I-O psychologists must support organizations in identifying how business practice of yesterday continues to affect current and future employees. Organizations lacking in diversity may create an environment wherein employees feel forced to restrict social engagement to similar others, ultimately reducing their access to institutional knowledge, networking opportunities, or peer support. Organizational homology must shift toward endorsement of a shared vision and mission, and homophily within organizations should be a function of choice rather than survival. Transitioning to equitable and inclusive practices that facilitate social integration among groups requires significant resources. Because the stakes are high, centering efforts in equity and inclusion requires organizations to raise the bar on their efforts. In addition to challenging organizations, I challenge I-O psychology to push forward in measure, evaluation, and systems/process-based approaches that support organizations in targeting this intersection.

Challenge 4: Don’t Forget the Belonging in DEI (Tem Lawal)

I challenge organizations to make sure they have a “belonging” strategy. Sometimes considered an afterthought, belonging has been a recent addition to the DEI space. In the age-old analogy of D&I and the “dance,” diversity is being invited to the dance, equity is having room to dance, inclusion is being asked to dance, belonging is being able to choose the music. Belonging is achieved when there is harmony between our competing needs to feel distinctly unique in who we are while also believing that we fit into the groups in our work environment. Organizations and leaders that effectively balance these competing yet fundamental needs are able to create an environment where people of all backgrounds feel like they belong. It's also important for organizations to intentionally incorporate opportunities for belonging early in the employee experience and understand the evolving factors that influence an employee's sense of belonging as they gain tenure. It would be great to see more research exploring the intersection of belongingness and remote work, particularly for historically minoritized groups. It would also be interesting to see if there are differing factors that contribute to belonging for minority employees with frequent in-person interaction versus those who are entirely remote.

Challenge 5: Let Our (I-O) Science Set DEI Industry Standards (Tunji Oki)

I challenge the field of I-O psychology, with specific focus to academics, to take charge in being the industry leaders in best practices for mitigating bias in hiring, attrition, performance management, promotion, and overall workplace experiences. As a field, we have many statistical techniques of assessing bias across multiple people processes, but our recommendations as to how to mitigate those discrepancies often fall in statistical manipulation and not practical solutions. We could learn a bit from a systems-thinking approach and how certain systems can and will continue to perpetuate bias, which may explain why sometimes we don’t see a change even after an intervention. As a field, I would love to be able to provide more concrete recommendations, solutions, and frameworks that can be applied to address DEI concerns in the workplace. I challenge DEI academics and researchers to think beyond cut-score adjustments and training, and into more inclusive design, systems thinking, and radical change that drives improvements in the DEI space.


Sherf, E. N., Tangirala, S., & Weber, K. C. (2017). It is not my place! Psychological standing and men’s voice and participation in gender-parity initiatives. Organization Science, 28(2), 193–210.

Willis, C., Powell-Rudy, T., Colley, K., & Prasad, J. (2021). Examining the use of game-based assessments for hiring autistic job seekers. Journal of Intelligence, 9, 53.

Author Bios

Dr. Tunji Oki works at Google as a People Analytics manager and holds a PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Houston. He is currently responsible for managing a team that conducts research to drive analytical efforts to increase the equity of Google's people processes. Prior to Google, Dr. Oki worked as a consultant for Applied Psychological Techniques, where he consulted with Fortune 100 companies in the areas of job analysis, employee selection, test development, test validation, and legal issues. He has a plethora of experience serving as an external consultant for areas such as 360-feedback, test development/validation, and job analysis.

Dr. Lars U. Johnson is an assistant professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Texas at Arlington. He earned a BA in Psychology from Tougaloo College and PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Houston. His primary research areas include leadership; employee well-being and engagement; and diversity, equity, and inclusion. His research is published in such peer-reviewed journals as the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Business and Psychology, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Small Group Research, and the Journal of Research in Personality. Lars has received funding on multiple grants through the National Science Foundation and has experience as an NSF reviewer and external grant evaluator. He conducts his research through partnerships with several private- and public-sector organizations. He is a research fellow with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI), supporting research and analysis on race- and gender-based inequity and harassment issues. Recently, Lars became Whole Foods Markets’ first academic research collaborator and will work with Whole Foods’ global engagement team to support their internal research processes and publish in scholarly journals.

Dr. Victoria Mattingly is founder and CEO of Mattingly Solutions, a workplace inclusion consulting firm. Her life mission is to use organizational science to improve the human experience at work, especially for underrepresented groups. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dr. V leads a fully remote team and serves clients including Duracell, DICK’s Sporting Goods, Sargent & Lundy and other non-profits, professional associations, and educational institutions. She earned her doctorate from Colorado State University, specializing in the science of workplace learning as a key lever for sustainable behavior change, especially when it comes to emotional intelligence, caregiver support, and allyship. Dr. V is currently focused on bringing more scientific rigor to the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space, enabling organizations to track and assess progress toward reaching their goals. To this end, she recently published a book titled Inclusalytics: How Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leaders Use Data to Drive Their Work. She currently chairs SIOP’s Electronic Communications Committee and hosts the Conversation Series. Connect with Dr. V on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vpmattingly/

Tracy Powell-Rudy is Integrate Autism Employment Advisors vice president of Corporate Engagement and contributing author for their latest book The Neurodivergent Candidate: Recruiting Autistic Professionals. She is also co-author of the recently published Journal of Intelligence article, Examining the Use of Game-Based Assessments for Hiring Autistic Job Seekers. Prior to joining Integrate, Tracy was vice president of a premier global executive search firm focused on CEO/board through VP level searches. Earlier in her career Tracy worked in technology and telecommunications managing the Northeast Internal Tel organization for a Fortune 100 corporation. Tracy graduated summa cum laude from Manhattanville College with a BS in Psychology and has an MS in Telecommunications Management from NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. She is the mother of an autistic daughter and identifies as late-diagnosed herself.

Dr. Tem Lawal is the director of Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness at Gartner where he focuses on employee engagement, succession planning, leadership development, 360 assessments, performance management, and competency modeling. Dr. Lawal started his career at eBay Enterprise and has since held a number of roles developing and implementing people strategies for organizations such as FedEx, as well as other private, public, and nonprofit organizations, enabling them to meet and exceed their talent needs. He earned his master’s and PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology. Tem is passionate about developing leaders and organizations to positively impact the people and communities around them.

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