Why a data analytics person wants to de-emphasise data in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

I’ve been working in data analytics for 10 years in genomics and want to de-emphasise data in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This is because I keep hearing that we need to collect the data to change minds, or use a data-centric approach. I must admit I’m against using data as the first way to convince people.

Figure of the Rohart MSC test
Figure from the presentation: Mosbergen, Rowland; NAGPAL, ISHA; Korn, Othmar; MORA, ARIANE; CHEN, TYRONE; PACHECO RIVERA, CHRIS; et al. (2019): The Stemformatics Virtual Lab: More than genomic data visualisation in the cloud. figshare. Presentation. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.10099412.v2

This post is to explain why I prefer another approach.


First of all, people who are marginalised have been dehumanised. They are not considered to have the same value as those who are really “worth saving”.

We have seen this in the covid pandemic where certain types of people have been considered as “sacrificing their lives for the economy”.

Some have claimed the lives saved by the lockdowns are not worth the damage they are causing to the economy.


As a result, it is easy to let people die who you don’t think are as valuable as your “crowd”. And this is the challenge with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We need to “re-humanise” those that have been dehumanised.

Here is yet another example of where leaders will need convincing based off data.

That’s because assessing your organization and evaluating that data against a maturity model yields data, which is so critical to convincing leaders to move forward with a strategy.

From “Create a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy that works” by Korn Ferry.

People that use data as the primary focus it will not re-humanise peope who are marginalised. If anything numbers keep humanity out of the equation.

I think it is perfectly fine as a secondary focus to support humanisation as the primary focus, but many organisations get caught up in waiting for the data first.

So how do you re-humanise?

Centre marginalised perspectives

Well, one of the core ways to do this is to:

Centre marginalised perspectives, feelings, and challenges consistently

I focus on this whenever I give a presentation. It is why this is the pinned tweet on my Twitter account.

And what has been the response?  Well, it is amazing what kind of response that I get when I do this, and there is plenty more where that came from!

Understand systemic discrimination

I think many people don’t understand the system part of systemic discrimination like systemic racism. You cannot solve systems with individual heroics. Not only that, you cannot hold yourself back by quotas or anything else.

This is because even if your organisation has more marginalised people in positions of authority, overall our society will still have a lack them. Think of your organisation as developing seeds of change that could go to other organisations and make a more fundamental, systemic change.

That is why I am against quotas as they impose an artificial limit that could be used to help fight systemic discrimination in other organisations.


What do you think? Do you think data can re-humanise? I think it would actually be a great panel discussion!

Update: If you would like to contribute, I just created an issue in the Collaborate – Practical Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website called “Panel on data driven DEI, primary or secondary?“.