Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

These companies are successfully scaling up Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives across the globe

Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just a moral imperative, it's a strategic one.

Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just a moral imperative, it's a strategic one. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Fernando Alonso Perez-Chao
Elisabeth Pipic
Specialist, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice, World Economic Forum Geneva
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Diversity and Inclusion

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Extensive research underscores the long-term benefits of inclusive policy-making, business strategies and sustained diversity programmes in the private and public sectors.
  • In a global environment characterized by high volatility and rapid change, embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in organizations and economies is increasingly important for sustainable growth, resilience and fairer economic outcomes.
  • Embracing DEI is not just a moral imperative, but also a strategic one that promotes sustainable growth and builds agile and flexible organizations capable of weathering global risks and challenges.

The World Economic Forum’s DEI Lighthouse Programme is an annual effort designed to pragmatically identify proven, effective DEI initiatives from companies across industries and geographies. At a time when DEI is generating a lot of attention, the aim of the programme is to steer pragmatic, global, impact-oriented action to close existing economic gaps. By equipping leaders with best practices, DEI efforts can be focused on what works best, and ultimately shape more resilient and inclusive economies.

The recently published report, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lighthouses 2024, shares key lessons learned with business and public sector leaders around the world. Seven corporate initiatives were selected as DEI Lighthouses for the impact they have achieved by this year’s expert panel: Dominic Arnall, Porter Braswell, Elizabeth Broderick, Caroline Casey, Sarah Kate Ellis, and Luana Genot. Six further initiatives were highlighted by the expert panel for their innovative and promising design principles.

Five common success factors across DEI lighthouses Initiatives.
Image: World Economic Forum.

The 2024 DEI Lighthouses are:

Banco Pichincha

According to the World Bank, only 43% of women have access to a bank account in Ecuador. To address this disparity, Banco Pichincha, Ecuador’s largest bank, implemented a series of internal and external policies promoting gender parity and introduced a range of financial products and services tailored specifically for women, including a gender bond worth $100 million to promote access to financing for women entrepreneurs.

Between December 2020 and May 2023, the company has closed the financing gap between men and women by 16%. Additionally, the bank set itself the goal to change policies, gender stereotypes and advocate for changes in legislation that were preventing women from accessing finance. To ensure rigorous tracking and course correction, Banco Pichincha created an internal commission that manages, monitors and measures the initiative’s progress. Banco Pichincha's efforts in the future will continue to focus on closing gender financial gaps, as the bank firmly believes that women's economic progress is a fundamental element for sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction and long-term prosperity.

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Global data shows persistent skewing in women’s representation in the workforce and leadership across industries. As a result, Heineken developed the Women in Sales programme aiming to increase representation of women managers in sales through recruitment, retention and development of women in the function. These efforts are complemented by a robust communication plan with the sales population, which aims to create a more inclusive culture for women and to facilitate cross-pollination of ideas across all regional departments.

As a result of this initiative, representation of women senior managers in the sales function grew from 9% in 2020 to 19% in 2022. Heineken’s approach highlights the importance of listening to its employees, ensuring strong sponsorship and accountability, and customizing its approach with a global and local approach that is connected to the company’s global DEI strategy.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX)

As a market regulator for more than 2,600 companies listed in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) is leveraging its regulatory capabilities to promote good corporate governance and strong environmental, social, and governance (ESG) management among all issuers by setting robust disclosure standards, rules and regulations. By making it mandatory for listed issuers to have at least one female director on their board, the company is showcasing the important role that regulation can play in advancing gender parity in leadership positions.

As a result of these efforts, the percentage of female directors on boards of listed issuers increased from 14.6% in 2020 to 17.3%, while the percentage of listed issuers with no female director decreased from 31.5% in 2020 to 21.4%. This policy will pave the way for some 550 female board positions in Hong Kong to be filled by the end of 2024.

To complement these efforts, HKEX launched training courses and published guidance materials to promote diversity among its listed issuers. Additionally, HKEX partnered with local and global organizations to advocate for diversity in financial markets and asked issuers to disclose their diversity policy, which may encompass gender as well as other diversity strategies.

Ingka Group (IKEA)

More than a decade ago, the Ingka Group – owner of IKEA – committed to achieving gender parity across its entire business. To achieve this, Ingka Group developed tailored approaches and action plans for each business unit and country, created mentorship programmes and developed inclusive succession plans. It also introduced gender-neutral salaries and measured and corrected the pay gap. DEI goals are tied to each team managers’ talent reviews, with a DEI leader in every region appointed to maintain oversight and ensure key performance indicators (KPIs) are achieved. Currently, the organization has achieved 50/50 gender and pay equity across all its operations and functions.

At Ingka Group, 48% of country CEO positions and 50.2% of all manager positions across the company are occupied by women. To achieve pay equity, the company introduced a gender-neutral salary review process, which is facilitated by an external auditor. Gender parity targets have been adopted globally and included in the organization’s culture across all regional contexts. However, the Ingka Group also implemented some local initiatives adapted to specific regional contexts, including on-premises childcare services to support working mothers in several countries in Asia.

The next area of focus is to launch a new Gender Equality Beyond Binary approach, which will improve and sustain gender balance for trans* and non-binary identities across all levels. There will be an increased focus on succession, networking, mentoring, as well as on caregiving, health and well-being for all genders.

McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company launched a reboarding programme that ensures all colleagues (men and women) are supported in their return from leave greater than 12 weeks, while reducing attrition gaps between them and the rest of the firm. The programme was formally implemented across all its European offices in 2019, spanning 29 countries and 56 offices, and successfully scaled globally in 2022.

After analysing its internal retention metrics, McKinsey & Company observed higher attrition rates among mothers returning from leave compared to the rest of the workforce. Drawing on its own research and from the lived experiences of parents in leadership and consulting roles, the programme has seen a 20% decline in attrition among EU consultant mothers returning from leave. It is a global programme with local ownership, giving the ability to adjust for different local needs, including variable lengths of leave and different parental support structures depending on the regional context. For others looking to create similar programmes, McKinsey & Company suggests crafting a holistic programme that touches on multiple aspects of the employee journey, designing a minimum offering that each local team can own, securing sufficient resources and establishing clear success metrics that can be tracked.


PepsiCo’s initiative is part of the organization’s global data-driven approach to DEI and was launched two years ago. To support the inclusion of LGBTQI+ employees globally, the company offered associates the opportunity to self-identify on a voluntary basis where legally permissible and launched awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of self-ID and including pronouns in employee descriptions. As a result, 12,475 employees globally across 33 countries have voluntarily self-identified their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Before deploying the campaign, PepsiCo partnered with local lawyers to understand different jurisdictions and adapt their self-ID approach accordingly. To guarantee sustained impact, PepsiCo combines a global approach with adapted local governance structures: the ongoing communications for self-ID usage are embedded into centralized DEI internal communications, while the local HR leads in each sector of the company are deployed as enablers for success.

PepsiCo’s effort is a significant example of how to mobilize employees to gather data and thereby improve progress on DEI. This overcomes legal constraints and the challenge of global self-ID data collection being regarded as one of the most complex strategic imperatives. Starting in 2024, PepsiCo will start sharing high-level anonymized representation data with key sector HR leaders.


What's the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?


Salesforce created a DEI initiative in 2020 that was inspired by feedback from the organization’s employees. The programme aims to increase a sense of belonging among underrepresented groups. It offers confidential one-on-one conversations with internal coaches and thought partners to address any barriers to their experience, career, or sense of belonging at the personal level. Since its inception, the programme has supported over 2,400 cases, with a high degree of proven transformative impact at the individual level and an increase in retention among participants.

This programme serves as a safe space for underrepresented groups, acting as an impartial and private entity within the organization’s HR department. Salesforce demonstrates how rolling out a programme built to improve inclusion, belonging and retention requires buy-in and support from leaders across the entire organization.

Other notable initiatives

The expert panel further highlighted ambitious and unique design and execution approaches from six other submissions which are also included in the report to inspire innovative and bold DEI action. These were by Baker Hughes, Culture Amp, Hitachi, Nagarro, SAP, and Tata Services Consultancy.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lighthouses 2024.
Image: World Economic Forum.

How to get involved

Hosted by the Centre for the New Economy and Society, the DEI Lighthouse Programme is an annual effort designed to identify impactful corporate initiatives from the corporate ecosystem.

The next opportunity for organizations to submit impactful DEI initiatives will be the 2024/25 DEI Lighthouse Programme, opening for submissions in April 2024.

For more information on the DEI Lighthouse programme, please contact us.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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