The radical transformation of diversity and inclusion

The millennial influence

​Millennials are unique in viewing cognitive diversity as essential for an inclusive culture that supports engagement, empowerment, and authenticity–and they’re rejecting current programs and frameworks organizations are using today to foster inclusiveness. Instead, millennials value inclusion as a critical tool that enables business competitiveness and growth, and as millennials flood leadership ranks, their perspectives will demand a shift in traditional diversity and inclusion models.

The inclusion generation

There is a growing generational gap in how diversity and inclusion is defined in today’s workplaces. Millennials, who will comprise nearly 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, believe inclusion is the support for a collaborative environment that values open participation from individuals with different ideas and perspectives and the unique factors that contribute to their personalities and behaviors, which is in stark contrast to prior generations who traditionally consider it from the perspectives of representation and assimilation.

The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion: The Millennial Influence examines generational views of diversity and inclusion and their impact on innovation, engagement, creativity, and other business outcomes. The findings could change the way organizations approach inclusion across corporate America for years to come.

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Millennials define diversity differently

Millennials are more likely to define diversity as pertaining to the individual mix of unique experiences, identities, ideas, and opinions. Prior generations, on the other hand, frame diversity in terms of demographics, equal opportunity, and representation of identifiable demographic characteristics.

And they’ve transformed the definition of inclusion

When it comes to defining inclusion, millennials focus primarily and extensively on teaming, valuing a culture of connectivity, and using collaborative tools to drive business impact. Prior generations instead defined inclusion in terms of equity, fairness, and the integration, acceptance and tolerance of gender, racial and ethnic diversity within the organization.

An inclusive culture impacts the employee experience

​A true collaboration

This report was developed in collaboration with the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, a nonprofit organization founded by Billie Jean King in partnership with Teneo as part of an effort to encourage companies, corporations and individuals to embrace those with diverse personalities, backgrounds and lifestyles for the positive and unique contributions they bring to the workforce. The BJKLI’s three pillars–Lift, Learn, and Lead–are dedicated to inspiring those in positions of power to promote diverse identities and challenge the status quo.


Meet the authors

This report was written by
  • M. Christie Smith, PhD
    Managing Principal: Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion & Community Impact
    Deloitte LLP



Christie Smith


Stephanie Turner


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