‘DEI must DIE’: Why Elon Musk is wrong about diversity and inclusion

DEI boosts business performance


By Natalie Saunders, Consultant at Culture Consultancy 

You will hear some business leaders and politicians talk about diversity, equity and Inclusion as a blocker to business performance (Elon Musk being one, having stated DEI “must die”), but this is simply not true. Research shows the opposite to be the case.

Businesses with highly diverse executive teams are likely to see 25% higher than average profitability (McKinsey & Company). Employees who believe that their company will treat them and their colleagues fairly no matter their ethnicity, gender or race, are 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work and 6.3 times more likely to take pride in their work (GreatPlaceToWork.com).


Where to start with DEI

We’re often asked by organisations keen to start, or accelerate, their work on DEI: where should we begin?

There’s no one right answer, of course, but our starting point is always data and insight. To design meaningful interventions, and optimise people experience as viewed through the lens of DEI, we first get curious.

Curious about the depth of understanding of existing diversity inherent in the workforce. Keen to understand their experiences – both positive and negative. Interested in where they look for talent, and who gets opportunities – development, stretch assignments, promotions.

We also look at any engagement and exit survey outcomes and determine how best to fill any gaps. We analyse recruitment, attrition and sickness data and the employee relations landscape to identify any underlying themes or hotspots.

Once we’ve got a comprehensive understanding of the operating context and its opportunities and challenges, we make recommendations about what to do next. Evidence-based findings are shared and desired outcomes, plus a detailed roadmap to achieve them, are co-created with senior stakeholders.

Because each organisation is unique, our approach is bespoke; no 2 DEI projects will look the same. That said, one unifying theme tends to be present in all the DEI work we undertake: the pursuit of psychological safety.

The importance of psychological safety

Psychological safety is the shared belief that interpersonal risk taking will not result in negative consequences; it enables employees to share their knowledge, learn from mistakes, and experiment with new ideas (Edmondson, 1999). When someone perceives their environment to be psychologically safe, they will feel confident to openly share suggestions for improvements, accept feedback from others, and collaborate with others without fear of ramifications, such as embarrassment or punishment (Edmondson, 1999; Edmondson & Lei, 2014; Newman et al., 2017).

The World Economic Forum[1] has found that, when a team is psychologically safe, employees are more likely to:

  • Learn: Feeling comfortable asking questions, admitting mistakes, requesting help, and providing or receiving feedback.
  • Contribute: Making suggestions and voicing ideas, contributing to a culture of innovation.
  • Challenge: Speaking up to raise concerns, engage in productive conflict, challenge others, or offer a different perspective.
  • Feel included: Feeling a stronger sense of belonging, and that they’re involved, valued, and connected with their colleagues.

This, in turn, benefits retention. Research from the Boston Consulting Group[2] found that psychological safety reduces employees’ risk of quitting from 12% to 3%.

These benefits, and reduced risks, underpin our belief that psychological safety is the bedrock of high performing organisations, and that shifting the dial on DEI is impossible without it.

Ready to give your business a DEI boost?

  • Unsure where to start your DEI journey or how to go about accelerating progress in DEI?
  • Keen to understand how psychologically safe your workplace is?
  • Want to maximise the benefits that increased psychological safety can have for your organisation?
  • Interested to learn more about our award-winning methodology?


We’d be happy to have an initial exploratory conversation about how we might be able to help, at no cost…

About Culture Consultancy

  • Team of highly experienced consultants – business leaders, organisational psychologists, HR professionals
  • Proven 3-stage methodology for culture transformation
  • Winner: International Culture Consultancy of the Year 2023 – Business Culture Awards
  • Authors of the book on Culture Transformation – Building a Culture of Innovation
Building a culture of innovation book


[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/10/workplace-psychological-safety/

[2] Psychological Safety Levels the Playing Field for Employees (bcg.com)