Most corporate human resources diversity leaders (67%) believe that the pandemic has not adversely affected improvements that their organizations have made related to diversity and inclusion, according to a recent Baker McKenzie global survey.

“As the shock waves of the global pandemic were upending how business was conducted around the world, many D&I executives feared that much of the progress achieved over the past decade could unravel as companies dealt with the unprecedented crisis,” said Susan Eandi, partner and head of Baker McKenzie’s Global Employment and Labor Law Practice Group in North America. “It turns out that for the vast majority of respondents, those fears never materialized. That’s a testament to the commitment of those leaders and their growing influence within their organizations during a time of historic social change in this country.”

Diversity and inclusion efforts have expanded beyond the traditional considerations of equal opportunity, disability inclusion and pay equity, the law firm said. Companies now are including policies focused on neurodiversity, flexible work hours, fertility issues, miscarriage and adoption and parental needs, supplier diversity, transgender identity, and menopause.

“Today, menopause and neurodiversity represent new areas of focus for organizations as they seek to align their efforts with greater understanding of employee needs,” Eandi said.

A prime catalyst that has driven U.S. organizations to implement such policies, according to survey respondents, was “demands from customers” (62%). Globally, however, only 48% of the poll participants cited customer demand as a driver of change.

The other leading catalysts included employee demand (50% in the United States; 40% globally) and investor demand (51% in the United States; 46% globally). Few (12%) cited public relations/reputation risk as a driver, both globally and in the United States.

“The responses illustrate how powerful a voice the public and employees have in affecting the change they wish to see,” said Paul Evans, a partner in Baker McKenzie’s Employment & Compensation Practice Group in North America. “It’s also heartening to learn that these drivers are not simply optics but a desire to do the right thing.”