The answer is staring us in the face. Study after study has identified the benefits from having a diverse, inclusive workplace. But what exactly is the question?

That, in a nutshell, was the starting point for PEI’s most in-depth ever look into diversity, equity and inclusion in private markets. Nine months ago our special projects team at PEI embarked on this collaboration with asset manager Nuveen to explore how investment firms are responding to the heightened awareness of DE&I issues among both investors and employees.

None of us doubted the effectiveness of DE&I initiatives. But what, we wondered, are the crucial questions that investment firms should be asking themselves as they embrace diversity, equity and inclusion?

It was a fascinating exercise: our long list of questions comprised nearly 50 separate conundrums covering everything from promotion and recruitment to performance and investment philosophy. After much soul searching, we settled on our final selection of 11 crucial questions ranging from the most basic of all – what does DE&I mean to you? – to the more nuanced – how exactly do you foster a sense of belonging in the workplace? We then posed those questions to a cross-section of private markets firms, investors and ESG experts.

The most important takeaway? Diversity, equity and inclusion has simply become too big an issue to ignore. Whether it’s equity of pay, inclusiveness of the workplace or the diversity of the investment approach, DE&I has become a benchmark for measuring performance among private markets firms for both investors and their employees.

And with investors putting increased pressure on fund managers over diversity, this is a debate that looks set to intensify: no one’s saying they have all the answers, but asking penetrating questions seems as good a place to start as any.