Over the last several years, the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives has risen among employees and job seekers, especially as more Gen Z workers—who expect DEI to be taken seriously—enter the workforce. 


According to a survey from LinkedIn, 76% of employees and job seekers say diversity is important when considering job offers, and 80% say they want to work for a company that values DEI issues.  


While it’s clear that businesses should prioritize DEI initiatives, the states in which they are based don’t always align with that priority. With that in mind, we were curious to see which US states are the most inclusive for businesses and workers.  


Criteria For Rankings 


To work out which states are the most inclusive, we looked at ten different criteria for business inclusivity. These include: 


  1. Unemployment rate by race 
  2. Unemployment rate by sex 
  3. Earning disparity by race 
  4. Earning disparity by sex 
  5. Percent of minority-owned businesses 
  6. Percent of women-owned businesses 
  7. Percent of minorities working in state government 
  8. Does the state law explicitly prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity? 
  9. Does the state public employment non-discrimination policy cover sexual orientation and gender identity? 
  10. Does the state law explicitly prohibit discrimination in accessing credit based on sexual orientation and gender identity? 


States could earn up to ten points for each category for a total of 100 possible points.  


The Rankings 

New Mexico is the most inclusive state in the union for business and workers, earning 84.6 points out of a possible 100. The state ranks in the top ten for five of the seven statistical criteria, including the percentage of minorities in state government (65%), the percentage of businesses owned by women (20%) and minorities (23%), and the earning disparity for both women and minorities.   


New Mexico also gained points for having state laws and public policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity when it comes to employment, state employment, and access to credit.   


On the flip side, the least inclusive states for businesses and workers are Wyoming, which earned 24 points, and West Virginia, which earned just 23.8 points. While both states scored highly for having a low earning disparity for minorities, neither gained any points in the three categories pertaining to anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  


The complete rankings are as follows: 

New Mexico84.6
New York73
New Jersey72.8
Rhode Island67
New Hampshire55.2
North Carolina48.4
South Carolina41.6
North Dakota40.4
South Dakota25.6
West Virginia23.8


Why is Inclusivity Important for Business? 


To get a better understanding of why businesses should care about which states do the most to be inclusive for workers, we spoke with Certified Diversity Professional Janifer Wheeler, who had this to say about the study: 


“In addition to being good for people, DEIB initiatives are good for business. Companies that commit to DEIB strategies with fidelity often show increased profitability, innovation, and employee satisfaction. The same can be said for states who embrace inclusivity.”


“More states should pay attention to the success businesses find with DEIB as the Gen Z demographic demands more from employers and, subsequently, the states they live in. They are incredibly inclusive and open to all; therefore, laws against certain groups of people will backfire with this generation. I would anticipate that many Gen Z folks will move out of restrictive states to more inclusive ones.” 


How can Businesses Address DEI Issues? 


Just because a state ranks higher or lower than another, it doesn’t mean businesses within that state can expect DEI initiatives to be taken on their behalf. Companies can and should take steps to promote DEI in the workplace. 


Janifer Wheeler offers these tips to businesses: 


1. Focus on Implicit Bias Training 


This form of education helps employees recognize their unconscious biases and provides strategies to mitigate their impact. Even in states with restrictive DEI laws, companies can usually provide this type of training, focusing on promoting fairness and understanding rather than directly addressing specific diversity issues. 


2. Educate Employees on DEI Policies 


Clear communication about the company’s commitment to DEI is crucial. This can include sharing the organization’s DEI policies, goals, and the steps being taken to achieve them. Education should also extend to the legal landscape, ensuring employees understand the state and federal laws impacting DEI and how the company is responding. 


3. Collaborate with External Organizations 


Partnering with external organizations dedicated to promoting DEI can provide valuable resources and guidance. These organizations can help ensure companies’ policies align with DEI objectives, even in challenging political climates. 


4. Learn from Real-Life Examples 


Companies like Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia have shown unwavering commitment to DEI despite facing politically unfavorable conditions. They’ve done this through a variety of means, including public statements of support, financial contributions to relevant causes, and internal policies promoting diversity and inclusion. 


5. Stay Compliant with Laws 


While pursuing DEI objectives, businesses need to remain compliant with all state and federal laws. Legal counsel should regularly review DEI policies and practices to ensure they align with current legislation. 


Better DEI Means Better Business 


In addition to adopting DEI initiatives and policies, there are other steps businesses can take to improve employee happiness and retention. Businesses should also look to adopt technologies that allow them to better serve their customers. We offer virtual numbers that allow you to easily connect with your customers all over the world. Explore our virtual numbers page to learn more.  




To create these rankings, we looked at the following criteria: 


Statistical Criteria 


  • Unemployment rate by race 
  • Unemployment rate by sex 
  • Earning disparity by race 
  • Earning disparity by sex 
  • Percent of minority-owned businesses 
  • Percent of women-owned businesses 
  • Percent of minorities working in state government 


Legislative Criteria 


  • Does the state law explicitly prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity? 
  • Does the state public employment non-discrimination policy cover sexual orientation and gender identity? 
  • Does the state law explicitly prohibit discrimination in accessing credit based on sexual orientation and gender identity? 




States could score up to ten points per criterion. For the statistical criteria, the top-ranking state earned 10 points, the next highest received 9.8, followed by 9.6 and then 9.4, decreasing by 0.2 points until the last-ranked state, which received 0.2 points for that category. 


For the legislative criteria, any state that had existing state laws or public policies explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as it pertains to employment, state employment, and access to credit received 10 ten points.  


States that have existing laws prohibiting discrimination in these areas, but that do not explicitly state sexual orientation or gender identity, received 5 points.  


States with no laws prohibiting discrimination in these areas received 0 points.