Why a DE&I Maturity Model for Certification

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Written by Tamika Hughes, CX Strategy Manager, Pearson VUE

Since the development of the Capability Maturity Model for software development in the late 1980s (Wendler, 2012), maturity models have been used in various contexts as a tool for defining and encouraging a set of behaviors that support improvement in a particular area. Whether the goal is to mature an organization’s commitment to and practice of project management (Fahrenkrog,  et al., 2003), accessibility (W3C Accessibility Maturity Model, 2022), customer experience (Thurtle, 2022), or the diversity and inclusion of a company’s workforce and culture (Duerr, 2022), maturity models offer an opportunity to evaluate the current state of practice, and evolve to a more advanced state where practice is integrated into all aspects of an organization’s functions. As many certification programs consider ways to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) for their programs, the need for support in aligning stakeholders on a focus, approach, and method of measuring progress for DE&I is more important than ever. A DE&I maturity model aligned to the context of certification offers this support.

But first, we should consider why this topic is increasingly timely and relevant to credentialing (certification, licensure, etc.) programs, particularly in the IT industry. IT credentialing programs continuously evolve their approach to training and certification in ways that support individuals around the world seeking higher salaries, better jobs, and improved skills (Cooper, 2021), and who have characteristics that span all dimensions of difference (Lou & Dean, n.d.). Yet, the population of credential holders in general is rarely representative of population diversity (Cunningham, 2019). 

Within tech, most of the workforce is male and often white, so it should come as no surprise that data suggests that males obtain IT certifications at a significantly higher rate than females (2023 Value of IT Certification: Candidate Report, 2023) or that women continue to be less represented in the technology sectors of both the UK (Tech Nation in partnership with Harmonic Finance, n.d.) and US (White, 2023). Furthermore, in the US science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industry, women across racial groups as well as hispanic and black people face promotion and pay equity challenges (Fry et al., 2021).

Many IT credentialing programs recognize these and similar gaps, seeking to improve diversity of those who hold their credentials across gender, race, sexual orientation, accessibility needs, and other diversity characteristics, particularly as they attempt to grow their programs within existing and new markets. Programs may also recognize how equity and inclusivity are intrinsically linked to diversity as they seek to ensure equitable and inclusive pathways to their certifications. But this is easier said than done. How can credentialing programs understand where they are on their DE&I journey and how they can improve? This challenge is what a DE&I maturity model for credentialing may help address. Research into the use of maturity models to advance DE&I has identified multiple examples of this approach including PwC’s development of a global inclusion index that leverages a maturity model as an organizational self-assessment tool (Flood, 2016). Yet these DE&I maturity model examples focus on improving diversity of an organization’s workforce and promoting a culture of equity and inclusion. While these models can be applied to the organizations providing IT certifications, maturing DE&I in IT certification requires looking beyond organizational diversity and inclusion towards diversification of credential holders and ensuring equitable/inclusive pathways for achieving those credentials.

In IT certification, we have a pressing challenge to increase skilling and job opportunities for marginalized groups because IT is one of the fastest growing job markets with some identified gaps in including these groups. To address this need, members of the DE&I workgroup of the ITCC collaborated on a maturity model and framework to advance DE&I in the credentialing industry. Using this framework, programs can

  • Identify which level of maturity best describes the current state of their organization in its DE&I journey;
  • Determine the focus and goals for DE&I efforts that will help advance the organization to the next DE&I maturity level or evolve its current level of maturity;
  • Define metrics to use in measuring progress toward those goals; 
  • Develop a DE&I action plan to reach those goals; then
  • Continuously evaluate its DE&I maturity level, action plan progress, and update goals accordingly.

The model is comprised of four levels (basic, emerging, progressing, and integrated/optimized) defined across six areas of consideration (definition, scope, approach, and level of commitment for DE&I, and the diversity of its credentialing team* and credential holder population). Credentialing program aspects and diversity dimensions have also been defined to assist programs in identifying a target set of dimensions of difference and program aspects to consider along the journey of advancement in DE&I, where the levels of the maturity model act as a blueprint for guiding that advancement.

The ITCC DE&I Workgroup is currently gathering feedback on the model and welcomes thoughts from the IT and greater credentialing community on the framework’s use in helping certification programs increase their focus on DE&I in actionable ways.

Download the DE&I Maturity Model for Certification Programs (includes framework and use cases).

*Footnote:  It its broadest sense, the individuals and stakeholders involved in design, management, and decision making for the certification program and its exams.


2023 value of IT certification: Candidate report. (2023). Pearson VUE. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://home.pearsonvue.com/voc

Cooper, C. (2021, March). Why Get it Certified? The Value of Certification. IT Certification Council. https://itcertcouncil.org/the-value-of-certification/

Cunningham, E. B. (2019). Professional certifications and occupational licenses: evidence from the Current Population Survey. Monthly Labor Review. https://doi.org/10.21916/mlr.2019.15

Duerr, S. (2022). The Deloitte Diversity And Inclusion Model — Triangle DEI Alliance. Triangle DEI Alliance. https://www.triangledei.org/blog/the-deloitte-diversity-and-inclusion-model

Fahrenkrog, S. L., Haeck, W., Abrams, F., & Whelbourn, D. (2003). PMI’s organizational project management maturity model. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2003—North America, Baltimore, MD. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Flood, A. (2016, September). The PwC diversity journey: Creating impact, achieving results. pwc.com. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/diversity-inclusion/best-practices/assets/the-pwc-diversity-journey.pdf

Fry, R., Kennedy, B., Funk, C., & Nadeem, R. (2021, April 1). STEM Jobs See Uneven Progress in Increasing Gender, Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Pew Research Center Science & Society. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/04/01/stem-jobs-see-uneven-progress-in-increasing-gender-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/

Lou, K., & Dean, B. (n.d.). Signs of change:  Global diversity puts new spin on Loden’s diversity wheel. Loden Associates. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from http://www.loden.com/Web_Stuff/Articles_-_Videos_-_Survey/Entries/2010/9/3_Global_Diversity_Puts_New_Spin_on_Lodens_Diversity_Wheel.html

Tech Nation in partnership with Harmonic Finance. (n.d.). Diversity and inclusion in UK tech: An exploration of tech founders, employees and leaders. Tech Nation. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://technation.io/diversity-and-inclusion-in-uk-tech/

Thurtle, C. (2022, August 18). 5 stages to evolving your CX program through the maturity model. Qualtrics. https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/cx-maturity-model/

W3C Accessibility Maturity Model. (2022, September 6). https://www.w3.org/TR/maturity-model/

Wendler, R. (2012). The maturity of maturity model research: A systematic mapping study. Information & Software Technology, 54(12), 1317–1339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infsof.2012.07.007

White, S. K. (2023). Women in tech statistics: The hard truths of an uphill battle. CIO. https://www.cio.com/article/201905/women-in-tech-statistics-the-hard-truths-of-an-uphill-battle.html

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