“Who cares if all of the board are white males?”
“Why should I go to a seminar on promoting women’s rights? They are perfectly good at promoting themselves in my view.”
“We aren’t filling our quota of ethnic minorities, let’s go out there and find some, right now. We won’t be seen as a diverse business otherwise.”
I think most people would agree that the statements above totally miss the point. Diversity of perspectives, experiences, cultures, genders and ages is fast becoming a business priority – for one simple reason – it gives companies a competitive advantage.
Today, like never before, companies need to adapt to survive. Innovation is becoming the buzz word of our times, and a board of 50-something white males (who all think the same way) is not going to be of much use when the company is challenged to innovate or die. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs and most admired leaders will tell you the same thing. Diversity is essential to growth and prosperity of any company.
So, if it is such a no-brainer, why do whole industries seem so resistant to change?
It is partly human nature, but it is something that we simply must fight. For millennia, we have had the association that “different” is bad. In many languages, the words “foreigner” and “strange” are very similar. We are taught to trust those who share our beliefs, but to be wary of those who don’t. “You don’t think like me. Therefore, I don’t like you.” This ignorance has caused so much pain and suffering in the world, and it is still present in most businesses on our planet.
It is our job not only to eradicate this thinking, but also to realize the benefits that different opinions and viewpoints can bring.
Research in 2013 by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) brought us closer to some quantifiable figures. With 40 case studies and 1,800 employee surveys, it found that companies with “inherent diversity” (gender, race, culture) were 45% more likely to have expanded market share and 70% more likely to have captured a new market.
The CTI report went on the find that “Ideas from women, people of colour, LGBTs and Generation Ys were less likely to win the endorsement they need to go forward, because 56% of leaders don’t value the ideas as they don’t personally see a need for.” In other words, when there is no diversity at the top, diversity will not succeed lower down.
Women in the UK are paid 19% less than their male counterparts. 41% of LGBT employees remain “in the closet” in the US. The “use by date” of a middle manager is getting ever younger.
We all need to wake up. Diversity makes a difference.