It’s not a secret that diversity is good for business. According to a 2017 INC.com article, diversity and inclusion lead to better business outcomes for five overarching reasons: increased creativity, fostering of innovation, better consumer understanding, richer brainstorming, and better decision making. These five reasons why diversity is good for business impact both the internal and external needs of a business whether it’s a business-to-business or business-to-consumer model. These reasons are all essentially saying: the more diverse input you have, the better chances of developing winning practices you will achieve. In order to lead you have to be willing to adapt.
Earlier this year, Reebok lost out on a deal with Beyoncé because they allegedly didn’t have a diverse enough team with whom Bey to work. According to ESPN writer Nick DePaula, Beyoncé took a look around the room during one of the preliminary brand partnership meetings and did not see enough diversity for her to move forward with the partnership, and walked out. Reebok released a statement that claims this is false, and that they were saddened that false information was being reported. Beyoncé went on to sign a deal with Adidas, who happens to own Reebok.
Whether the claims were true or not did not stop people from continuing the conversation about the need for more diversity and inclusion to happen in the workplace and at major brands and corporations. However, some people insist that simply saying you value diversity and inclusion and releasing a statement is not enough. Calls to go beyond statements have been heard and firms are making progress towards more intentional diversity and inclusion efforts through hiring people dedicated to diversity and inclusion, diversifying hires, and practicing more open dialogue across the firm.
The Wharton School of Pennsylvania, a leading business school, published a feature piece about ways in which top firms are making moves to not just foster diversity and inclusion, but to also create a sense of belonging. Global investment banking company Citigroup, for example, is utilizing personal story sharing as a way to foster belonging across its global company. During a panel hosted by the school Rebekah Bastian, a vice president of culture and community at Zillow Group, said that: “amplify [ing] everyone’s voices, clear[ing] barriers … and appreciate[ing] each other for [their] unique backgrounds” is essential to creating a sense of belonging at the workplace. Stories are a great place to start and can help people connect on a more personal level, but the action someone puts into making sure equality is actually happening with salaries is just as important and that takes making sure the Human Resources departments are also part of the diversity, inclusion, and belonging mission.
Ensuring that there are full time people tasked with diversity and inclusion efforts is a necessary and intentional step; and so, too, is making sure they have all the resources and support needed to help shift homogenous workplace culture.
Dedicated diversity and inclusion hires seem to be a big move and talking point this year. In July, Gucci appointed Renee Tirado as the Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Monica Poindexter was appointed as Lyft’s Diversity And Inclusion Officer in March 2019; and Mercedes Ramírez Fernández was appointed as Rochester University’s first Vice President for Equity and Inclusion in May 2019.
These are great strides and will hopefully crack up the conversations around diversity and inclusion to even more marginalized communities. One of the UK’s leading women in tech, Sheree Atcheson, not only believes and demonstrates how diversity and inclusion are good for business; she even wrote a helpful piece on Forbes.com about the different ways people can practice diversity and inclusion and meaningful ways. Atcheson believes “companies should work to provide parental leave, annual leave, flexible working hours, opt-in benefits, medical care and recruitment processes, which can be tailored to embrace different needs and situations” and oftentimes that means putting time and financial capital behind efforts of inclusion.
When people feel like their workplace is safe, inclusive, and meeting their needs, they tend to stay longer, be happier, and produce better work that helps positively impact the workplace overall.
This is especially true for working mothers.
Marketing professional, writer, and millennial mom Christine Michel Carter knows a bit about what keeps mothers in and out of the workforce. Carter states that breastfeeding moms often leave their jobs because of a lack of support from their employers and that employers that provide lactation support often see an almost 95% retention rate of mothers in the workplace. Mothers bring a myriad of diverse experiences and perspectives to workplaces, but simple things like a lack of lactation support, paid family leave, or flexible scheduling are often barriers to retention for employers.
In order for diversity and inclusion efforts to be truly possible, we must remember that diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts need to center to needs of LGBTQIA, differently abled, different immigration statuses, parenting and care-taking, and cultural realities of varying individuals.
Diversity and inclusion is a broad topic that will take time to fully make change in the workplace but it is not an insurmountable task. Many people have pragmatic, cultural, and policy change insights that can help diversity and inclusion efforts be better implemented in the workplace. One thing is certain: if firms do not intentionally and actively work on diversity, they will feel it in the long run. Generation X is one of the most diverse generations that values inclusion, flexible work schedule, and spending money at companies that do too. Latinas in tech are killing the game by their own rules and breaking funding goals; and whether or not Beyoncé walked because a lack of diversity and inclusion from a brand deal doesn’t mean that others won’t. If firms continue to look at the same pool of people for diverse and innovative ideas, they will continue to miss huge opportunities.