As our society continues to expand and evolve, we are finding that prioritizing diversity and inclusion is increasingly becoming an issue of paramount importance. On a social and ethical level, it’s easy to see why such initiatives are essential to the well-being of our society. However, the unfortunate truth of the matter is that while many companies claim to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace, actual implementation of progressive policies and practices often misses the mark.
Take Google for instance. The company has recently undergone intense public scrutiny after Timnit Gebru, one of their lead AI ethicists, was fired for allegedly challenging the company’s commitment to diversity. When the company failed to take appropriate action regarding the issue, they were slammed with criticism and hit with a letter from their own research team demanding, among many things, Gebru’s reinstatement.
A commitment to diversity and inclusion doesn’t just end with releasing a public statement of support or offering a company-wide D&I workshop. In order to truly make a difference, companies will need to put their money where their mouth is and take true action in order to foster change.
If you’re interested in learning more about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as well as how you can make a difference in your own company, then this article is just for you.
The drawbacks of workplace homogeneity
There is an overabundance of research available which shows that failing to prioritize diversity and inclusion in the workplace has a negative impact on business. This impact influences everything from a company’s ability to effectively compete in the marketplace, to it’s ability to retain valuable employees and gain much-needed financial support from investors.
According to recent research from Harvard Business Review, there is “compelling evidence” which shows that diversity and inclusion are the keys to driving innovation and spurring market growth. On the other hand, a lack of diversity can not only stifle innovation, creativity, and performance, it can also serve to unintentionally foster groupthink mentality.
Management consultant company McKinsey recently released a Diversity Matters report in which they examined diversity in the workplace within 366 public companies across the globe. According to their research, racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts. The study also showed the impact of gender diversity in the workplace, stating that companies with greater gender diversity tended to outperform their competitors by as much as 15%. Furthermore, the study also found that diverse companies are better positioned by as much as 70% when it comes to capturing new markets.
Additionally, research conducted by Cloverpop, found that diverse teams are “87% more likely to make better decisions”. Specifically, teams which were gender diverse, geographically diverse, and contained “at least one age gap of more than 20 years” were found to be the most successful.
Recruitment, retention and well-being
In addition to performance, a company’s diversity can have a significant impact on employee retention rates, well-being, and its ability to effectively recruit valuable talent. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, approximately 76% of job seekers consider workplace diversity to be an “important factor” when it comes to choosing a company to work with. On a more granular level, approximately 80% of African-Americans, Hispanics, and LGBTQ individuals alike all reported that workplace diversity was important to them.
A more diverse workplace fosters a sense of inclusion, openness, greater mindfulness, and can help combat stigma and discrimination. In the same report, nearly half of African-Americans and Hispanics reported quitting a job after being exposed to discrimination in the workplace.
Another study conducted by Culture Amp on gender diversity in the workplace suggested that women in general tend to feel excluded from decision making and less comfortable expressing their opinions than men. The study found that women were 13% less likely to feel that they could express their opinions without fear of negative consequences than men and 15% less likely than men to feel that their perspectives were included in decision making at their company.
Furthermore, a 2015 survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 67% of trans individuals reported negative outcomes from asserting/acknowledging their identity within the workplace. These outcomes ranged from being denied promotions to being fired, forced to resign, or failing to get hired altogether. As a result, an astounding 77% reported taking steps to hide their identity, delay transition, or avoid emphasizing correct pronoun usage in order to avoid mistreatment.
These stats undoubtedly reflect the myriad of obstacles, concerns, and disadvantages associated with failing to produce a diverse and inclusive workplace environment.
There are also financial risks associated with failing to prioritize diversity and inclusion within the workplace. As society continues to evolve, ethical investing is becoming increasingly more important. Now more than ever corporate investors aren’t seeking to solely make a profit with their investments, but to also support businesses which seek to further important causes and create a palpable, positive impact on society.
SRI (socially responsible investing) is often used as an umbrella term of sorts for investing in “morally responsible” companies or industries. Within this category are also several sub-categories, including ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing.
ESG is essentially a form of risk management used to define a set of non-financial performance indicators which seek to determine a company’s corporate behavior and future financial performance. In addition to environmental risks, social and governance risks are also considered at length. Social risks focus on a company’s social activities and consider issues such as a business’ commitment to protecting human rights and furthering important societal causes. Governance risks consider issues within operations and governance such as such as diversity and inclusion within the workplace, including positions of leadership.
The answer to improving inclusivity and diversity in the workforce
There is an overabundance of research which shows the various benefits of fostering a more inclusive and diverse workplace. If companies are going to truly make a difference, they need to move beyond messages and statements in support of diversity and inclusion and take action in order to address and dismantle bias within their organizations. This includes taking a good hard look at everything from your company’s culture to its recruitment practices, compensation structures, performance management systems, and promotion panels. This also means examining demographics within company staff, departments, leadership roles, and board members. Furthermore, it’s so much more than just race. In order to be truly effective, companies must view diversity on a greater scale by considering a range of factors including ethnicity, gender identity, religion, and age, among others.
Marketing modernity and social responsibility
Making the commitment to foster diversity and inclusion within your workforce is just one piece of the puzzle. Failing to craft inclusive and diverse marketing strategies, messages, and materials, simply put, is just bad for business. This is especially the case in the age of personalization where crafting a story which reaches your audience at an individual level is key. Consumers need to be able to relate to your brand, and that won’t happen without proper attention and representation.
Today’s marketers must focus on developing strategies which reflect the increasingly diversified modern society that we live in. This includes considering a range of diversity factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class, and how these dynamics affect the lenses through which individuals view their world.
One 2017 study conducted by Google reported that a whopping 75% of individuals surveyed said that they would like to see greater representation of diversity from brands. Furthermore, 70% of the same individuals surveyed said that they would be more likely to purchase from a brand if they felt that the brand took a stance on important issues such as race.
The company also conducted a marketing study in 2019 which reflected the importance of diversity and inclusion in marketing and how it impacts consumers’ interaction with brands. The study found that the vast majority of individuals in various consumer groups reported taking action after seeing a brand’s ad which they felt was “diverse or inclusive”. This includes
- 85% of Latinx individuals
- 79% of African-Americans and Asian/Pacific Islander individuals
- 85% of LGBTQ individuals
- 77% of millennials
- 76% of teens
Furthermore, according to reports from Maryville University, an astounding 83% of people cited a marketing campaign as being “impactful in a positive way” due to the fact that it “pointed to better representing modern society”.
When it comes to your marketing strategy, crafting diverse and inclusive content isn’t optional — it’s a necessity. Furthermore, it’s the socially responsible thing to do. In order to truly be successful, diversity and inclusion must be placed at the forefront of the agenda.
We live in a beautiful, technicolor, culturally rich, and diverse society. In fact, it could be said that this is part of our nation’s greatest appeal. These differences in culture, experience, and identity work to, among many, many things, foster innovation, creativity, and progress. If you are a company looking to truly thrive, achieve long-term sustainability, and make a palpable impact, then the future lies not in diminishing these characteristics, but embracing them as strengths.
What steps have you or your company taken to foster diversity and inclusion within the workplace? Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!