Harnessing the Power of Diversity

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Most companies have come to appreciate the importance of diversity. At least from a PR perspective. Meanwhile, harnessing the power of diversity is about more than just putting a picture of a minority employee up on a company website. It is about truly understanding and utilizing the asset that having people with other ideas and perspectives on board represents.

According to the U.S. Consensus Bureau, more than 50% of the American population will be classified as non-white by 2045. Additionally, women account for an increasing share of the disposable income.

In the meantime, in corporate America, a survey revealed that there are more CEOs named Dave among Fortune 500 companies than there are female CEOs.

If it’s not clear why this disconnect between the corporate nation and the population they cater to is a commercial discourse, here is an example:

Anyone with just minimal exposure to pop-culture will remember #DressGate. The dress that appeared blue and black to some people, while others looking at the exact same picture swore on their mother’s grave that this dress was white and gold. What does a picture of a dress have to do with diversity? Well, it underlines an often forgotten, but always present fact about humanity; namely that we as individuals see and experience things in our environment differently. Whether it is subtle nuances or fundamental differences, we all have slightly different perceptions of this world, which we refer to as reality.

Optical experiences can be compared relatively easily. Meanwhile, in general we will never be able to fully compare our experiences of reality. Statistics however, indicate that average perceptions and views can be pooled across demographic groups. That is, you are more likely to find common ground with someone, who shares your gender, age range, sexual orientation and ethical background than someone, with an entirely different set of demographic characteristics.

Any institution – whether it is corporate or governmental – without representation of people, who see the world from a different perspective will eventually lose their ability to connect with and ultimately appeal to that segment of their audience. And with loss of appeal, comes loss of competitiveness.

Thus, diversity isn’t simply good PR. It’s good business. Unless men named Dave make up your entire target clientele. Moreover, diversity doesn’t merely improve topline growth, it can also help a company improve their bottom line; a study on team work conducted at MIT revealed that neither individual nor combined IQ could predict performance of the team. Instead, the researchers found that factors such as being attentive to the other members feelings, sharing the spotlight and, yes, diversity were strong predictors of team performance.

In order to fully reap the benefits of diversity, companies need to understand that diversity is not the end-destination, it’s the first step. Sending a job offer to a minority is the easy part; the challenge is putting your actions where your corporate policy is and actively include those minorities in your organization. Or, as diversity expert and inclusivity advocate, Vernã Myers puts it: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”.

Inclusion is accepting and appreciating that world views differ. Inclusion is owning your ignorance (and sometimes your prejudices) and asking questions—even the uncomfortable ones. Inclusion is, the power of diversity.