Why Diversity Matters

A month ago, an acquaintance sent a link to an interesting article in a group chat. The article was about Goldman Sachs’ Commitment to Board Diversity. The text message was accompanied with a frown face and the words, “oh no”. 

As I am a native Siberian (Russian) who made New York City my new home, I personally took interest in NYC’s diverse culture. Once I finished reading the article, I knew I had to add “my two cents” to this sensitive topic on diversity and inclusion.

I agree that competency should not be determined by skin color or gender. However, statistics suggest, competent people of color do not have access to positions of power within the workplace. We live in a society where competency is still sometimes equated with a person’s “exterior features.” The question becomes: do we continue hiring based on the traditional image of a qualified candidate or pursue diversity instead? How do we find this balance and not gravitate to one of the absolutes?

Balance is the key. A diversified workplace full of professional and open minded people – this is the goal. I decided to look at some statistics from within the MICE industry and see what conclusions I could draw. 

While digging deeply into the representation of diversity in the Meetings and Incentives Industry, I came across some interesting statements:

As Fabian J. De Rozario, national president at National Association of Asian American Professionals, mentioned, “The meetings industry still has a lack of representation of Asian and Hispanic, Latino/Latina populations, both on the planning side and among suppliers.”

Anisha Lewis, executive director at The Association of Black Psychologists  also added: ”I do see a slightly increased number of people of color in upper-level positions, but it’s still disproportionate compared to the number of Caucasian men in upper management. Equal opportunity for women in senior management remains a work in progress.” 

Moreover, Workplace Diversity Report 2018 statistics show that 75% of employees in the Hospitality industry are Caucasians. 

 

In addition to the lack of diversity, there is even more of a gender disparity. 

Sam Robson, group events director at The Appointment Group has noted a worrying trend, commenting: “I think the events industry provides great opportunities for women however I am always disappointed at awards ceremonies when the company owners or chief executives receiving the awards are generally men and the events teams are mostly women. 

Now you probably have a question, why does diversity matter, and why do so many people talk about it? 

Workplace diversity has many direct and tangible benefits.

  1. The inclusive companies are 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready and 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. Diversity boosts innovation and drives market growth by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas are heard. It was found that when at least one member of a team has traits in common with the end user, the entire team better understands that user. A team with a member who shares a client’s ethnicity is 152% likelier than another team to understand that client.

Leaders also need diversity to establish a culture in which all employees feel free to contribute ideas. Six behaviors unlock innovation across the board: 

  • ensuring that everyone is heard
  • making it safe to propose novel ideas
  • giving team members decision-making authority
  • sharing credit for success
  • giving actionable feedback
  • and implementing feedback from the team

Leaders who give diverse voices equal airtime are nearly twice as likely as others to unleash value-driving insights, and employees in a “speak up” culture are 3.5 times as likely to contribute their full innovative potential.  Additionally, to innovation, companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue.

  1. The most diverse teams made better decisions 87 percent of the time. As the diversity of teams increases, so does the chance of making better decisions. Inclusive decision making delivers better decisions, with high statistical confidence. “While it is hard to change how our brains are wired, it’s possible to change the context of decisions by architecting decision-making teams for more diverse perspectives,” – Francesca Gino, Harvard Business School. 
  2. Racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%McKinsey has been examining diversity in the workplace for several years. They examined proprietary data sets for 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The findings were clear: Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. 
  3. Reduced employee turnover. Companies with diverse workforce are generally more inclusive of different individual characteristics and perspectives. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace cause all employees to feel accepted and valued. When employees feel accepted and valued, they are also happier in their workplace and stay longer with a company. As a result, companies with greater diversity in the workplace have lower turnover rates. 

Based on solid facts, diversity and inclusion are not only important for the society but positively impacts a company’s bottomline. Working at Marketing Challenges International has exposed me to step out of my comfort zone, be open-minded, and make the effort to learn about my coworkers’ culture and their points of view. This invaluable experience led me to discover a lot of blind spots that I had. Numbers alone cannot convince people to reorient their thinking if there is no mindset to embrace something new.

In this moment of highly polarized identity politics, we need to improve our conflict resolution skills. If we cannot completely accept others’ points of view, I would encourage you to at least try to understand that your opponents have a right to believe in their ideas as much as you do in yours. There is no truth behind anger, but there are endless opportunities for growth when we work with people who do not look/think like us.

Now, what are your thoughts? Let me know! I would love to start a meaningful discussion on this timely topic.

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