Why Diversity is Important for Workplaces
Diversity is Important
For me this title is overwhelmingly redundant. I should not have to commit to virtual paper why diversity is important. In my mind, it should just be one of those universally acknowledged things. However, I feel a strong pull of intrinsic need to make it really clear on my small blog why I believe that Diversity is important.
First let me say that I believe Diversity is important everywhere
This blog, is of course centred on topics that revolve around the workplace. However, in the broader scheme of things I think that Diversity breeds a richness to life and enhances our worldly education. So, just to be specific, I believe that there is value in Diversity both inside the workplace and outside the workplace. I think that Diversity is important in life.
So what is Diversity?
The Google dictionary definition of Diversity is:
- the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness: diversity of opinion.
- variety; multiformity.
- the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.: diversity in the workplace.
- a point of difference.
Why is Diversity Important?
Straight up, my first answer to that is because we are all different. Thin, fat, nationality, political persuasion, sexual orientation, favourite football team. You get the gist. It is impossible to escape the differences that we have. Some of these differences can be minor, for example: my preference for Cadbury chocolate over Dianne’s preference for Lindt. Others, more fundamental to the way we live our lives, say being a devout Catholic vs an atheist. Diversity is important because we are all different, and wouldn’t it be a shame to erase the qualities that make us so? Wouldn’t it be dire to have no dissenting views? Wouldn’t it be boring and unproductive if we all thought exactly the same?
Some of the Facts around Diversity at work
Fact of the matter is that workplaces that have a broader spectrum of Diversity in their staffing are more successful. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in Management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. The same report found that those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above industry means. You can read the report here if you are interested.
Additionally, a global analysis by Credit Suisse found that of the 2400 companies that were studied, those companies with at least one female board member yielded higher equity and net income growth than those without.
There have also been studies conducted which demonstrate that diverse teams are better at focusing on fact, and that they are more innovative. Have a look here if you want to read some more about that.
So why else is Diversity important at work?
Despite the multitude of studies in which there is a direct link between diversity and organisational performance, there are a few more things that I think are important to mention.
Diversity is important because it offers us a variety of viewpoints. Most of us like to believe that our world view is superior, some belittle others who do not have the same world view. The brilliance of Diversity is that it offers an alternate opinion or experience that can give us food for thought.
Diversity provides us with more solutions to problems. If you have similar experiences to all of your colleagues then it might be difficult to come up with an alternate solution. Difference in experience and belief brings multiple sources of resource to problem solving.
In a similar vein, Diversity aids in the prevention of the circle of agreeance. Companies have been bought to their knees because everyone agreed, and no one could see a different pathway. A single dissenting voice, or a different way of looking at the issue might have changed the outcome.
If Diversity is important why is it difficult to achieve?
In many ways we humans like to homogenise. We seek out ways and people to reinforce our own world views. The same happens at work. We look for people with similar experience, profiles and education to ourselves (it’s called internal bias). Workplaces have to be conscious about internal bias’s or before they know it, they begin to homogenise.
Many workplaces focus on one culture which can be counter-intuitive to Diversity being successful. Large institutions such as the Military have really grappled with this issue. There is challenge in creating a culture that is uniform enough to achieve shared outcomes while encouraging diversity in thinking. The problem, of course is that when a culture becomes singularly myopic, any benefit of Diversity is lost. Myopic culture leads to circle of agreeance, circle of agreeance leads to lost opportunities (or worse). Myopic cultures lead to some of those serious issues that derail careers and workplaces, such as bullying and harassment.
Most modern institutions now have very strong programs in place to diversify their workforce.
It can be difficult to work through the differences and get to the solution. As individuals it can be challenging to have another opinion to consider, or have to consider that our way may not be the only way. So it is really important that workplaces are clear and transparent in communication. Workplaces that foster a strong sense of encouragement in communicating differences in ideas and ways of doing things will be more successful in assuring that staff are able to derive the benefits that Diversity brings.
Diversity is important
This is such an incredibly important topic for me, I don’t believe that writing another 10 pages could do it justice. Diversity will benefit your organisation, and it is important to think about how you can ensure that you contribute to Diversity in your workplace.
For some great resources on Diversity in the workplace, try: