A few decades ago, most offices looked the same. At the desk and in the offices were white men. The workers in this typical office may have been different ages and live in various neighborhoods, but they looked alike. There might’ve been a woman serving coffee, laboriously typing memos and answering phones in a pleasant voice, but there were no females at business meetings certainly not in management roles. The workplace of today has been transformed dramatically from the past and yet many say there still needs to be more progress for companies truly reflect America.
Why is Diversity a Priority
Someone might say that all that really matters when it comes to human resources is to hire the best man for the job, so to speak and forget about other considerations. While no one would argue reasonably that one should hire someone who was unqualified only because of their race or gender, all things being equal, including education and experience, there might be some good reasons for a human resources department to intentionally opt for a candidate other than a white male.
The reason why in the past women and minorities often did not secure positions had little to do with qualifications but had more to do with preferring a homogenous office culture. These preferences may not have been intentional, but they could be sensed by other people who would look objectively at qualifications and experience aside from race and gender. One could argue that in the spirit of fairness one should try to become aware of biases, and when candidates are equal regarding their qualifications, consider choosing a woman or a candidate from a minority group.
Sound Financial Sense
In addition to adopting a commitment to diversity in a spirit of fairness, studies show that companies actually perform better financially if they have a diverse staff. Companies that had gender diversity outperformed by 15% other companies and those that an optimum level of ethnic diversity outperformed by 35%. One possible explanation for this performance is that diverse workforce can identify with a larger demographic more readily than a homogenous staff.
Diversity can be especially important in developing products and marketing strategies, because together, a diverse staff has a general sense of how the population will react to its brand. A homogenous staff will only really understand one demographic and have a narrower view, which can handicap of product development and marketing strategy. Therefore, the companies that make the most money are those that reflect the society they live in and are diverse.
How to Make your Company More Diverse
Business experts such as Luke Visconti have been discussing the importance of diversity in the corporate world for many years and has created the DiversityInc Top 50, which is a list of companies that believe in diversity. Just as being environmentally friendly is good for company’s image, a company’s commitment to diversity can win customer loyalty and faith in its brand. You may wonder how one can implement such a strategy in the workplace. This begins in the human resources department.
When making new hires, think about what demographic that is the most valuable your company. If women are major consumers of your products, make sure the gender balance optimal. Do some surveys to see what kind of community customers are from and what demographic customer fits in. Make sure the staff reflects the demographic as much is possible, which will be good for your company and for your customers.
Consider sponsoring potential candidates who will contribute to the gender and ethnic mix of your company culture. This sponsorship can take the form of funding education or hiring an intern. If there is someone in your company that keeps getting passed over for promotions again and again and you feel that race or gender might factor, look into the reasons why and advocate for this candidate if you feel he or she is an appropriate choice for the position. If you see someone who is likely to be the next CEO, make diversity a priority for him or her. The topics emphasized to a potential successor of a company signal things that are of high priority. If diversity is on this list, that will send a message to everyone in the company that diversity is important.
Realize that not all bias is conscious. It is amazing how often people recommend someone for promotion who is very much like themselves. Perhaps they see themselves in this candidate and want to give them the same chance that they once enjoyed. Unfortunately, this attitude will only bolster the status quo and make sure that staff will always be made up of the same kind of people. When you sense that someone is doing this, ask them to give tangible evidence of the candidate’s qualifications. Rather than take the challenge, in many cases, the person may realize they have been biased and will back down.