Every study on Diversity/Inclusion proves that it is the smartest business decision you could make – there’s no getting around it. To me, the obvious reason is Perspective.
The most powerful human force on the planet is a team of dedicated people. The more diverse the team, the more successful they will be. Each obstacle they encounter is an opportunity to bring all the different perspectives into play and come up with the best possible idea to move forward. Then, there’s the original design to consider. If there are different perspectives at the table when an original design is presented, then the potential issues can be addressed immediately – always smart business. It is MUCH less expensive to avoid a mishap than apologize for it afterwards – especially when the apology must be done publicly. Proof is in the recent slew of fashion design screw ups that clearly did not have diversity at the table when the designs were created. I mean honestly – a noose as a fashion design element?
But it’s not just about having lots of voices at the table – if the voices don’t feel they can speak up. In offices across the country and in EVERY industry, women and men feel they cannot share their perspective. If they appear to disagree or disprove their leader’s idea, then they fear for their job or their career. If they speak up at their group’s table, they fear they will be criticized or worse, ignored. There’s some magic about higher levels within a company that implies they are smarter than you – that they’ve ‘earned’ that big salary and big title and what could *you* provide?!?!? The truth?? They are no better and no smarter than you. They may have more knowledge (which is NOT about being smart) or more experience, but they don’t have YOUR perspective. And maybe (in fact, most likely) – YOUR perspective is what they need the most.
I remember years ago, I worked for a very large organization. The executives were struggling with low employee moral/low earnings (they go hand in hand) and decided to go on a Road Show to talk with the people on the front lines and learn more. They came to our office. Prior to the town hall, I was specifically pulled aside and told flat out to NOT SAY A WORD. The leaders of my office were afraid of the truth, they were afraid of being targeted as the ‘problem’ office, and they certainly did not want to be held accountable for what was really going on. I wasn’t going to be disrespectful and I wasn’t going to be mean or vengeful. But I was denied an opportunity and more importantly, the executives were denied honesty.
What matters is Diversity with Inclusion with the culture that promotes speaking up. Without each of those, each manager hires people who are just like them – typically the same gender, the same color, the same background. We do that because it’s who we feel will hear us and understand us. What we really need though – is to be open, to be told when our idea isn’t the brightest or the best, and to listen more than we speak.
Did you see an old man and an old woman in the picture – or a young man and a young woman?