In 2019, diversity and inclusion in the workplace are more than just the right things for companies to do—they are profitable things to do.
A study by Gallup found that companies excelling at engagement by focusing on gender diversity experienced a 58 percent higher financial performance (in terms of net profit) than less engaged and diverse organizations. Moreover, a McKinsey & Company report discovered that businesses ranking in the top quarter for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to show better financial returns than the median in their respective industries. Therefore, diversity and inclusion aren’t just morally and ethically necessary, but also fiscally responsible.
However, many companies are falling short of diversity and inclusion goals in the workplace. They might think there isn’t a problem with bias in their hiring practices, or they might make grand declarations about their commitments to these noble concepts, but put no plans into action to actually achieve tangible results. Some may be misguided in their assumptions that diversity and inclusion are interchangeable. Diversity is more tied to who is hired and the experiences they bring to the job, whereas inclusion addresses the employee experience—whether they feel valued, listened to, and empowered to contribute. Not surprisingly, there are companies that fail at both …
In their book, Erasing Institutional Bias: How to Create Systemic Change for Organizational Inclusion, authors Tiffany Jana and Ashley Diaz Mejias write, “We have become accustomed to cultivating systems that work well for those in power, those with wealth and connections, and those with access to the levers of change within systems. We have mountains of research that prove that diversity and inclusion help create smarter, more effective, more profitable systems. If diversity serves the greater good, whether economic or social, why have we not developed our systems to optimize inclusion?”
Not every company is so far behind. Here are three examples of organizations that have set a high bar for what diversity and inclusion in the workplace should look like:
Accenture, a global management consulting and professional services firm, landed in the top spot of Thomson Reuters’ 2018 D&I Index, which measures the most diverse and inclusive organizations globally—and was ranked No. 1 by an impressive margin. Any company with nearly a half-million employees faces the massive challenge of ensuring diversity and inclusion, but Accenture has shown incredible initiative in its hiring and promotion practices. The organization has set goals of achieving a 50/50 gender balance by 2025 and having women comprise 25 percent of managing directors by 2020. Accenture also hired more than 1,800 employees from diverse backgrounds in 2017, an 80 percent increase over the previous year.
In setting these ambitious goals, Accenture is challenging the systems of wealth and power that we’ve become accustomed to, thereby upending the old systems and embracing the new. Accenture’s approach also reveals that no organization is too big or goal too idealistic—it is the diligence and focus that gets the results and the rewards.
L’Oréal is known for its cosmetics and hair care products, but it also is a global leader in diversity and inclusion. The company ranked No. 8 on the Thomson Reuters index and is No. 2 on the Equileap 2018 Gender Equality Global Report & Ranking (it topped the list in 2017 and trailed only General Motors last year). Women account for 69 percent of the L’Oréal global workforce (of nearly 90,000 employees) and 53 percent of key positions. L’Oréal counts 158 nationalities in its overall headcount. Also, L’Oréal USA worked with the Harvard Kennedy School for senior leaders to develop and implement an inclusive leadership program focusing on gender equity and unconscious bias.
Their secret? U.S. CEO, Frédéric Rozé, has publicly committed to diversity and inclusion by joining the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion. Through his leadership, Rozé shaped the organization’s priorities around diversity and inclusion, and therefore shaped the organization’s culture.
Gap Inc., parent brand of Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and other retail brands, came in at No. 5 out of 7,000 organizations on the Thomson Reuters list. The company is dedicated to gender equality, equal pay, and diverse hiring, and believes that “diversity, inclusion and opportunity are key to retaining talent, driving growth, and attracting new customers.” One initiative Gap Inc. is proud of is P.A.C.E., a training and empowerment program for the women garment workers who make the company’s clothes. Gap was also was the recipient of a 2016 Catalyst Award for its Women and Opportunity strategy.
Gap Inc. has long been known for its brand activism, whether that be in its AIDS awareness (red) campaigns or in #BridgetheGap and #WearYourPride social media hashtags. Because Gap incorporates these standards into its brand, employees and patrons of the retail company are not only buying into the products, but the ideas and meaning behind the products, as well. Setting a brand narrative that openly advocates for diversity and inclusion can attract customers who are committed to the same values.
Making an Impact with Inclusion in the Workplace
These three featured companies, along with any workplace that can measure real change, decided at some point that more needed to be done with diversity and inclusion. And “more” meant something beyond hiring a greater percentage of women and minorities—it meant truly incorporating all employees’ viewpoints and backgrounds into the organizational mindset and culture.
La’Wana Harris, author of Diversity Beyond Lip Service: A Coaching Guide for Challenging Bias, writes, “Our understanding of how to attract, retain—and market to—an increasingly diverse and global demographic is virtually the only way to succeed going forward. Continuing to thrive is a matter of embracing what is inevitable. That is why businesses must alter employee demographics so they mirror customers’ profiles. And since the days of enforcing a very narrow standard for success are rapidly receding into the rearview, we must also build inclusive corporate cultures to support our new heterogenous makeups.” A commitment to diversity and inclusion involves the entire organization, and when it is done right and not just for show, everyone benefits.