Why Representation Matters in the Workplace
Whatever your thoughts are on Hillary Clinton, her nomination for President of the United States by a major political party is a powerful piece in history. While research shows that women compete equally with men on the political playing field, we’re now watching a female candidate compete for the highest position in the country for the first time.
What makes this so powerful?
Most of us have some personal understanding that positively representing different types of people in our media, politics, and workplaces is a good thing. When we nominate a woman for president, we prove to the ambitious school girl that a future as our country’s leader can be real for her. When Laverne Cox takes a public platform, we tell transgendered people that their conversations are not only valid, but important and valuable to us as a society. And when our companies have strong workers and leaders who come from diverse backgrounds, we send the message that success is not limited to one specific type of person. Not only does representation empower those who have traditionally been denied a voice, it encourages all of us to learn about people we might not understand, or who are different from us.
And in an increasingly global world and economy, learning from and communicating with people who are different from us is by no means logistically difficult. It’s also proven to make us better workers, communicators, and teams.
When we look at the benefits of workplace diversity, it becomes clear how much representation really matters. A 2012 study by Dow Jones compared gender makeup of leadership in successful and unsuccessful companies, finding that a higher percentage of women in senior executive roles was tied to greater financial success. A McKinsey analysis found that companies with greater gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform more homogenous companies, and those with greater ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to outperform. If we apply these statistics to any one of our organizations, our organizations come out stronger – and smarter.
Different Perspectives Make Innovative Teams
The fact of the matter is, pairing diversity of expertise with social diversity makes for diversity of information: creative thinking, stronger problem solving, nuanced decision-making, and perspectives capable of unearthing opportunities that might never have seen the light of day. If you want an innovative team, you need those perspectives. If you want to continue attracting – and keeping – the best talent, it’s not about filling a quota, although those targets may be in place. It’s about knowing what qualities you need and when you need them, and then considering ALL of your best candidates for both their skills and the valuable perspectives they bring to the table. And it’s about letting those candidates use their voice.
As a leader, you have the unique opportunity to not only build up diverse, qualified teams, but to give your organization the competitive advantage in our increasingly global world. The decisions you make in hiring, promoting, and utilizing your employees’ skillsets and knowledge not only go a long way in promoting dignity and respect, they put you in a position of promoting truly successful business.
These decisions always begin with dignity and respect, which encourage us to seek out and recognize the ability and potential in those you bring into your organization. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of representation and diversity in the workplace and how to Lead the Way, we offer workshops for leaders with these goals. The sharp, innovative organizations of the future are only possible when ALL of our differences are taken into consideration – and when the minds we seek to hire someday can see themselves in the shoes of someone who is already there.