“I don’t pretend to know everything. I listened to the people who had my best interests at heart; my parents, my teachers, my mentors. I might not have understood or agreed with them, but just hearing what they were telling me provided opportunities later in life”- Materials Scientist, Jon Madison, 2015 Black Engineer of the Year Award winner by Sandia Labs
Diversity and Inclusion programs have become a top priority in corporate America. In the last twenty years, as a result of a flurry of multimillion dollar discrimination lawsuits in the financial industry as well as the growing cultural importance of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movement, diversity programs have proliferated. Companies that don’t evolve with the times risk alienating potential markets and lost profitability is now regarded as conventional wisdom in corporate America to imbed Diversity & Inclusion as part of business culture. But are corporate Diversity & Inclusion initiatives actually working? Or is it all just window dressing to make us all feel better about ourselves, without really changing anything.
We know that diversity is a net plus for businesses. Beyond the obvious optics, a 2018 study by BCG found that increasing the diversity of leadership teams led to an increase in innovation. In the study, BCG surveyed employees at more than 1,700 companies in eight countries (Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland, and the US), using a variety of company sizes and industries for a better control group. Six dimensions of diversity were focused on — gender, age, nation of origin (other than the company HQ), career path, industry background and college major. The study found that companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity. The correlation between management diversity and innovation is an intriguing takeaway.