Increasing diversity in the workplace is key to driving success in 2021

2020 has been the year of worldwide social unrest and change. Underrepresented voices are at the forefront of this change, something that is reflected in all areas of life. Most visually, the publishing world has echoed this outcry, with black authors topping the UK bestselling list during the Black Lives Matter movement. Diversity in the workplace represents not only ethnicities but capabilities, age and gender. A report conducted in 2015 stated that companies with higher gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform competing companies with lower diversity. This competitive advantage increases to a further 35% if companies are ethnically diverse.

Companies with a wide range of diversity overall are believed to have the adaptive skills to deal with changes in the world. Interestingly, enough younger generations hold the strongest opinion towards diversity, with 53% of those aged between 18-34 choosing to not work with companies that were not responsive during the Black Lives Matter protests. A younger employee choosing to back companies with high diversity means those companies have the greatest selection from top talent pools.

Within the workplace managers can use diversity for transformative results. Cognitive diversity (currently a consultant buzzword for thinking differently) increases workplace innovation by 20%. Having a diverse team of thinkers means spotting risk faster, helping, in the long run, to reduce risk by up to 30%. Cognitive diversity includes the way people think and emotionally respond to situations. It makes sense for corporations to have different thinkers, as having similar minds will not help solve recurring problems.

Unfortunately, similar minds often have the same unconscious biases, but how do you recognise these biases? To be able to quantify bias, Harvard University was able to develop a cognitive test, also known as the ‘implicit association testing’. This ability to analyse employee’s biases means Human Resources are able to develop appropriate recruitment processes and responses to reduce further discrimination. Algorithms that help corporations sift through CVs have been found to reflect biases that are found in the people hired to write the algorithm code. Ultimately, unconscious bias and conscious bias are the backbones of corporate discrimination.

Companies have a corporate social responsibility to provide equal opportunities for all. This being said, Forbes released a list of American companies at the forefront for company diversity. The software engineer company SAP sat at the top of this list. This, however, is no random chance as the company’s credo included setting a goal to become the most “inclusive software company on the planet”. With their executive board welcoming Jennifer Morgan, a championing leader at the forefront of tackling gender disparity. The SAP’s executive board aims to increase the number of women in senior management positions from 26.4% to 30% by 2022. Her methods of increasing diversity are rooted in data, choosing to quantify inefficiencies and track company minorities. This, however, opens up another discussion leading back to biases found in algorithms. In the end, it is down to individuals to recognise their unconscious prejudices.

Companies can try and homogenise human behaviour through software programmes and processes. However, it is down to the individual to recognise their own unconscious biases and take the appropriate action to help stop it from being an obstruction to diversity. 

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