For the last few weeks, almost every major brand and company you can name has been announcing new diversity initiatives. In light of the BLM movement, it’s not hard to understand why they’re doing this now.
But I find myself wondering if the CEOs and marketing managers who are embracing diversity initiatives have long-term change in mind, or if they’re just responding to the moment, and looking to make short-term public relations efforts that give them the aura of being a “woke” company.
Let’s unpack that question -- and the need to embrace more than just a short-term need to check the diversity box.
For brands and media companies, workplace diversity has a measurable impact on the products produced. Diverse work groups produce more exchange of information and more cognitive processing.
There’s research to back this up. Bringing in different ideas leads to better problem-solving. The collision of ideas and perspectives produces creative sparks and new ideas. Diverse teams produce better outcomes, opening eyes and sharing expertise. Hearing someone on the team say: “oh, I didn’t see it that way” or “in my community, that phrase has a positive connotation” is the flash that makes products and messages better.
Diversity is not just race or culture. Diversity opens our minds to different lifestyles, religious beliefs, and political perspectives. There’s a long list of provable reasons why diversity needs to be more than a short-term fix to a long-term problem. But, from the standpoint of companies looking to justify the investment, there are five key elements that make the case.
Reducing discrimination. People often find they have more in common with people from different communities and backgrounds when exposed to diverse voices, new ideas and unique perspectives Differences are mind-expanding as well, can facilitate acceptance, and reduce discrimination.
Becoming more productive. People have different experiences and different backgrounds that shape how they view a problem. When tackling an issue, different points of view can create new and more impactful solutions.
Adding a fresh perspective. Comparing the challenges and struggles of your life with the priorities and values of others can lead to new comprehension. Actions and behaviors make more sense when people from your team share how something impacts their world, their family, their community.
Evolving into world citizens. Every day, our world is getting more connected. Our communication travels around the world with internet connectivity. If you are exposed to diversity in your life, you're exposed to people, traditions, practices, cultures unlike your own. This exposure means that you will be part of a global society, working with diverse co-workers, and understanding world events and issues through their eyes.
Growing a richer brand and life. When you eat at a restaurant that shares flavors and choices from another culture, your culinary experience grows. The same is true of listening to and embracing people from a variety of cultures, orientations, and beliefs. Diversity broadens your mind, and your ability to explore and understand different cultures. Diverse ideas and practices can inspire and engage.
When you think about it, it’s hard to know when American society stopped being inclusive. The American immigrant experience included the Irish, Italians, Germans, Poles, Jews, Japanese, and Arabs. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for all citizens -- but at a time when only white males who owned property could vote.
American inclusion has made us stronger as a society, and more accepting and diverse as a people. Today people of color are fighting, lobbying, and driving to be part of all aspects of society, treated with equality and embraced for their uniqueness. The journey toward increased inclusivity is a long one, but every step has been a valuable one for companies and brands that lead the way.
We need to embrace new ideas to inspire us. Our diversity is our strength -- and today's focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion can only make us stronger.