As many marketers and corporate leaders know, diversity and inclusion has been one of the hottest topics over the last year. Whether discussing the "Total Market Approach" for marketers or "Diversity & Inclusion" (D&I) for corporate leaders, everyone is buzzing about what is the right approach.
When we look at today's common definition of diversity hiring it's defined as hiring based on merit with special care taken to ensure procedures are free from biases related to a candidate's age, race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.
As leaders, we need to dig a bit deeper and look at how cultural and ethnic diversity contribute to a company's innovation and growth. Most recently, Apple's Chief Diversity Officer, Denise Young Smith, came under fire for stating "being a minority or a woman are not the only criteria for diversity." She went on to create even greater controversy when commenting at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá that "there can be 12 white, blue eyed, blond men in a room and they're going to be diverse too, because they're going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation."
Many found these comments to be quite ignorant and offensive, but not many chose to dig deeper and look at perhaps what she and many of us should be driving at. All too often, companies in their diversity practices view diversity as needing more women, more minorities (African American, Hispanic & Asian), and more from the LGBT community. They in turn limit themselves by not being more inclusive and truly diverse.
Culture & ethnicity contribute to business growth
Culture, ethnicity and language also play a great role in driving business growth, thought and innovation. What can one U.S. Army Veteran, one person from Poland, one person from France and one person from Australia add to the traditional diversity and inclusion recruitment standards and to a team? Could this perhaps be what Ms. Smith was referring to? Could it mean even greater strength and true diversity?
Albeit, those from Eastern and Western Europe along with Australia could be white, they also are contributors and represent the diversity of culture, ethnicity and thought of the globalized world we live in. Let's even do a comparison among Hispanics and Latinos living in North America. Many corporations and marketers fail to even realize the cultural and language diversity that exists within this segment.
Within the Hispanic and Latino communities there are diverse cultures and lest us not forget, different languages. The thought process for a Portuguese speaking Brazilian may be much different than that of a Spanish speaking Cuban, no different than how someone from Poland will have a different business or creative approach than his or her French counterpart, yet both are European.
Why companies should expand their view on D&I
Why should we expand our view on diversity & inclusion? It is very simple, when done right it can expand the success of a company and benefit the culture of a company in many ways. When done properly it can eliminate prejudices through the exposure of diverse cultures, religions, ethnicities, sexual preferences and genders, creating stronger teams and greater profits.
We have to ask ourselves what that dream team can look like and ensure that we are not just checking off the quota boxes. Currently some industries are doing better than others, as we see from Diversity Inc's annual Top 50, one that is still struggling, albeit driving to be better is Ms. Smith's Tech Industry.
At the end of 2014, the Rainbow Coalition began to publicly call them out on it. Tech companies have been working at improving their efforts but still have a way to go, just as many other companies do.
For true diversity and inclusion practices to succeed, buy in must start from the top down. We should not limit D&I to just race, gender, religion and sexual preference, for doing so only limits our possibilities and does not create a truly diverse environment. We must ensure that diversity of culture and language are included. This is also not limited to large companies only, this can be applied to smaller ones as with ours that has multiple cultures and over 20 languages in one office.
Success of diversity starts at the top
Studies and basic logic show that greater cultural and ethnic diversity create greater outcomes. Basic logic shows that if we have multiple ways of thinking ideas will better flourish. Competition and brain storming have provided the world with some of the most advanced technology and some of the greatest success stories, more than we could have ever imagined. True diversity allows a company to better innovate than its competitors and increase its revenue, market share and stock value. All true benefits of truly diverse companies, but as with everything, setting the tone comes from leadership.