filed under Anecdotes and Stories, Diversity Leadership, Key Concepts & Conversations.

Someone just asked me why a diverse workforce is important to economic development.

This person was planning remarks for a panel presentation. She had presumed the importance of diversity and asked, why is this so?

Despite diversity’s increasingly visible place in U. S. and international business practices, this type of question still arises, and often. Why does diversity matter?

The Business Case for Diversity

The answer is in  “The Business Case for Diversity”.  Over the last 45 years, pretty darn clear evidence has emerged: good diversity practices positively impact the bottom line.

Companies with good diversity practices attract top talent and utilize that talent more efficiently.  They increase productivity, creativity, innovation and effective problem-solving while reducing costs associated with turnover, absenteeism, complaints and lawsuits. They improve market understanding, building positive customer relationships and opportunities in new markets.  Companies with good diversity practices consistently outperform the stock market, in all types of economic conditions – by as much as 23.5%.

Benefits of diversity and inclusion extend far beyond the private sector.  For example, branches of the U.S. military have found that diversity skills are a factor in building better soldiers.  Good diversity practices are associated with reduced achievement gaps in schools.  Diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams.

For a real time example…

Look no further than the months-long effort to rescue the 33 trapped Chilean miners. Teams of diverse professionals including engineers, psychologists, drilling and equipment specialists, communication specialists, doctors, physical trainers, miners and government officials have come from many different nations. They speak different languages. They have different attributes, backgrounds, cultures and ideas. But they have united behind a clear mission.

A couple of days ago, reports came out that two of these team members, the Chilean Navy and NASA, had compared “protocols” – lists of systems and safety checks for the rescue capsule and related equipment.  NASA’s name alone is backed by decades of well-known technical achievement.  The Chilean Navy is a highly accomplished force in its own right but perhaps less recognized as such by anyone unfamiliar with Chile’s 4,000 miles of exquisite coast; a coast of extreme geology, severe weather and treacherous conditions.  The Chilean Navy compared protocols with NASA and found 95% overlap.

While 95% overlap is impressive, the other 5% of each list is the diversity. By bringing the different perspectives and backgrounds of these two organizations together under a shared mission, Chilean officials created a protocol to achieve 105% assurance during tests of the rescue capsule and equipment.

Chilean officials have included diverse perspectives, backgrounds and ideas in every phase of the rescue operation. This team broke through the hardest rock on earth and helped 33 miners survive longer underground – and further underground – than anyone, ever.  And today, we have seen the best possible results unfold. At this writing and after 69 days, the 12th miner successfully emerged from the earth.

Back to economic development:  We have hit hard rock in these economic times. Positive diversity practices – valuing differences, inviting differences to the table and utilizing those differences in service of a clear and shared mission – are essential if we are to break through to new markets, new practices and new paradigms.

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