Our favorite Super Bowl commercial here at VirtualJobShadow.com was the 60-second Microsoft spot celebrating diversity in the NFL featuring San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers. Two weeks ago, Coach Sowers became both the first female and first openly gay coach to make it to the Super Bowl. We loved the commercial for the opportunities it represents to a younger generation. In the commercial, Coach Sowers said she "never saw an opportunity in football because I'd never seen a female coach before," which won't be the case anymore. “I want anyone who sees my story, not just women, to know that anything is possible if you truly believe it and work for it... Your gender, your sexual orientation, your skin color — those are all just a part of what makes you who you are. Those things should never limit how far you can go in this world.”
We weren't the only ones who loved the commercial. Marketing firm System1 found that Microsoft's commercial was the “most emotionally effective" commercial to air during the big game, which will lead to long-term brand growth and awareness for Microsoft. In short: diversity is good for business.
When taking this into consideration, it’s astounding that lack of diversity is still an issue in the American workspace. It might be getting better, but there are still many troubling statistics indicating the American workforce doesn’t reflect America:
- 78% of people without disabilities in America are employed, while only 38% of the nation’s individuals with disabilities have jobs.
- Black men make up only 4% of doctors in our country, despite accounting for 12.7% of the US population.
- Google’s tech staff is only 4.8% African American, and only 1.1% Hispanic.
- This disparity is even bigger in workplace leadership. Think on this: there are more CEOs named David than there are women CEOs in the US.
We could go on and on, but you get it. There’s work to be done, and while we don't have the time and space in this blog to start tackling the reasons why diversity isn’t embraced as heartily as it should be, we have the time and space to discuss the ways diversity in the workplace pays off.
The Benefits of a Diverse Workplace:
- Diverse teams foster innovation - Innovation happens when people are allowed to think freely, everyone feels their voice matters, and you can draw from the biggest pool of experiences, mindsets, and backgrounds. Variety in perspectives leads to more ideas, which leads to increased creativity, which has been shown to increase a company's productivity.
- Diverse teams are better problem solvers - Diverse teams are better problem solvers for the same reasons: more perspectives, increased creativity, and a variety of viewpoints. Studies show teams solve more problems when they’re more diverse. In the world of software, racially diverse teams outperform non-racially diverse teams by 35%; problems get solved faster when it's not the same people from the same backgrounds with the same shared experiences solving them the same way.
- Diversity helps more people give better ideas - Diversity helps organizations create a space where everyone feels comfortable voicing their ideas and opinions. Think about this: if there's a meeting with 15 men and one woman, that woman might have the most innovative idea, but not feel comfortable bringing it up. The Harvard Business Review reports that “people like to fit in, so they are cautious about sticking their necks out. When we have a strong, homogeneous culture, we stifle the natural cognitive diversity in groups through the pressure to conform.”
- Diversity improves your customer service - Understanding your customer base is key to strong customer service. It's hard to fully understand a diverse customer base if everyone comes from the same background. Diverse employees help in understanding cultural nuances, traditions, nonverbal communications, and slang everyone may not be familiar with.
- Diversity elicits positive emotions - People like seeing themselves represented. They like seeing stories they can latch onto, which is why the Microsoft commercial featuring NFL Coach Sowers proved so engaging. A diverse company, with a diverse output, can help keep eliciting positive emotions in customers. A study on "Managing Diversity in Corporate America” says, “by developing a diverse workforce that mirrors its consumer market, a firm can increase its customer base and appeal.”
These are all strong points, but let's face it: we live in a capitalist society. Money talks. The bottom line matters. The good news? Diversity is talking back.
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35 times more likely to be profitable than similar companies who aren’t.
- Firms with more women in the corporate suite are more profitable than those without any.
- A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that companies who have a more diverse management team report 19% higher revenue due to innovation than companies that don’t, sharing that, "this finding is significant for tech companies, start-ups and industries where innovation is the key to growth. Diversity is not just a metric to be strived for; it is actually an integral part of a successful revenue-generating business.”
- Speaking of startups, another study showed that for every dollar of venture capital funding, women-led startups generated 78 cents. For businesses launched by men? The return was 31 cents.
- Richard Warr, a professor of finance at North Carolina State University who coauthored the paper “Do Pro‐Diversity Policies Improve Corporate Innovation?” echoes that Boston Consulting Group study saying, “There’s a business case for diversity. It’s not just about trying to be nice. It’s good for business. It not only helps in terms of perception. It actually produces better outcomes.” He found companies that are marked highly for diversity are more innovative, averaging two additional new products a year than those who aren't.
Embracing diversity also pays in finding quality employees and appealing to the most consumers.
- Finding employees - The US labor force will face a shortage of 20 million workers by 2024 as baby boomers start retiring. Employers will need to start mining as wide a talent pool as possible in order to thrive. They’ll also need to cater to said talent pool. By the year 2025, 75% of the global workforce is going to be made up of millennials. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey shows that 74% of millennials believe an organization is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion. A 2016 survey shows 47% of millennials actively look for a diverse corporate culture when sizing up a future place of employment.
- Appealing to consumers - Embracing diversity means embracing untapped markets. Take for example: people with disabilities. 1 out of 10 consumers is a person with a disability, which the National Organization of Disability asserts represents $200 billion in annual buying power.
What this means for places of work is that at the very least, diversity should be a priority from a business perspective. It also means that employers need to prioritize showcasing their diverse workforce like Microsoft and the 49ers did with Katie Sowers. Little girls need to know they could be football coaches. African American boys need to see themselves represented in the medical field. Individuals with disabilities should have the confidence to apply for any job, because someone showed them there are others like them succeeding. Companies need to show their future employees that everyone has a place in their organization...unless of course, creativity, innovation, productivity, and market share are things they can afford to lose.