How Businesses Benefit from Diversity
Posted on 24th May 2017 in Business
Written by Freya Hughes
Diversity in business has been proven to increase revenue. Be it female board members or developing a ‘melting pot’ of cultural backgrounds within the workplace, employing and promoting underrepresented portions of society brings new ideas to the table.
A few days ago, I got chatting to a journalist about diversity in the workplace. While our chat was a short one, it prompted me to think about the issue and why some business owners might not hire someone because of their gender, race or age.
I think diversity can teach us more than a thing or two. Having a broad range of people working for you is going to benefit your business. Just think – someone you may not have chosen to employ previously might be connected to someone who would invest in your idea. To ignore applicants because of age, gender, background or anything else is going to damage your business. I saw a recent example where The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) teamed up with FORTUNE Knowledge Group (FKG) to investigate the implication of male-dominated workplaces. Their findings conclude just 4.2% of CEOs in America’s largest 500 companies are women. We know there’s a gender gap in business and pay, but we might be less knowledgeable about how that actually affects the running of businesses across the world. FKG affirms: “There is a positive correlation between a firm’s profitability and revenue growth and the number of women in senior leadership roles.” Diversifying your team will make a difference.
A recent example of this in practice is President of France Emmanuel Macron‘s victory in the election this year. His cabinet sees a 50:50 split of male to female MPs. He’s become something of a trailblazer in politics with his way of operating. The youngest ever French leader, his approach suggests a shift in the way younger leaders conduct themselves, which is a really positive thing to see. He’s selected cabinet members from the right, centre and left, showing the world that operating with a diverse team gives strong, broad representation for his population.
This is backed up with the fact that diversity in the workplace – even if it’s as simple of broadening the age range – will bring in more creativity and fresh perspectives.
So, Macron’s cabinet shows that not all leading groups need to follow the traditional route of older men. If you want positive change, you need to look at younger applicants, women, people from different ethnic backgrounds. You’ll find your business develops as your team are coming up with fresh ideas, looking at things from different perspectives and connecting to your clients/customers more deeply. If you think about how these connections will turn into sales, you should now be seeing dollar signs in front of your eyes.
Sadly, though, even last year’s figures prove the business world is lagging behind. In 2016, $94 billion was invested in companies that had only male founders. while $10 billion went to businesses with at least one female founder. Moreover, 17% of VC-funded startups are led by women, and this figure hasn’t changed for the last five years. But it’s not all bad. There have been initiatives set up privately and publicly which are designed to give female entrepreneurs a leg up in the business world by giving them specific grants to increase their chances of making a success of their ventures.
Diversity in real-time
My Co-Founder, Hannah and I, and some of our Senior Management team are female although the majority of our team are male. But, when we hire, and we’ve done quite a bit of that in the past 2.5 years, we don’t think about gender, age or background – we think about A) Are they the best equipped to get the job done? and B) Will they fit in with the rest of the team? This is really importance to us and it has meant that, for certain roles, we’ve had a “pub test” where we introduce new candidates to the team in advance of offering them a position.
At FUTRLI, as you expect, developers make up more than half of our team and, in a sense, we’ve struggled to “be diverse”. When you do some investigation, there’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that young girls are turned off engineering jobs as early as 13 years old, because of what they’ve gathered from society. In 2.5 years, we’ve only had a handful of CVs for developers who are over XX or female for example. We’ve just hired our first female Developer, Mikki, who joined FUTRLI as a Quality Assurance Developer. I asked her for her thoughts about working in such a male-dominated environment:
“I’ve worked mainly with male testers and developers in the last five years. In the tech industry, everyone is passionate about their jobs and appreciate someone for the work they do. As with any workplace, you won’t always get along with everyone, but you can’t let that get in the way! I’ve worked with only a few women in tester and developer roles, they absolutely match the men in terms of passion and dedication.”
Debate and disagreement is normal and usually makes more exciting ideas come to light – we encourage it because it means people are passionate and they care about producing work to the best of their ability. This helps our team (and business) to start thinking outside the box – if you hire the same type of person, you’re not challenging your thinking and this can impinge innovation. A diverse workforce helps a diverse customer base, meet its objectives. Don’t forget, you can easily play with your hiring assumptions in your FUTRLI forecast and, when hires are made, review how this has helped the business to achieve its goals.
Attending conferences, awards, networking events and any other meet up groups is a great way of expanding your professional network. There are countless events for women in business throughout the year, and even more networking groups. Sites like The Athena Network and the Women In Business Network in the UK, countless US sites, and even more across the globe are designed to bring women together.
Mentoring programmes are available too, and have proven to be incredibly successful for both parties. Acting as support for younger entrepreneurs, successful business women guide their counterparts through every stage of setting up, from winning investment from like-minded investors to considering expansion. The Guardian compiled three case studies which tell you more here.
So we know that revenue has a great chance of being increased with a diverse team. But you will need to know where you stand against other businesses. The Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark measures age, gender and race workplace diversity. It works as a management tool to help businesses evaluate their performance, including peer comparisons, and inform evidence-based decision-making around workplace diversity.
Speaking to The Huffington Post, ‘Queen of Shops’ Mary Portas (who was also brilliant at this year’s London QuickBooks Connect event) advises: “Be every bit a woman. I really, really do believe that the future of being successful in work is going to be about embracing all of those wonderful things women bring – empathy, collaboration, flexibility – all those wonderful feminine traits we’ve suppressed for too long.”