Why Diversity Should Be a Business Goal

Parity isn’t just the right thing to do: it’s good for the bottom line. In fact, as much as $28 trillion could be added to the annual global GDP by 2025 if we reach full gender equality, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report.
When you add women to any equation, there is a return on equality. Leaders in The FQ Lounge, Home of Equality @ Davos shared on-the-ground insights about the progress we’ve made so far, and what we need to do to move forward. You can watch the full discussion here with Linda Yaccarino, Chairman of Advertising and Client Partnerships at NBC Universal Careers, Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture North America, and Stephanie Ruhle, Anchor at MSNBC Live and Correspondent at NBC News.   Here are some key takeaways:

Stephanie Ruhle of NBC News, Julie Sweet of Accenture and Linda Yaccarino of NBCUniversal in The FQ Lounge @ Davos.

Stephanie Ruhle of NBC News, Julie Sweet of Accenture and Linda Yaccarino of NBCUniversal in The FQ Lounge @ Davos.

The path to female representation was blazed by brave women who came before us.

Stephanie observed that, for years, conversations about the value of women in the workplace lived in an “HR vertical of girls’ parties.” But now, something transformative is happening: gender equality has become a business imperative. She asked Julie and Linda what changed.
The path to female representation didn’t happen overnight. “We stand on the shoulders of the many women before us who have proven the value of women in the workplace,” says Julie. “This isn’t just about current women in the workplace: it’s also about women pioneers who demonstrated the business value of women.”
We need both men and women to advance change and to create the companies (and the world) we want to see. Linda shared an experience when she came to MSNBC seven years ago, it was in the midst of the Comcast acquisition. She had a vision of bringing a decentralized company together to focus on the future. The only ways to accomplish this goal? Populate teams that had a diversity of experience, a diversity of vision, and a diversity of cultural background. “The people on the teams that forced open the aperture of our company, that drove openness of thought, were women – they were the doers,” says Linda.  

Diversity isn’t just about meeting quotas. It’s about better business.

Change will happen when we create metrics for accountability and treat it just like any other business objective.
Julie explained that, if a company asks itself: ‘Is your revenue target as important as your target around women?’ they’re asking the wrong question. “The right question is this: how do you set up your company for success, and what does success look like today?” says Julie. Five years ago, Accenture decided to transform its business to focus on digital and cloud security. The leadership team built a strategy to get there — and that’s when they changed their work culture and their commitment to diversity.
Women make up half the population, so having a company team that reflects that will make you better able to serve your customers. Linda explained that, with the maturation of technology, NBC has transformed from a B-to-B business to a B-to-C business. When this happened, it “became pretty clear pretty quickly that we needed to have a company that actually looked like the audiences we were trying to reach every day. Ninety percent of the U.S. population interacts with some piece of our content every single day. So how can our workforce look like our consumer base — and how can we form long-term relationships with them?”

It’s time to shift our focus from diversity to inclusion.

Julie noted how key this realization has been to company culture at Accenture. She explained: “For people to truly progress — and feel good about their place in a company — we need to focus on inclusion.” Last year, Accenture conducted a study that found that, with a culture of equality, both men and women advance faster and companies have higher retention rates.
Linda reflected that, if we think about “…inclusion in isolation, we continue to bucket people by commonalities.” She connected this to the boardroom and encouraged leaders to step back and explore what types of skills they want from women board members. Those skills might look different than their male counterparts,  but “when you have a lot of different people at the table, you get the right answers.”

We need to revisit what the corporate structure looks like.

Stephanie noted that, historically, jobs have been structured in a way so that the person who holds the position is only responsible for their job — and that there is a separate person in their life who took care of everything else.
It’s time to rethink what we want work to look like. Julie explained that “at Accenture, we are committed to helping people be successful at work and at home. As a company, it’s really important to think about the culture that allows you to to do this. That’s important not just for diversity; it’s how we want to be as a company and as a world today.”
Linda referred to a staggering statistic she read in Drop the Ball. For example, when women read a job description, and there are 10 qualifications listed, women generally won’t apply unless they have, say, nine of them. Men, on the other hand, generally need just three to feel prepared to apply. She reflected that, for women, “it’s a self-imposed restriction. But it also serves as a call to raise your hand, because you will help to accelerate change.”
Inclusion should be part of a business plan, not a side project. By understanding the business case for diversity and inclusion, organizations can drive equality and improve their bottom line.
You can read more about what happened in The FQ Lounge @ Davos here, and see the full agenda of discussions and speakers here.