Diversity and big business



Hot on the heels of a memo that burst out of Google’s idyllic Silicon Valley offices, people are once again talking about workplace diversity. The issue at hand, according to a male software engineer, all boils down to the observation that there are fewer women in the tech industry because of biological differences.

The thing is, the topic of diversity is difficult to approach – not for any biological reason – but because it could branch out to the issue of the pay gap between men and women who work in exactly the same field and being on exactly the same track. Diversity could also be in the form of having more diverse cultures in the business environment. Diversity plays a huge role in a business setting, from cultures to employees, and much else besides.

A study in gender diversity at The Peterson Institute for International Economics concluded that companies with 30 percent female executives can get as much as 6 percentage points more in profits. The study was based on findings from about 22,000 publicly traded companies in 91 countries across the world.

This, in turn, brings about increased skill diversity, contributing to a better pool of people within the ranks and helping to retain and grow talent already present. Something like this is easier to explore for smaller businesses or startups where the general mindset is more “what you bring to the table” than what your gender or race is.

For these companies, employing a diverse pool of people is more likely to have a positive effect on their bottom lines – the most tangible benefits of which include having a much broader employee base to draw ideas from. A branch of such a company located away from the base offices can be staffed with people who understand the local target market and help that particular brand grow in the right direction.

The Multicultural Advantage states that a diverse workplace offers far more solutions to a problem, as well as adaptability beyond the norm. This flexibility in an office environment allows employees to take on views that might never be considered in a less diverse environment.

The largest issue that a diverse workplace might face is having to consider the variation in culture – after all, what’s okay for one person might not be okay for another, therefore necessitating better communication and understanding among everyone. A University of Florida study on office multiculturalism suggests that it would be in a company’s best interests to foster an atmosphere of clarity and to task managers with understanding the different cultural backgrounds that exist in the environment to help smooth over any possible misunderstanding.

The floodgates are open, and in the microcosm of business, growth can be achieved if people are willing to look at other points of view. It takes openness and looking beyond the static understanding of what makes a “good” environment in a workplace. It may also take some substantial investment, such as spending time and resources to teach employees a new language, or providing better accessibility to employees who have different levels of abilities and disabilities.

It isn’t to say that the engineer who opened discussion of diversity and enforcing stereotypes is in any way correct, but rather that if businesses want to flourish, they’re going to want to be more than diverse for diversity’s sake.

Miggy Castañeda writes about personal finance for MoneyMax.ph, a financial comparison website aiming to help Filipinos save money through diligent comparisons of financial products.



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