It may not be on your radar, but even small business owners should consider the positive impact of a fully diversified team. Gender diversity, in particular, is not only a pressing moral and social issue, it also addresses a critical economic challenge. With women accounting for 50 percent of the population, they must be equally employed to balance the global economy. And, according to a 2018 McKinsey study on diversity in the workplace, any company lacking in gender and ethnic diversity may be statistically less likely to achieve above average returns, compared to other companies in the same industry. The McKinsey researchers discovered that in the UK, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift. For every 10 percent increase in gender, diversity earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose by 3.5 percent.

This week I came across a LinkedIn article on this very topic, written by Marc Lore, President and CEO at Walmart.com and Founder and CEO of Jet.com. With much focus over the years on the gender-bias struggle at Walmart, Inc., the viewpoint offered by its online marketplace's leader is a timely one.

"A more diverse group of people at the table results in better decision making and a better understanding of diverse customers," Lore stated in his article. My curiosity piqued, I contacted Lore for further insight on the topic.

"Success in business today is rarely the result of one smart person having all the answers," Lore responded. "Instead, it takes teams of people coming together to identify opportunities and solve complex problems." Lore suggests that you think of business operations as group problem-solving. "Having people on your team who look at things differently because of their diverse life and professional experiences, points of view, and skill sets is just common sense," he says. "In fact, I would say that hiring more women, as well as men and women of all races, ethnicities, cultural, and geographic backgrounds, isn't just the fair thing to do; it's essential to your success."

Remember, your diversity efforts need to exist in hiring practices across the board, including high-level positions. "Keep pushing until you have a diverse group of candidates and hold off interviewing anyone until you can interview a diverse slate, including men and women," Lore suggests.

The benefits of a gender-balanced workplace go far beyond bottom-line growth. To name a few:

·      A diverse team offers easier access to resources, such as sources of credit, wider access and diverse views of the industry, and multiple sources of information that may include organizations run for and by women.

·      As more women join the labor force, diversity will make you more attractive to talented female candidates. Keep in mind that women earned the majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for the 8th straight year and outnumber men in graduate school 135 to 100. There is a large pool of qualified candidates out there.

·      A gender-diverse workforce can also make your company more relatable to an increasingly diverse customer base.

·      Women who score well in emotional intelligence competencies could influence inspirational leadership, introduce different approaches to coaching and mentoring, increase organizational awareness, and have a positive impact on your company's ability to adapt, both internally and in the market.

Please note that neither research, nor this author, are suggesting that women perform better at work than their male counterparts, rather differently. It's that difference that makes a difference. This is about diversity and inclusion, not a take-over of the entire workforce. It's also important to note the impact of diversity across the board, including religious and political beliefs, mental and physical conditions, gender, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, and geographic location.

Published on: Aug 31, 2018