How Diversity Powers Some of the Biggest Companies
The increase in public discussions around diversity over the last few years signifies progress. Companies are beginning to grasp just how impactful a diverse workplace can be. It’s not just a “nice-to-have,” it’s an indisputable business decision that drives success for the employees, and ultimately, long-term business growth. It makes sense because as the consumer market continues to diversify (the US will be a minority-majority by 2050), companies need to ensure that internal teams reflect the ever-diversifying audiences and customer base they serve.
Companies that have truly championed diversity into the company vision are already seeing the electric impact across the board, and are reaping the financial benefits of inclusion as well.
There’s proof in the reports (or how I like to say, receipts) of the electric impact on the profitability of companies that truly value diversity. According to McKinsey’s 2018 report, Delivery through Diversity, ethnic/culturally diverse companies are 33% more profitable than companies that lack ethnic/cultural diversity. Companies with gender-diverse executive teams are 21% more profitable than companies with male-dominated executive teams.
I can drop profitability stats all day, but it’s not all about the $$$. It’s important to keep in mind that all in all: diversity will have a positive impact on your culture and your employees. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, companies will foster a culture that’s welcoming to every single one of their employees. Employees will feel respected and valued, which has a huge impact on not just their creativity, but also their mental health and well-being. We spend ⅓ of our lives at work so that ⅓ of your life should be spent in a diverse and inclusive workplace.
If you’re looking for guidance on how to implement a diversity and inclusion initiative at your own company, there’s a wide range of companies, big and small, that have implemented practices to create a move diverse culture to be modeled.
Accenture, a global company with more than 450,000 employees, is setting the standard for its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Named #1 on the 2019 Refinitiv Global Diversity & Inclusion Index, Accenture recognizes that a culture of equality drives innovation. Accenture’s CEO, Julie Sweet (one of only a few female CEOs in the corporate world), spoke with Fortune about Accenture’s decision to make diversity and inclusion a priority and how Accenture needed to be an innovation-led company.
And that is exactly what Accenture did. A few of the achievements that landed them the top spot include making it a business priority to be a gender-balanced workforce by 2025, continuously publishing annual thought leadership reports on workplace equality, and creating a diverse board of directors. Despite its multitude of accomplishments, Accenture acknowledges there’s still far more progress to be made. The company continues to publicly share its workplace demographics, believing that transparency is essential to make progress.
In the When She Rises, We All Rise2018 report, Accenture highlights three categories that have helped develop its “equality first” culture:
Bold Leadership (diverse leadership that sets D&I targets)
Empowering Environment (freedom to be creative)
Comprehensive Action (policies and practices)
These categories foster a workplace where innovation mindsets are six times higher. Employees also see fewer barriers, allowing them to be as innovative as possible, with little worry of failure. Accenture believes that a diverse and inclusive culture enables bold ideas to thrive, and these ideas power the organization’s success.
Accenture is just one example of how diversity and inclusion is consistently linked to innovation. According to Boston Consultant Group’s study, How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Innovation, companies with above-average diversity in their leadership teams report 19% higher innovation revenue.
And that type of quick adaptation will be critical for companies to power through the 21st century as both millennials and gen Z have expressed how important diversity is for them.
AT&T, named #1 on Diversity Inc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, has embraced the power of diversity and inclusion for decades. Its award-winning D&I initiatives are worldwide, spanning across the entire company of more than 250,000 employees. And those initiatives are repeatedly making an impact: according to AT&T’s 2018 Diversity & Inclusion Annual Report, the US management teams are currently 37% female and almost 44% people of color. The people at AT&T believe that in order to connect with their global customer base, employees must reflect the same cultures and backgrounds as their global customers.
AT&T’s D&I annual report breaks its initiative into four pillars: employees, communities, customers, and suppliers. Here are just a few of the many diversity commitments and achievements within those pillars.
Over 58 ERGs (disability, LGBTQ+, Hispanic/Latinx, etc.)
Days of Dialogues, encouraging employees to emerge themselves into different perspectives in order to better understand one another.
[Believe Initiatives](https://about.att.com/pages/believes) which take place in different cities like Chicago and Dallas that help make a positive change in local communities by helping the underserved.
[Dream in Black](https://dreaminblack.att.com/), a platform that celebrates and empowers black culture.
[Supplier Diversity Program](https://about.att.com/story/2019/supplier_diversity_program.html), initially launched in 1968, engaging with diverse businesses and purchasing their products and services.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is a strong advocate for diversity, at one point even delivering a powerful speech on race relations that quickly went viral. Stephenson is directly involved with AT&T’s diversity initiatives, an example that if a company is truly committed to improving diversity and inclusion, it must start from the top.
I know what you’re thinking, Accenture and AT&T are HUGE companies. But you don’t have to be a huge company to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives that make a difference. Smaller companies are also setting examples.
Pinterest, the social media platform we all go to for design inspiration and healthy recipes, began its diversity conversation in 2013, when one of their software engineers at the time, Tracy Chou, called out the lack of diversity in the tech industry. In a 2013 Medium article, Tracy encouraged others to call out the number of women in engineering roles within their own companies.
She started by highlighting that Pinterest’s engineering department at the time consisted of 89 people, and only 11 of them were women. In 2015, co-founder Evan Sharp published Pinterest’s plan on how they plan to break the stigma and improve upon the lack of diversity in the tech industry.
The Pinterest plan included publishing its current diversity standing and setting public hiring goals, which would hold them accountable to the commitment. Pinterest also planned on increasing the hire rate of employees from underrepresented backgrounds and planned to have every employee participate in unconscious bias training. Three years after publishing the plan, Pinterest achieved a few goals, including increasing the hiring rate of people from underrepresented backgrounds to 14% and increasing the hiring rate of full-time women engineers to 25%.
Pinterest also hired Candice Morgan as head of inclusion and diversity in 2016 to help ensure the organization met its goals. Here are a few other initiatives at Pinterest that have allowed the tech powerhouse to make progress in diversity and inclusion:
Making use of the Rooney Rule, a rule originating from the NFL that requires considering at least one woman and one underrepresented minority interview for every leadership position.
An apprenticeship program to attract talent from non-traditional backgrounds.
Setting the standard for company policies for new parents with four months off, regardless of gender, and paying for adoption and surrogacy costs.
This article wouldn’t be complete without me talking about the diversity and inclusion journey here at PMG. I started at PMG back in February 2016. It was my first job out of college as a new graphic designer, and one of the things that attracted me the most to PMG was the Best Places to Work award featured on the website (which we have won consistently every year since *humblebrag*).
As soon as I was hired, I discovered why we’d received that award so consistently. PMG’s company culture is a big part of who we are and why we stand out among other agencies. But a critical part of that culture is that we’ve always recognized the room for improvement. We know our company culture is unique and great, but how, on a tactical level, do we make sure that everyone — from employees to prospective talent to clients and partners — feel like they can truly be their authentic selves at PMG? In answering that question, we recognized that while conversations around diversity and inclusion can be uncomfortable, they are also incredibly important. Understanding where you are is the first step to developing a path to where you want to go. And with a mantra-like Digital Made for Humans™, we knew how important it was to value the principle that people come first, no matter their size, shape, color, or creed.
The first step in strengthening our commitment to diversity and inclusion was the founding of the WeCollective in 2017. An internal group at PMG created by a collection of incredible women, the WeCollective’s mission is to develop a standard of equality for every single employee at PMG; to inspire and empower women to be confident in their own pursuit of greatness.
How does it work? Through workshops, learning and development opportunities, speaker events, and community outreach. Since its founding, the WeCollective has garnered 100 members at PMG (over half of the agency) and continues to live out its mission statement by empowering and inspiring people in their careers while also shaping our company culture for the better. Here are just a few of our accomplishments and how we got there:
Became a founding agency member for the 3% Movement’s Pledge for Pay Equity.
By working with our People Ops department, we increased maternity and paternity leave and implemented a flexible phase-back approach for new moms returning to the workplace.
More women hired or promoted to senior leadership roles.
Hosted an agency-wide Speaker Series in 2018, which brought in a diverse group of industry and community leaders to talk about unconscious bias.
Presented at UTA’s 2018 Diversity & Inclusion Symposium and continue to share educational information at all-company meetings.
Partnered with Girls Inc. of Tarrant County in 2019 to cultivate greater community engagement. We participated in their annual College Shower and hosted a Summer Camp Day in our office.
Distributed our 100+ members into satellite groups across our offices to participate in Lean In inspired workshops every few months on topics like work/life balance, receiving feedback, and taming adrenaline.
Building off the success of WeCollective, we decided to launch an employee-led Diversity & Inclusion Group called DIG in 2018. While WeCollective gave us momentum and plenty of inspiration to draw from, we struggled with just HOW and WHERE to start, especially given the sensitivity and how many people are uncomfortable speaking on topics of diversity and inclusion. We knew there was a lot of work to do, but we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.
We began by reaching out to well-established diversity & inclusion groups to gather valuable information from that we could implement at the onset. We joined the Texas Diversity Council, and by attending their annual National Diversity & Leadership Conference, we’ve implemented an awareness and impact goal structure based on their framework. We acknowledged there were some things we can do NOW to make an impact and that there were goals that were going to take some dedication and time.
Our awareness goals focus on short-term initiatives like volunteering, events, and educational presentations, while our impact goals are long-term initiatives that would be the framework and foundation of our group with things like improving company policies, recruiting efforts, gathering internal data, and hosting trainings, to name a few.
While we acknowledge that there is still plenty of work to do, here are a few of the steps we’ve taken to create a more diverse and inclusive PMG.
Attended the National Diversity & Leadership Conference to gather information on how we can continue to improve.
During Mental Health Awareness Month, we shared valuable information and resources in our all-company Slack channel every week. In addition to that, we held a healing origami class and brought in a mental health professional to speak.
We celebrated Pride Month with a presentation on the LGBTQ+ terminology and how to market to the LGBTQ+. We also volunteered at Dallas Pride 2019.
Gathered company data on diversity, which helps us acknowledge pain points and how we can improve.
Created a diversity and inclusion policy for our employee handbook that is available to every new hire.
Worked with our People Ops team on recruiting. We ensured that we were recruiting from diverse universities and also posting our jobs on more diverse job boards.
Provided company-wide interview training that included unconscious bias training.
While the last two years of progress is great, our goal is to continue to improve upon our commitments to create a welcoming culture that promotes diversity & inclusion.
Despite all the effort by thousands of companies to establish diversity & inclusion initiatives and improve diversity, companies like AT&T and Accenture agree that there is progress to be made. Particularly in the advancement of women of color in the workplace that has been slow with women of color being the most underrepresented group of all. According to a 2018 report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company titled Women in the Workplace, black women receive the least amount of support from their managers with reduced access to senior leaders.
On the topic of making workplaces more inclusive, there is still much to be done as 46% of LGBTQ+ workers still remain closeted at work despite an increase in LGBTQ+ initiatives across organizations.
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For those just starting on their D&I journey, the first step is to have a conversation with internal teams, whether that be people operations (human resources), leadership, or your manager. Remind yourself that change won’t happen overnight, but as long as the conversations continue and there is a goal structure behind those conversations, progress will be made. Real change takes persistence, and improving the workplace requires every single employee doing their part.