Originally posted on the Financial Times
CBI president Lord Karan Bilimoria said at the CBI’s recent diversity and inclusion conference: “…what we’ve seen over the past few decades in Britain is not only that inclusive workplaces are the right thing to do, but that they are also the best thing to do for business.”
When the Cobra beer founder became the business organisation’s president in June 2020, he committed to ensuring that talented people underrepresented in business enjoy the same chances regardless of their makeup, culture and characteristics.
The subject of diversity, especially in tech and innovation, generates hundreds of column inches daily. Most recently, for example, the diversity of US president Joe Biden’s newly-formed teams has been examined for signposting of a deeper transformation or whether it’s merely an illusion of change.
Similar examinations of the world’s biggest tech companies are plentiful Yet, despite widespread recognition of the issue, diversity remains a key challenge for the tech sector, a particular concern given technology’s growing impact on our lives globally.
Only 19% of the tech workforce is female, 30% lower than in all other jobs and only 15% is from diverse ethnic backgrounds, despite the sector expanding at three times the speed of the rest of the UK economy.
But some businesses find it difficult to do the right thing. In a recent mthree survey, we found that only 22% of insurance, financial services, life sciences and pharmaceutical businesses find it easy to recruit diverse talent at all levels.
Last year, the non-profit organisation Tech Talent Charter, which addresses inequality in the sector and aims to help create one that better reflects society, unveiled its second Diversity in Tech benchmarking report.
It highlights the successes of the initiative so far, with women now making up 24% of tech employees at companies signed up to the charter, up from 19% the year before.
But campaigners are now recognising that barriers to entry for other minority groups are still holding the industry back, and efforts are being made towards improvements in ethnicity, age, disability, social inclusion, mental health and neurodiversity too.
So why is diversity best for business as Lord Bilamoria states? Innovation is crucial for any organisation looking to stay ahead of the competition with research by PwC revealing that 83% of executives agree that innovation is important to the success of their company.
Diverse tech teams have a wide range of experiences, helping to generate new ideas about products and practices. As a result, a more inclusive workforce provides the different perspectives a company needs to shape its innovation strategy.
Greater diversity also leads to a more positive company culture, where employees feel included and are happy to share their views. Interestingly, Deloitte has demonstrated that when employees feel included in their workplace their ability to innovate increases by 83%.
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, nonhomogeneous teams perform better than their less diverse counterparts, particularly when it comes to critical thinking. This is thought to be because working with people who are different may challenge our brains to overcome stale ways of thinking and sharpen performance.
Their research has also shown that diverse teams process information more carefully. They are more likely to re-examine facts, scrutinise and remain objective, which leads to better decision making.
Diversity of perspectives is essential for addressing complex challenges, the more there are, the more is learnt, and that greater understanding generates more ideas for solutions.
It’s also key when it comes to attracting the best young talent. By the year 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials, so it will be essential for businesses to ensure they are catering to their expectations. It has been shown that around 47% of millennials actively look for diversity and inclusion when considering potential employers.
Working towards greater diversity in tech benefits all involved, including employees, businesses and society as a whole. This should make it a no-brainer for any forward-thinking company looking to do the right thing, while also boosting their bottom line and their reputation.