The idea of workplace diversity gets a lot of support while, too often, the actual actions needed to create a diverse workforce do not. Why? Because of a question people may feel nervous about asking: Why are we doing this?
It’s understandable that people would be hesitant about asking this. It could easily be misunderstood as an objection to diversity when in fact it is a question that can and should be asked about any initiative, product, or service that grows within a business.
There are a lot of assumptions about diversity that actually obscure the answer to the question of why it matters. Those assumptions — and they aren’t incorrect — focus on issues of fairness and equality. Those are, in business terms, “soft issues” and people don’t always see them as directly bearing on the bottom-line needs of business. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our strategy at Intel’s Data Center Group is embracing diversity and inclusion and using those diverse viewpoints to drive business success. That is one of the ways we are going meet our goal of growing 15% every year through the end of the decade and expanding our product portfolio beyond traditional servers. Achieving that goal requires us to fully leverage every resource we have, including the diversity of perspectives in our employees.
In order to make products that our customers want to buy, we have to know who our customers are, how they think, and what they need. Those customers are a different group than they used to be; an increasingly diverse group. For one thing, women now represent almost 20% of Fortune 250 CIOs — up from 10% just a few years ago. A more diverse customer base requires more diversity on our end, because understanding our customers is essential to delivering great products. Also, greater diversity has been shown to increase sales and share price performance, making it a real bottom-line issue.
One of the reasons diversity helps businesses so much is because it brings so many new and different viewpoints to the table. A diverse team can reach out for possibilities to solve problems in ways that could be more effective than ways that have been used in the past. Or solving entirely new problems they’ve never been able to solve before. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Inclusive teams actively seek out different points of view and leverage them. So, that’s a benefit for the team, and ultimately for the business.
Diversity isn’t just about who you hire. In order to maximize the value of all employees, companies have to be inclusive. That means creating an environment that appreciates all employees for what they can bring to the table. Diversity is a natural outgrowth of that. The start of inclusivity can be as simple as being aware of who is speaking in meetings and who is being listened to. If you don’t feel someone is being heard, be their supporter. At Intel we call it being their “wingman;” someone who helps others’ voices be heard and valued.
When inclusion happens, an individual can bring their whole self to the table. When they’re valued for their authentic self, they don’t have to hide or leave any part of their creativity or passion at home. Their confidence and energy are brought to the table, adding fuel to the discussion, helping to solve the latest problem. And that’s an incredibly powerful tool — for the individual, for the team, and ultimately for the company’s bottom line.