The business case for diversity

Nancy Anderson
Posted by

Employers of all sizes, in all industries, are paying more attention to diversity than ever before – they’re trying to make sure that their companies are attracting a diverse talent pool, ensure that people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds can feel comfortable and attain success, and make sure that their companies are able to connect with culturally diverse customers.

Diversity increasingly is a matter not just for the Human Resources department or something that is talked about during job interviews. It’s becoming central to the overall mission of the company. If you want to get ahead in your career, if you want to find companies that are great places to work, having an understanding of workplace diversity and being conversant in the latest trends will be helpful to you in your next job interview (or at your next job).

Why are companies interested in diversity and creating a more inclusive environment?

There are many trends pointing toward a more diverse workforce for the American economy. These statistics cited by show that the demographics of the American workplace are changing fast:

• By 2016, 70 percent of the workforce will be women and/or Black, Latino or Asian.
• By 2043, white people will be less than 50 percent of all Americans.
• Between 1990 and 2004, Asians and Latinos had an 80 percent increase in bachelor's and advanced degrees received, Blacks increased receipt of advanced degrees by more than 30 percent and bachelor's degrees by 15 percent, and Whites experienced a decline in all degrees received.
• The annual growth of the American workforce is expected to start declining in the next decade. This means that employers will be competing for a shrinking pool of talent – especially if they need skilled and highly educated workers.

All of these trends demonstrate that companies need to know how to relate to, recruit and retain workers from all kinds of diverse cultural backgrounds – especially those communities that historically have been discriminated against or underrepresented in the workforce. If companies don’t have diverse leadership, if companies have very few culturally diverse employees, if the top leaders of a company are all white and male, then it will likely be difficult for those companies to attract workers in the future. Companies need to make a concerted effort to create a culture that values diversity, that recognizes the contributions of all kinds of employees, and that “walks the walk” as well as “talks the talk.”

Diversity is not just “black and white”
There are diversity issues that go beyond ethnicity and culture; building a more diverse workplace also includes being supportive of gay rights (many diversity-friendly companies have policies to provide full benefits for same-sex domestic partners, as well as for married couples), hiring people with disabilities (who are one of the groups in the U.S. that is most likely to be unemployed or underemployed), and tapping the unique strengths of all of the various generations in the workplace (from Traditionalists to Baby Boomers to Gen X to Millenials).

Companies need to understand how to communicate and build relationships with all kinds of customers. Part of this is ensuring that the workplace represents the diversity of the communities that the company serves. An understanding of diversity should be reflected in every company's marketing, websites, advertising. Companies that don't "get" diversity will be missing out on opportunities for years to come. Companies that understand the value of diversity will be a destination of choice for talented people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds – and for their customers.

Ben Gran is a freelance writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. He is an award-winning blogger who loves to write about careers and the future of work.
Ready to diversify your job search? Check out our engineering job listings at

Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch