How Diversity and Inclusion Are Like a Bowl of Gumbo

October 15, 2019
Author: Tyran Saffold Jr

Most of us have had a good bowl of gumbo. The right mix of shrimp, crabmeat and andouille sausage will leave your mouth watering for the next batch. Before long, a diverse mix of ingredients and the right time to simmer will produce, quite arguably, the best dish New Orleans has to offer. Like a successful business, with the right ingredients, your business can turn into a sultry dish of gumbo that leaves your bottom-line savory.

Diversity and Inclusion are Key Ingredients to Business Success

First Step: Diversity

When we hear the word "diversity", we all tend to focus on race and culture but there are many flavors to the word. Outside of the laser focus on ethnicity, diversity involves age, gender, city or country or origin and socio-economic background just to name a few.

When hiring for diversity, most companies focus on hiring more women or minorities and ensure they are hitting specific diversity metrics. What companies often fail to recognize is that when they hire for what is likely surface-level diversity, the end goal is something much more important - diversity of thought.

A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows how important diversity can be for a company. Companies with diverse leadership teams have 19 percent higher revenue than those without it. That diversity has a direct correlation to revenue. New products and services generate nearly half of the revenue from companies with more diverse leadership.

A study by McKinsey and Company found that the relationship between diversity and business performance continues to persist. The statistically significant correlation between diverse leadership teams and financial outperformance continues to hold true. As evidence, culturally diverse boards are 43 percent more likely to experience higher profits.

Second Step: Inclusion

The next step is to include the diverse ingredients in the production pot. What good is crabmeat, shrimp and oxtails sitting unused on the counter? Inclusion unlocks the power of diversity and 87 percent of the time, it leads to more effective problem solving and creativity.

During the BCG study, it was found that straight white males feel the highest level of inclusion. In fact, 78 percent of that group said they felt comfortable being themselves at work. From there, 74 percent felt their perspective matters. Of all groups, their numbers are the highest.

With each dimension of diversity, the percentage points dropped. For example, someone with only one dimension of diversity (e.g. white females) saw inclusion percentages drop by 4-6 points. When two dimensions factored, (e.g. black females), the percentage drops by 7 points. At three dimensions, the percentage drops by 15, and so on.

Gathering a strong crop of high performing, diverse individuals is one thing, yet if they don’t feel included, equal and safe, their creative potential will remain dormant. “They won’t feel like they are heard and will be more self-conscious of their own performance,” said Justin Dean on the Women of BCG podcast. He is the Managing Director of BCG and the author of the study. Dean believes that the lack of inclusion will have a domino effect. “Before long, they will (become disengaged) and end up transitioning out of the company.” It takes time to build a culture of diversity and inclusion. For the most part, it won’t happen overnight.

Third Step: Let It Cook

“Building a diverse culture of inclusion has to start at the top. Leadership should highlight diversity and inclusion as equally weighted priorities,” said Dean. “As leadership, the case has to be made that when diversity and inclusion are executed well, it improves the financial results of your company.”

The study outlined ways to foster a culture of inclusion:

  • Give employees the opportunity to contribute their point of view
  • Make sure leaders and peers are cognizant of all points of view before they make a decision
  • Never tolerate behavior inconsistent with an inclusive culture. Share values and codes of conduct publically.

The pot of gumbo won’t cook itself. It is on the company's leaders to gather the ingredients and include them in the production pot. From there, it takes the right hand to stir the ingredients and control the temperature of the meal. When the temperature, or business culture, is at the right degree with a good mix of diversity, let it cook. Soon enough, your meal will turn out with savory perfection and leave everyone clamoring for your recipe.