Bethany Coates is founder and CEO of BreakLine Education and a former assistant dean at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
There are plenty of moral, ethical and humanist reasons to create diverse workforces that incorporate a variety of races, genders, ages, physical abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds. But there are also profound business reasons to think about diversity and inclusion as important levers for continued growth and enduring market success.
Many of us have experienced homogenous organizations that prioritize an arbitrary “in crowd” informed by demographics. It’s corrosive, and can instill fear in everyone that someday they could be the ones who no longer fit in.
In contrast, diverse workplaces – which reflect the composition of the country in which they operate – can offer the opposite team experience and are closely correlated with better business performance: faster revenue growth, higher profitability and stronger employee engagement. As an entrepreneur and founder, building a diverse team should therefore be part of your plan to do everything you can to drive those better outcomes, and fulfill your fiduciary responsibilities to your company’s stakeholders.
Diverse teams also bring a wider range of perspectives to the table that directly enable creative problem-solving and opportunity creation. At BreakLine Education, for example, we help outstanding people from under-selected backgrounds — veterans, women, people of color and people with disabilities — accelerate into their next careers, particularly in tech. Our primary responsibility is to enable members of our community to land their dream roles with our partners.
I will give you a specific example of how having a diverse team ourselves enabled us to continue getting after this mission, even in an industry beset by hundreds of thousands of layoffs over the last year: Our head of sales is an Air Force veteran tasked with building new partnerships to expand the employment footprint available to our candidates. Despite the broader macroeconomic environment, he identified a new opportunity for us in a growing subsector— defense technology. Given his military experience, focusing on deftech was an obvious move to him. He called his shot well before I saw it, and our deftech practice is expanding quickly. That’s just one of many powerful examples of the business value of diversity that we see every single day.
The June 2023 Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action within higher education admissions decisions creates an additional opportunity for the private sector to play more of a leading role in this area. With colleges and universities likely unable to graduate as many promising young people from diverse backgrounds for employers, it becomes even more incumbent upon corporate America to ensure our teams represent the society we live in and to find and recognize excellence through less familiar channels.
This jumpGuide will provide strategies for creating and retaining a diverse workforce that gives your company its best chance for lasting market leadership.