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19 Apr. 2016 | Comments (0)

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) specialists are often expected to provide the business case for their work. Although not all D&I results are easily quantified, D&I professionals do not object to being relevant to the mission of their organizations or to leveraging D&I as an enabler of business strategy. Most agree that all elements of the business, including D&I, must deliver results to help achieve the collective goals of the organization.

Business Case Evidence Exists

In response to these demands for concrete impacts, contemporary D&I leaders provide evidence of how their work powerfully furthers the goals of their businesses, with profitable results such as:

  • Attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent for optimal creativity and productivity
  • Growing into underserved markets to yield additional revenue
  • Generating innovations and their resulting competitive advantage
  • Catalyzing successful acquisition integrations that can lift shareholder value

More broadly, business leaders, advocacy organizations, researchers, and other experts in the field have made widespread business cases for D&I. Consider these potent examples of how D&I has been shown to foster stronger economic returns and innovation across an array of firms:

  • Researchers at McKinsey & Co. provided evidence that companies with higher gender and ethnic diversity were more likely to outperform those with lower diversity in regard to total revenue generated, earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and return on equity (ROE) (Why Diversity Matters)
  • Researchers at The Center for Talent Innovation demonstrated how acquired diversity in leaders helps tap into the innovative potential of the mix of inherent diversities in their workforce which contributes to market growth (Innovation, Diversity and Market Growth)
  • Dr. Katherine W. Phillips at Columbia Business School delineated how both expertise diversity and identity diversity contribute to innovation and improve the bottom line (How Diversity Makes Us Smarter)

When The Evidence-Based Business Case is Challenged

Despite evidence of impact on business operations and outcomes, many D&I leaders are still challenged with endless business case demands. Such incessant requests can be reasonably interpreted as a thinly veiled, yet accepted and effective, forms of D&I resistance. Paradoxically, when D&I professionals continually work to make the case for the value of their work, they have less time available to actually do the work that benefits the business.

The Business Case for Homogeneity and Exclusion

D&I experts will continue to make reasonable and convincing business cases for their work. But for those who refuse to be persuaded about the value of D&I, I have a request. In The Value of Difference, Binna Kandola asks why we need a business case to be fair. Let’s take that a step further. Can those who question the value of D&I within business articulate a clear path to a positive return on investment for being unfair? Before investing more resources to develop increasingly exacting business cases which ultimately distract from performing the D&I work that creates meaningful value, show me the business case for homogeneity and exclusion.

What are the breakthrough possibilities when we invest more in doing the work than in defending it? 


View our complete listing of Diversity & Inclusion blogs.

  • About the Author: Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele is a senior fellow providing diversity & inclusion (D&I) expertise for The Conference Board. She serves as program director for both the Diversity & Inclusion Executives and…

    Full Bio | More from Rebekah Steele


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