Promoting Equality Respecting Diversity Embedding Inclusion

Ethnic diversity is a valuable commodity

by Rohini Sharma Joshi FCIH

Edinburgh, 28 August 2018

Recent research by McKinsey management consultants, Delivering Through Diversity, reported that “gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, continue to be correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide.” The report also showed that companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more profitable.

For many of us, who work every day in an ethnically diverse team, it’s obvious that our different ethnicities, cultures and languages bring value to the projects we’re working on. We broaden the pool of experience, add alternative perspectives, contribute new insights and share our expertise in extended areas of knowledge.

Diversity is not just nice thing to do - it’s a valuable commodity.

But I think those of us working in diverse teams are ahead of the game in our thinking and understanding.

We have to remember that there are still lots of places and many meeting rooms where diversity is genuinely understood as being nice to those from different backgrounds. It’s certainly not an expression of outright racism or discrimination but rather an unconscious bias against those who are different. There’s an underlying assumption that people from different backgrounds, who perhaps don’t have English as a first language, will not have the same understanding of whatever the issues being discussed might be, to make a valid contribution.

And they are even further away from recognising that ethnicity is actually an additional benefit, a valuable commodity. We need to help the wider community recognise and appreciate that people from different backgrounds have the same portfolio of professional skills and expertise as their colleagues, but that they have something else to share too.

Having fluency in multiple languages for example, different world views, different learning journeys and different life experiences can give a wider perspective to an issue. These are often unexploited assets within a team that’s shaping policy or developing strategies for Scotland’s increasingly multi-cultural society.

Let’s make sure that people from different backgrounds are given the space and opportunity to make their valuable contributions to the meetings they are attending and the environments they are working in, so that they can rightly help shape the society they call home.

And just think how much more effective we could be if everyone made a point of really valuing our differences.

If McKinsey is right, perhaps we could be 33% more effective.