The Benefit of diversity at work

Rossella Forle’

Gender diversity is vital to any workplace. Not just because it's a laudable goal; it simply makes business sense. Men and women have different viewpoints, ideas, and market insights, which enables better problem solving.

Efforts to achieve equality benefit us all. Diversity leads to stronger business results, as numerous studies have shown. When the most talented people can rise to the top, regardless of what they look like and where they’re from, we all end up winning


Organisations that embrace a gender diverse workforce and create systems that support it can reap numerous benefits.

Increased adaptability

A team of people from different backgrounds can provide a greater variety of perspectives and solutions to problems. (Researchers found that groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups with high ability.)

Better customer service

Diverse people bring a greater range of skills and abilities along with empathy for different cultures, which can better meet the needs of customers around the world.

Greater innovation. 

Organisations with a diverse leadership  tend to perform better at this. A Forbes study has identified workforce diversity and inclusion as a key driver of internal innovation and business growth.

A road map to gender equality

What companies should do

A gender-diverse and engaged business units outperform those that are less diverse and less engaged.

Managers not only need to increase gender diversity in business units but also create workplaces that engage employees. Open, trusting, and supportive relationships among coworkers and supervisors unleash the power of diversity by enabling employees to turn their differences in thought, behavior, skills, knowledge, and talent into innovative ideas and practices that can drive a company forward.

Secondly, to achieve the real benefits that diversity can bring, leaders and managers must look carefully at the gender balance in specific business units when designing and implementing a strategy to increase diversity. A blanket policy designed to increase overall gender diversity at a company, for example, is unlikely to achieve the desired results or to increase financial performance.

Making gender diversity a business priority can lead to financial benefits and help a company realise its full potential. To reap the bottom-line benefits that diversity can bring, business leaders must:

  • Identify business units that are less gender diverse.

  • Develop a hiring strategy that increases gender diversity in these units without reducing or ignoring merit. For example, studies indicate that when women feel they are hired to fill quotas, it negatively affects relationships between coworkers.

  • Create an engaged culture that enables men and women to form trusting relationships and motivates them to perform at a high level.

  • Set inclusiveness goals, and hold managers accountable for diversity.

*This is an edited extract from Women in the Workplace 2017, a study undertaken by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey.