We dearly want the case for diversity to be cut and dried.
There are now countless articles that take this to be so, making sweeping statements that assume the centrality of diversity, placing it at the centre of things in a tone that suggests ‘Of course diversity is integral to business success, duh: it makes the world go round, after all!’. I give you:
“We live in a complex, interconnected world where diversity, shaped by globalization and technological advance, forms the fabric of modern society.”
The same article goes on to say that “Many of us know intuitively that diversity is good for business”.
The thing is, there are many other people whose intuition (or implicit bias) says otherwise. We must not be complacent about diversity. And we must not try to get round the fact that the business case for diversity is not cut and dried by ignoring that fact.
Even McKinsey, who have conducted two of the seminal reports on the effects on business of diversity, concluding that there is a pronounced link between diversity and profit, take pains to point out that they have not shown causation, merely correlation.
So what happens if there are no obvious business benefits? Do we start losing faith? My argument would be that, once a diverse workforce is in place, the entire landscape of the company changes. You will not be looking for a simple cause-and-effect chain (diversity manifestly producing profit) because the positive effects on the company will be myriad, nuanced and far-reaching. You haven’t done a charitable thing. It will feel ridiculous that it was never this way, whether profits benefit or not.
Not everyone has to believe diversity is a business cure-all, sure to send profits through the roof. They don’t even have to believe it makes the world go round. But we do need people in our teams whose sense that diversity is a good thing at the ethical level outweighs their reserved judgement about its business benefits. And that’s why your inclusion policies have to be right if your diversity initiatives can hope to succeed.