Diversity in Leadership – Part I

This is the first article in a three-part diversity and inclusion series that focuses specifically on diversity in leadership. While the growing emphasis on the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a positive trend in the right direction, so far that diversity seems to be manifesting more in the lower levels of business infrastructure, and not in the top tiers of management and leadership (Workable). This article will explore what diversity in leadership is, why it’s important, and why it is such a timely conversation for our day.

What is Diversity in Leadership?

Diversity in leadership is exactly what it sounds like — a practice of inclusion in business leadership roles that incorporates the most obvious factors of race and gender and also expands into categories like age, religion, sexual orientation, economic background, political leanings, etc. (Maryville University). Companies who prioritize this kind of diversity and inclusion should strive for equal representation of women and minorities of all kinds in the board room as well as in the rank and file of production workers.

Statistics show a lack of progress in terms of corporate leadership diversity, despite the lip service that corporations often give to the initiative and to their own diversity strategies. Mercer, a human resources consulting company, stated in a 2021 report that 85% of executive positions are still held by white males, and women and minorities continue to earn less than their white male counterparts even when they do hold similar executive positions (CNBC).

Why is Diversity in Leadership Important?

Diversity in leadership is important for both ethical and practical reasons.

Ethical Considerations

The most recent Census report stated that 50.8% of the entire U.S. population is female, and almost 40% of it is made up of ethnic/racial minority citizens (U.S. Census Bureau). Clearly, Americans are a very heterogeneous people, and company decision-makers need to reflect that diversity to ensure that the company’s choices, actions, and outcomes are in the best interest of the broadest range of people. Diversity of leadership assures inclusive decisions and incorporates valuable and varied perspectives (Forbes).

Practical Considerations

In the next article in this series, we will take a more detailed look at the benefits of inclusive leadership. However, for the purpose of gaining a broad understanding, we would like to present a short list of advantages. Companies who promote leadership diversity in their upper echelons reap the following rewards (Fundera):

  • Wider range of skill sets
  • Better branding
  • The ability to entice and keep leading talent
  • Strong employee and customer relationships
  • Higher profits
  • Better performance
  • Superior market share

Why Is Diversity in Leadership a Timely Issue?

To answer this question, let’s look at some more statistics:

  • By 2065, the U.S. will not have any single ethnic or racial majorities.
  • Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization.
  • 57% of employees think their company should be doing more to increase diversity.

To be blunt — times, they are a’changing, and they’re doing it quickly. To keep your company current, relevant, ethical, and profitable, you must devise and implement a robust leadership diversity strategy.