Why Diversity Matters in the Digital Economy
Eric D. Cevis
It’s an acknowledged fact in businesses around the world today that improving workforce diversity, and particularly gender diversity, is a business imperative. Statistics show that girls are typically outperforming boys in school, up through the university level, and yet this success is still not translating into an equal presence in the workforce – and particularly not at senior levels of business.
All established businesses today must work towards a diverse, gender- and age-balanced workforce. It’s critical to their success. Why? Digital technologies are not only dramatically changing how, where, and with whom the business of business is conducted. They are also changing the skillset required to conduct business. In the context of an ageing workforce and a shrinking labour pool, this presents a real challenge.
Today, the digital economy IS the economy. It enables new ecosystems, makes new business models possible and opens up new ways to interact and engage with customers. But the digital economy is inherently different from the ‘established’ economy. Many established businesses today have foundations that were built in the last century, and the corporate world is still primarily defined by the baby boomers - a group which entered the workforce before mobile phones, personal computers and the Internet even existed.
Millennials have very different expectations of the world of work. They are used to global, 24-hours-a-day, seamless and transparent interaction. They are used to collaboration when and where they want; and expect to be able to at least bend, if not break, the rules. Their work and personal lives are intertwined - and most importantly, they are digital natives.
The result of this is that there is a growing gap between the digital and established economy; not least because the disruptive effects of the Internet are so clear and compelling, and the pace of change so great, but also that it’s increasingly hard for the old guard to keep up.
This is why diversity is so important. A diverse workforce helps you to better understand your customers, and their own diverse perspectives. In a global marketplace, insights and cultural sensitivity gained from those with roots in other countries or cultures can be invaluable. A diverse workforce also enables you to benefit from a wide range of thoughts and ideas which can fuel innovation - the lifeblood of the digital economy. And having different perspectives on a problem - born of different life experiences - will produce different solutions.
Added to this, there is a significant body of research that shows that companies with a higher proportion of women in their executive committees have better financial performance. So, a better gender balance equates to business success. And as the digital economy continues to grow, competition is only going to increase, and any incremental benefit to the bottom line will be welcomed.
This is why we need to work together to engender change. We need HR teams to understand the benefits of diverse teams, and to be willing to work harder to find diverse candidates. We need facilities teams to create office spaces which are welcoming for all generations. We need IT teams to give multiple technology options to suit different working styles. And we need business leaders to ensure that all of this is a priority, rather than a ‘nice to do’ at some point in the future.
For me, the importance of diversity in business is not just about the bottom line, or the benefits, or even best business practice. It’s about the culture of the organization I want to work for. I want my world of work to be one where everyone’s talents are recognized and appreciated. I want it to be one where my daughters - and all of our children - will have access to the same opportunities I have had access to throughout my career. It is the right and proper thing to do.
This is why I work for Verizon. I work for a company that has diversity at the heart of its belief system. Our credo states that we embrace diversity not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s smart business. Our business is all about helping people, businesses and things communicate better in the digital world. We make it possible for people to stay in touch and businesses to connect with their customers. We also focus on fostering diversity and inclusion, because when you’re in the business of connecting people and cultures across the planet, it is your blueprint for success. It’s a blueprint that builds relationships on which your future business depends.
We all need to take responsibility for changing the world of work for the better. Embracing diversity - of thought, of opinion, of age, of gender - is critical for success in the digital economy. And the digital economy is not only the future - it’s today.
If you would like to know more about how the Verizon Partner Solutions team could partner with your business, contact us for more information.