Last month UN Women Australia and Autopia released “Re-thinking Return: why diversity is a business opportunity”, the second whitepaper of the “Re-think: The Gender Diversity Series”.
This second whitepaper not only examines the opportunities having diverse teams bring to businesses, but also, the risk associated with maintaining the status quo, as well as the need to reframe the traditional notion of business risk.
In the extract below, the whitepaper discusses why companies should be concerned about opportunities they miss out on as a result of not having diverse teams, and the need for them to recognise that diversity is the gateway to new business relations rather than a ‘risk.’
Extract from the “Re-thinking Return” whitepaper
“In 2005, Big 4 professional services firm Deloitte sent a team to pitch to a prospective client. They were well-prepared, ready to collaborate and knew the company well. They were also all men, pitching to a room that included decision-making women. As a result, the consultants failed to win the work.1
This was not an isolated incident. Similar stories in a range of industries demonstrate that failure to ensure diversity in teams both diminishes the reputational capital of a business, and demonstrates to the client that the company does not fully understand their needs and how they operate.
Diversity is the gateway to development of new business relationships
Networking is a critical avenue for business development, and it is one that is almost solely reliant on individual employees of a company building relationships with individuals outside the company. Those relationships then serve as the conduit through which potential new business is awarded. 2
Markets and clients are becoming more diverse, and so must businesses – or risk losing networking and business development opportunities.
Similarity in identity characteristics, including gender, draws people together and enables them to build networks and relationships – an effect known as ‘homophily’. 3 Diverse teams are more likely to have at least one member who will experience homophily with customers and clients, and who will be far more likely to develop relationships with those clients.
Maintaining a team with minimal gender diversity thus increases the likelihood that an organisation will lose significant business opportunities because of a failure to establish a meaningful professional relationship with female decision-makers on the client side. Why, when presented with an all-male team, should a female client consider that team to be best placed to understand and meet the needs of her business or stakeholders?
The best way to combat this is to ensure that the at-home culture of the company or the team is one in which gender diversity is the norm.”
Download the whitepaper
Download “Re-thinking Return” and find out more about the impact lack of diversity has on businesses, how diversity breeds innovation and engagement, and what is required for diversity to start paying dividends.
1 Cathy Benko and Bill Pelster, ‘How Women Decide’  Harvard Business Review (online) <https://hbr.org/2013/09/how-women-decide/ar/1>.
2 Carla Edgeley, Nina Sharma and Fiona Anderson-Gough, ‘Diversity and professionalism in the Big Four firms: Expectation, celebration and weapon in the battle for talent’  Critical Perspectives on Accounting (in press). Available first online http://www.sciencedirect.com.virtual.anu.edu.au/science?_ob=ArticleListURL&_method=list&_ArticleListID=-896476012&_sort=r&_st=13&view=c&md5=17bf981ffb45bd156dbf9148ecf2a0b3&searchtype=, citing Gerard Hanlon, ‘Institutional forms and organizational structures: Homology, trust and reputational capital in professional service firms’ (2004) 11 Organization 187.
3 Evan P Apfelbaum, Katherine W Phillips and Jennifer A Richeson, ‘Rethinking the Baseline in Diversity Research: Should We Be Explaining the Effects of Homogeneity?’ (2014) 9 Perspectives in Psychological Science 235.