By Shannon Schuyler, chief corporate responsibility officer, PwC
Two weeks ago, I was in Berlin at a conference that reminded me about a simple but powerful element of humanity: the sense of belonging. As human beings we all share the same basic needs. We need to be nourished, we need shelter and we need to belong. Whether that’s to someone or something, a sense of belonging contributes to our ability to feel connected to the world around us.
In business, we know that a culture of purpose evolves from an inclusive environment in which relationships are nurtured and valued and individual voices are heard and respected. In short: a feeling of belonging. And despite that being a basic human need that we all share, we may have forgotten its importance in business ― perhaps because we’ve forgotten it in society.
Not too long ago, business was completely divorced from societal matters. Employees were expected to go to work without bringing up issues that affected them outside of the office. Similarly, CEOs and businesses were not expected to lead purpose-driven organizations, let alone comment on social issues such as race relations or inequality.
Those times are over.
Today, being a leader means taking a stand on these issues and demonstrating a commitment to cultivating a sense of belonging in the workplace. It means going beyond hiring diverse talent and valuing differences. It means creating trusting environments where dialogue about race, ability, gender, religion, age, gender identity and privilege can take center stage and where diversity and inclusion are not merely encouraged but expected. It means engaging the very people that define our organizational cultures and demand our accountability.
To do this, we need to acknowledge that this issue is more than a moral one ― it’s core to the purpose and profit of our organizations.
Diversity and inclusion help us achieve our purpose. If business is increasingly expected to come up with innovative solutions to serious social issues, how can we effectively do this without a mix of voices and perspectives that are very different from each other? At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. I firmly believe that there is no way we could do either of these with homogeneous teams. How would we know or even begin to understand what problems we were trying to solve?
Diversity and inclusion are directly tied to profit and revenue. From research and development of new products to how we connect with our customers through storytelling, the strength of our companies’ performance relies on our people. Another recent study on this topic revealed that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams are now 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profits. The study also found that cultural and ethnic diversity at the executive and board of directors level potentially correlate to 33 percent and 43 percent better-than-average profits, respectively. Additionally, the ability to create inclusive environments and talent strategies can save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The proof that diversity and inclusion are good for business is mounting. That’s why more than 450 CEOs of the world’s leading companies have signed a written commitment to create workplaces that reflect those values, as part of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ (CEO Action).
This fall CEO Action is launching a nationwide unconscious bias educational tour that will make 100 stops across the country and host special events with artists, celebrities and business leaders. The goal: help America’s students and employees acknowledge their unconscious bias and have the hard conversations needed to make us all more empathetic, accepting and understanding of one another.
While the world we live in is incredibly diverse, we have to admit that Corporate America is not. “Minority” populations represent the majority of our country, yet we see astonishing low representation in business ― especially in leadership positions. Simply put, while business is doing well, the people who consume our products or fuel our organizations may not be. Disparities between low, middle and high income families are nothing new. We need to recognize how we as institutions play into this issue through hiring and promoting people. The ability to retain and elevate diverse talent is key to every organization’s survival. That’s why the coalition also will be releasing free tools to help organizations measure diversity and inclusion, gauge progress and create shared experiences through storytelling to drive change.
By starting to address our bias and having tough conversations, perhaps we can finally realize our abilities, reach our potential and bring belonging to business.
In this series, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion™ signatory CEOs share their dedication to acting for workplace diversity and inclusion to make impactful changes that benefit both business and society. Follow along with #CEOAction and learn more at CEOAction.com,