Diversity in the workplace helps to spark creativity and innovation. A diverse set of experiences and opinions can offer a variety of solutions to business problems. All industries need diversity to bring forth new ideas that lead to innovation, but a lack of diversity among executive leaders is still a common problem across many fields.
A study conducted by Harvard Business School interviewed 24 CEOs from around the globe who positively advance diversity in their companies and corporate divisions. All 24 CEOs forcefully affirmed the benefits of diversity and defined it as “a source of creativity and innovation.” When employees with different backgrounds and experiences collaborate with one another, they can accomplish more than they would as individuals. The CEOs praised the remarkable benefits of promoting employee diversity, but they were also disappointed with the shortage of progress on diversity in the C-suite. According to a recent report, there are only 4 African-American CEOs at the nation’s 500 largest companies. A Forbes report last year indicated that only 4.2% of the Fortune 500 firms are led by female CEOs, and 28% have just one female director. Even worse, the inequality at the C-suite level has also promoted intolerance of leaders with diverse backgrounds. Andrea Jun, the CEO of the personal-care-products firm Avon, shared her experience that she is usually the only woman or Asian sitting around a table of senior executives, and people often assume she could not be the boss. Another similar example is shared by Ajay Banga, the CEO of MasterCard, “My passion for diversity comes from the fact that I myself am diverse. There have been a hundred times when I have felt different from other people in the room or in the business. I have a turban and a full beard, and I run a global company—that’s not common.” Executive leaders with diverse backgrounds can be treated unfairly, and their contributions can often be underappreciated. In the study, Harvard Business School also distinguished leadership styles between men and women. The conclusions of the study described women as less political, more collaborative, better listeners, more relationship-oriented and more empathetic and reasonable. Therefore, as George Halvorson, the CEO of the California-based managed-care consortium Kaiser Permanente, said, when dealing with some complex projects involving multiple layers, a collaborative leader is necessary and his experience shows that more often than not the leader turns out to be a woman. Thus, we have to admit that one certain type of executive leader is not able to handle the rapidly changing market, and executive leaders with diverse backgrounds can fulfill the demands with innovation and creativity.
In the end, it is important to embrace executive leaders with diverse backgrounds. They are the talents who can create a culture based on innovation and cooperation, and also have the courage to bring forth new ideas and break the routine.
To further explore the influence of diverse leadership, CHI is organizing the 7th annual Diversity, Inclusion, & Life Sciences Symposium on 6/15/17 in Chicago. The Symposium is the leading annual, collaborative event for life sciences and healthcare executives, physicians, HR professionals, clinical trial professionals and patients, entrepreneurs, patient groups, researchers, academics, and diversity, and inclusion advocates to discuss diversity and inclusion in healthcare. The symposium focuses on the latest trends, challenges, opportunities, and best practices for implementing strategies and tactics to make these industries more diverse and inclusive, as well as understand how to better serve diverse patient groups. Attendees will learn the newest insights and ideas, discuss practical solutions, and meet new industry and marketplace colleagues. See a video at http://www.snip.ly/fxln8. This year’s symposium will include topics such as the role of coaching and mentoring in executive success, diversity and inclusion in clinical trials and research, and expanding definitions of diversity. Please visit http://chisite.org/dilss/ for more info or to register.
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Vinjamuri, David. “Diversity In Advertising Is Good Marketing.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Mar. 2017. Web. 01 June 2017.
Wallace, Gregory. “Only 5 Black CEOs at 500 Biggest Companies.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 01 June 2017.
Zarya, Valentina. “Female Fortune 500 CEOs Are Poised to Break This Record in 2017.” Female Fortune 500 CEOs Set to Break Records in 2017. Fortune, 22 Dec. 2016. Web. 01 June 2017.