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The Chicken and the Egg of Diversity in the Workforce

By External Contributor

Thursday, June 14, 2018.

 Some studies suggest that diversity leads to having a broader skill set available which in turn can lead to a better functioning office. Having a diverse workforce does not only mean having different races and cultures, but it also spans to gender, age, physical abilities, religion, and sexual orientation. A diverse group of people will have a more balanced understanding of the company’s customers and will be less prone to groupthink. Cognitively diverse teams solve problems quicker than cognitively similar people a 2017 research shows published in the Harvard Business Review. Not only do diverse groups perform better, having an inclusive workforce leads to higher retention of employees and builds up the company’s image at the same time. It seems like a no-brainer, diversity boosts your bottom line and makes your company more vital in the process. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t see homogenous clusters of professionals in specific industries.


If the data of US Department of Labour is anything to go by, we still see strongholds of professions where white professionals, usually male, still make up most of the workforce. For example, 91% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers are white and mostly male. Or take archivists, curators, and museum technicians, 88.8% white professionals. IT security experts are 88.4% white. In advertising and promotions 87.8% of the workforce is white, and of paid psychologists 87.6% of all professionals are white. Also, in the boardroom we see this trend continue, with 86.8% of all CEOs being white.

If research shows that diversity helps the bottom line, why is it that this is not reflected what is recorded in the data? One thing that could be a factor is the idea of ‘social capital’. This is a collection of cooperation, trust, and enjoyment of the workplace. Research has shown that homogenous offices have a higher level of social capital, leading to increased happiness at work. In short, working among people who are like you feels more ‘comfortable’, but will not improve overall productivity or profitability. This is an extremely stubborn problem as people tend to go with base instincts when hiring new staff. Neuroscientific research shows us that despite our best intentions, we still make decisions mostly on emotions. We hire people in most parts based on emotions, and we tend to go with what ‘feels’ right.

So, not only are there still pockets of professions that will look inherently white from the outside, but it’s also extremely tricky to get into as hiring decisions are emotional. That puts us in an impasse. We need role models, trailblazers who break the mould and light the way for others to follow. The choice of career for anyone should be based on what they love to do, not based on how much they look like those in that profession. Anyone in the US should feel they can challenge the archetypes of white investment bankers or advertising execs, and moreover, they need to be applauded to do so. As anyone in Britain should be able to look at the UK’s hardest jobs and choose the right career path based on the willingness to put in time and effort versus the rewards.

The Chicken and the Egg of Diversity in the Workforce

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