October 27, 2017

Why Diversity Matters for Marketers – Not Just HR

Topline Summary

Inclusion in the workplace has been on the agendas of companies for quite some time. Rarely, though, do the potential marketing benefits of diversity get addressed when taking on the initiative. After all, a rich assortment of team members provides unique insights into the various demographics your brand may be targeting.

Award-winning entrepreneur Jennifer Brown preaches equality to business professionals, explaining why this social issue must be addressed and outlining the path to change. Jennifer understands that we live in a fast-changing world and many organizations may not be ready to take the bull by the horns. Although inclusion cannot be achieved overnight, she believes companies can take big strides by instilling themselves with the will to change.

Jennifer dishes on diversity in this Renegade Thinkers Unite episode. She tells Drew about some of the ways enlightened companies are working to diversify their employees, citing the importance of inclusion to the younger generations as a major driver for change. You can listen to the episode here.

Here are a few of Jennifer’s inspirational responses from the interview:

Drew: Is there research that shows having a diverse workforce actually helps the bottom line?

Jennifer: Yes, there is a ton of research about it. There are studies that quantify, for example, the number of women that a company may have on its board or in its senior executive team correlating to bottom line results, better shareholder returns, better eBid. They get very very technical about it. They’ve actually linked the representation to the way the company shows up in the world and the way that the company succeeds. It’s not just optics, but it’s actually bottom line results that these companies that tend to prioritize diversity and inclusion as a corporate value and as something that they are targeting in terms of hiring. They have linked it to company performance. There’s a lot of studies, and I won’t go into those, but you can actually Google it and there’s more than you could ever know what to do with. Even though that’s been out there though Drew, it’s still hard to make the case for why this is important and to help companies or urge companies to put this on their radar screen and really take it seriously. It’s interesting notwithstanding what we might call the business case over and over again, which I have to communicate and teach about. When I called my book The Will to Change, the big question mark for me is – what does motivate people to change? I think there’s still a lot of resistance to change.

Drew: If you’re part of a marketing department and you’re struggling to add diverse talent to your workforce, what should you do?

Jennifer: It plagues tech. A lot of other industries are struggling to get engineering talent of color, for example, let alone women. So it is a pain point that’s felt across many industries. How you set your founding team really really matters. When you’re an early-stage organization, I would recommend being very dogmatic about who you recruit because the optics and the message of who is particularly in the leadership or the founding team or that original group really matters. It sets the compass a certain direction and makes everything that happens after that easier to attract, especially diverse talent when they see themselves on a company’s masthead and they see that it’s a priority that the company talks about throughout its marketing and its outreach when it comes to recruiting. All of that are elements that people, particularly diverse talent, pay a lot of attention to. So what you say and the decisions you make and whom you hire matters – especially at the beginning.

Drew: What does it mean for a company to take a stand for diversity right now?

Jennifer: Brands are being judged by the stances they take and the conversations they jump into or not. For example, both the ACC and the NBA pulled games out of North Carolina saying we’re going to deprive you of revenue and we’re going to get all the teams behind us and we’re going to really make it hurt because of the transgender bathroom bills that were going on in that state, and there’s some similar ferment that’s going on in Texas. We see corporations banding together and watching what each other do. There’s strength in numbers, so it’s not even like a company has to necessarily stick its neck out alone. There are families of brands that can make these decisions together, and it’s interesting to watch the dominoes. It’s almost like the companies and the CEOs who walked away from the Trump business councils. The news is happening so fast. I watched which companies went first and then which were in the second round. I was noticing that and I was putting myself in the position of the employees of those companies watching their CEOs say, “Not on my watch. I’m not going to be party to something that I think is harmful for our society.” I was imagining how good that felt and how reassuring that felt in particular, not just for diverse talent that works for that employer, but even I’d say the allies – the people who believe in equality and inclusion.

Drew: How are millennials impacting the workplace diversity initiative?

Jennifer: One of their top values is inclusion, regardless of what their own demographic is. This is not just important to people of color or female talent. It’s actually important across the board generationally. I think we’re entering a day and age where what brands do really matters. Is it risky? I have to tell you, I’m not sure the boycotts that have been threatened and the bottom line impact has really been felt. There’s a lot of bluster and a lot of social media activity for a while, but I have to say I don’t think that brands have really paid a negative price in my experience for standing up and being counted when it comes to social issues that impact equality.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why inclusion and diversity are imperative.
  • How to begin structuring a more diverse team.
  • How to avoid missing target demographics.
  • How workplace silence on social issues can come back to bite you.

Quotes from Jennifer Brown

  • Social activism and taking a position on equality is something that especially younger talent assumes is table stakes.
  • When your marketplace is browner and blacker and becoming more so over time, I believe those people want to know where you stand.
  • When it comes to diverse talent, be very intentional about how you ask people and reward them to cultivate their own pipeline on your behalf.
  • Silence speaks volumes…Say something, but know that it’s not taking a side against or for the political binary that we find ourselves in, but it’s taking a stance for inclusion.