This past week, I moderated a panel on how diversity and inclusion improves the bottom line at the North Carolina Tech Association’s Diversity + Inclusion Virtual Summit. Panelists included executives across the state from JLL, Advance Auto Parts, NC State Poole College of Management, and BASF. Though the COVID-19 pandemic drove the change to a virtual event and a delay of three months, the session held an engaged audience of around 80 professionals.
And the postponed event could not have been timelier.
In the United States, we’re experiencing a “great awakening” around the systemic racism upon which this country was built. Within the business community, topics that were once considered taboo have moved to the forefront and are shaping the values and priorities of companies large and small. While it feels good to do the right thing, the panelists at my session proved that the right thing also improves the bottom line. This is something of which all B2B companies should take note as we work to become better corporate citizens.
A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group has found that companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. It is the varying experiences, education, cultures, and values that lead to diverse thought. This is particularly valuable for tech companies and startups where innovation is the key to growth.
Here at StrongKey we’re a cybersecurity company with clients on six continents and we have a staff representing at least six countries of origin as well as numerous languages. As a minority-owned business, diversity + inclusion is embedded into who we are at our core. When you take a look at our company values, you see that: 1) We Create Tech for the Betterment of Everyone; and 2) We Appreciate the People We Work With. This means that we truly believe that our technology makes the internet a safer place for ALL people, and that this company is a safe space for employees to bring their whole self to work. Diversity is being invited to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance.
While you’ll need to access the recording to hear the entire conversation, there was a particular takeaway from the session that stood out to me. Courtney White, Head of Human Resources at BASF, talked about how customers and stakeholders need to be able to look at an organization and see themselves. Having a staff and leadership that reflects the population you serve is key to creating lasting professional relationships.
Incorporating D+I into your B2B strategy isn’t as difficult as it sounds. On one end, you want to make sure that your brand represents a diverse and inclusive company. Does your senior leadership reflect diversity in race, thought, age, and gender? Are pathways and advancement opportunities being presented for underrepresented populations? Is your staff armed with training and the correct language to address others in a respectful way? A good place to start is to take an assessment of your current policies and practices. On the other end, working with partners and clients who value diversity ensures that you’re helping nurture the ecosystem of inclusivity. As mentioned earlier, StrongKey has clients on six continents. This wide reach gives us the privilege of working with diverse populations across time zones and regions. As we continue to grow, we face each interaction with thoughtfulness and the intention to bring the best value and experience possible.
This is the first year the NC Tech Association hosted their Diversity + Inclusion Summit, but the conversations have planted powerful seeds to positively impact our business community. I invite you to make conscious decisions about who you do business with and to choose companies whose values reflect your own. B2B is a powerful vehicle to promote change and we now know that diversity is a key component of improving a company’s bottom line.