In April of 1963, Martin Luther King (MLK) wrote the 'Letter From Birmingham City Jail' behind bars after being arrested for unlawful assembly. He penned the famous phrase "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" in the tight margins of a smuggled-in newspaper.
Fast forward almost 60 years, and MLK's words couldn't ring truer. Recent race, sexuality and gender equality campaigns have triggered justice-seeking causes worldwide. They have re-ignited conversations about prejudice and drawn global attention to workplace inequality. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) is a term used to describe policies that combat workplace inequality and promote the representation of marginalized groups.
Today, DEI applies to any industry ranging from education to corporate business. Within the workplace, DEI eliminates discrimination and fosters inclusion. Many organizations want to integrate DEI because of its established business benefits. Research shows that diverse and inclusive workplaces perform better and generate more growth. But there are more complex reasons that make DEI attractive in the corporate world. More and more companies are striving to reflect the tenor of the times, knowing that both customers and employees want to shop and work at companies that feel aligned with their values.
DEI Implementation: What Exactly is the Moral and Business Case?
The 1960’s civil rights movement aimed at securing free and equal citizenship in a democratic state. Today, DEI initiatives aim at securing free and equal treatment of workers in an organization. The moral case for DEI treats workers as ends in themselves and not a means to a goal. When companies implement DEI practices based on ethical principles, they garner more authentic and lasting effects. For instance, Procter & Gamble (P&G) has a history of promoting and exploring gender bias in its ad campaigns but also reports that 45% of its managers and a third of its board are women. As a result of P&G’s clear moral dedication to equality within its own workforce, campaigns like ‘We See Equal’ come across as a genuine push for change.
The business case for DEI workforce application focuses on profit potential. Research around DEI tends to tell a story of numbers; companies with diverse cultures exhibit significant financial growth over those that do not. For instance, organizations that foster inclusive work cultures see a 59 percent increase in innovation capabilities and a 37 percent increase in customer-service skills.
These insights encourage organizations to harness both the moral argument—authentic and lasting effects—and the business argument—better financial performance—for DEI. Equity, diversity, and inclusion have become prerequisites for modern business success.
Why is DEI a Strategic Business Imperative?
The business case for DEI connects equity, diversity and inclusion practices to business innovation. Because we live in an era defined by rapid change, the ability to adapt and innovate in business is more critical than ever. DEI practices can help create the innovative workforce coveted by companies today.
Six years before writing the famous 'Letter From Birmingham City Jail,' MLK spoke about inequality to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama. He stated: “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'what are you doing for others?'” Societal contribution is at the center of DEI; it infers an inherent good in helping others beyond personal gains.
Over the following weeks, we'll be examining the relationship between DEI and design thinking in our four-part blog series, 'Exploring DEI.' Discover how design thinking principles correlate with the building blocks of DEI and learn how HCD can help in applying DEI policies to company culture, services and products. Stay Tuned!