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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.

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333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
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October 16, 2020 |

The Business Case for Diversity

Why creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization isn’t just the right thing to do but the smart thing to do for any channel pro serious about business success.

LETS TALK BUSINESS. Thats not the usual opener for conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), but maybe it should be. Research has shown DEI improves experiences for groups and individuals, and theres plenty of evidence that prioritizing DEI around gender, race, age, background, ability, and other often-marginalized attributes is just good business.

When it comes to making the case for diversity, channel pros and data nerds are finding real-world business impacts on competence, innovation, and revenue. Lets take a look at each.

Competence: Get It Done

A diverse organization is becoming essential in todays complex technology and business landscape.

Chloé Messdaghi

Chloé Messdaghi, co-founder and president of Women of Security (WoSEC) and vice president of strategy at cyber training, recruitment, and retention firm Point3 Security, says DEI helps maintain a basic level of competency. “”In the cybersecurity industry, having a diverse team from different walks of life, with different backgrounds, upbringings, education, and skill sets—these diverse eyes all working together will generally catch something better than a scanner can,”” Messdaghi says. Think too about the racial bias discovered in facial recognition technologies that several major vendors have paused or abandoned, she continues, arguing that a “”striking lack of diversity”” in the teams that developed them was largely responsible.

Greater diversity also improves the person-to-person connections that are a cornerstone of employee recruitment, says Randolph Carnegie, managing director at Ken-Kor Consulting, an IT solutions firm in the Chicago area. He points out that good referrals are valuable currency in the competitive tech and IT job market, and a diverse staff can widen your network of contacts.

DEI-friendly policies can help you keep the good employees youve managed to find in a tight talent market too. A 2018 CompTIA report on tech industry sentiment showed that pay inequity, age discrimination, lack of inclusive culture, and lack of support for diversity by senior execs were among the reasons people would leave a job.

Innovation: Do It Better

Diversity, or lack thereof, can have serious implications for product development. Messdaghi points to a women-only social network app, Giggle, whose AI gender-screening technology excluded transgender women and those with stereotypically masculine features. Its data and security policies also presented safety risks that are often top-of-mind with trans women, who were not represented on the product team.

“”During the technology development process, all kinds of questions are asked and brought up by the team,”” says Messdaghi. “”When you dont have representation of those who are underrepresented, the questions and concerns are only coming from one group of people, rather than presented from all backgrounds.””

Executives at the worlds most profitable companies agree. A 2017 Forbes Insights study found 85% of them somewhat or strongly agreed that a diverse and inclusive workforce drives innovation. Sixty-four percent of respondents to the CompTIA study also agreed that a heterogeneous employee base is more likely to produce world-class innovation than a largely homogeneous one.

“”Humans are biased, whether theyre aware of it or not, and it shows in our products,”” says Messdaghi.

That might help explain why companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19% higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity, according to a 2017 study by Boston Consulting Group.

Revenue: Make It Rain

In the channel, sales often depend on who you know and who knows you.

Randolph Carnegie

By having a diverse workforce, youre introducing your company to other markets,”” says Carnegie. At the same time, your sales team is meeting more and more women and people of color in decision-making roles who happily notice a salesperson who looks or seems more like them, he notes.

Theres also hard data to add to these less tangible effects. Consider this:

  • Companies with the highest gender diversity are 15% more likely to beat their industry’s national average financial performance, according to a 2015 McKinsey study.
  • Companies with the highest racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to beat their industry’s national average financial performance, according to that same study.
  • Going from zero women in C-suite and board positions to 30% female translates to 15% greater profitability, according to a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, reported by the Harvard Business Review.

On the other hand, lack of diversity has hidden costs. Carnegie, who is Black, says people look closely at the staff images on the websites of companies they consider doing business with. For many non-white people, an all-white team page may be a turn-off, and a signal that they or their business might not be welcome.

Practice Next (or First) Steps

Although the DEI conversation has been brought to the fore by recent events, Carnegie sees a channel thats slow to respond. An industry veteran, he says he finds a lot of small companies are spending little effort on talent development outside of their norm. They avoid potential candidates who dont have specific, familiar backgrounds or experience. By doing so, theyre closing themselves off from people who could enhance the business in new ways.

“”Small vendors are still out there chasing the business from people they know, their peer group, people theyre familiar with,”” says Carnegie, who adds that those in hiring positions often make assumptions that diverse candidates lack business knowledge or require more training than others. As a result, SMBs are often fishing in too-small ponds for the people they need.

Carnegie suggests any SMB who cares about DEI should start contributing toward a diverse ecosystem overall, even if it doesnt result in immediate payoffs.

“”We want to create a business that will continue to pay us when were done,”” he says, or remain profitable after owners step back from the day-to-day. “”So, if were in it for the long payout, we need to spend some time getting a younger group of people trained and working in IT.”” He suggests becoming involved in the local community and universities to bring a greater range of backgrounds, cultures, and races into your network.

The CompTIA study didnt cover financial motivations for taking action on DEI, but 41% of respondents said they were definitely or probably considering actions to increase diversity and inclusion at their organizations. When they do, the evidence suggests, theyre poised to reap a whole host of benefits.

Resources

  • CompTIA, Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community – A collaborative group working to develop an inclusive workforce culture capable of filling the pipeline for todays and tomorrows technology careers. comptia.org/membership/communities-and-councils/advancing-tech-talent-and-diversity-community
  • Indeed – The hiring platform offers five benefits of workplace diversity for employers to consider channelpronetwork.com/Zqe
  • Women of Security (WoSEC) – A community for women, including LGBTQ+ women, non-binary, trans, and gender nonconforming, who have an interest in cybersecurity. WoSEC chapters meet both virtually and in person in cities around the globe. Activities range from talks to workshops to brunches and other social gatherings. womenofsecurity.com
  • Image: iStock

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