We live in a deeply connected and global world. It should come as no surprise that more diverse companies and institutions are achieving better performance. The business case for inclusion and diversity is stronger than ever. Research makes it increasingly clear that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. According to McKinsey & Company’s Diversity Matters report, corporations identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors.
Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion also report higher engagement, lower turnover and increased profits. The Boston Consulting Group states that businesses with above-average diversity on their management teams report 19 percent higher revenues from innovative products and services than those with less diverse leadership.
Diversity has always been a part of a company’s winning formula, but now is more essential than ever. To quote Pitney Bowes CEO Marc Lautenbach “a company’s culture is not a feeling or a likeability score. It is the organizational capacity to succeed.” We think about diversity oftentimes as the right thing to do and it is 100% the right thing to do. But it extends well beyond this idea. It is a key differentiator between the organizations that succeed and those that don’t.
But why is diversity now more essential than ever before? The reality is that our deeply connected and global world is also more diverse than ever before. Those who identify as female are 50% of the global population, and women have higher rates of college and advanced degrees in the U.S., the continent with the highest birthrate is Africa, and among the most populated countries outside of the United States, are China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Brazil. There are also countries with aging populations, which research from geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan shows is particularly true for Western Europe, North America and the developed Asian nations. What does it all mean? That the talent we need, the clients we seek, the communities we operate in are now, and will increasingly be more diverse than ever before.
Sheryl Battles, VP, Global Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement adds, “Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. Diversity is a reality. Thus, without seeking and leveraging diverse talent and connection with communities, organizations can find themselves in markets they don’t understand, trying to serve clients they don’t know, with a team that is not reflective of either. The only path to sustainable value going forward is embracing the reality of the diversity around us and including the talents of each to deliver superior results for all.”
I have the fortune to sit on the board of the Fairfield County Community Foundation, and thanks to this I have access to lots of research that has been conducted in the United States and abroad with respect to equity. In my time on the board, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the major drivers of inequity and perhaps the most profound driver of it is RACE.
The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of America’s leading companies, agrees with this assessment. In 2020 they released a report and recommendations on racial equity and justice. They found that racial disparities impact each step of a person’s life, limiting one’s ability to access resources, grow wealth and pass-on assets to one’s family and community. In a chart summarizing some of their research for example, those who identify as Black or African American are 6x more likely to be involved with the justice system, 2x more likely to have chronic health issues and 2x more likely to lack credit access.
Let me say a little more about that last stat. The majority of Black people in America live in urban centers, which means they are less likely to own a home or a car which are the two major ways to build up one’s personal credit. Without this built-up personal credit, Black Americans find themselves without access to capital needed for loans or investments and are immediately disadvantaged by a system that’s not created equitably.
Given these inequities it is hard for these communities to succeed. It is a trajectory that has generational consequences. We can’t say with a straight face that there is equity, and everyone has an equal opportunity to be included.
Thus, the question I ask of us as we think about Black History Month is what are we doing to bring about equity. How are we working to include communities that have been traditionally excluded? As a country, we’ve come so far, but how do we continue to propel forward?
These are questions I ask myself constantly and even though I don’t have all the answers, the one thing I can tell you is that everybody plays a role in this. Most organizations must do more to take full advantage of the opportunity that diverse leadership teams represent. That’s particularly true for their talent pipelines: attracting, developing, mentoring, sponsoring, and retaining the next generations of global leaders at all levels of organizations. Everybody can make a difference, but you must challenge yourself in that next role you are hiring or pipeline you are building.
Within our Financial Services business, we have begun normalizing our job descriptions with particular emphasis on re-baselining our qualification standards around key traits that we know are critical for success versus a specific or pre-described career path or pedigree of prior roles.
We have also consciously started to actively participate in more channels and forums that we know are pathways for diverse business enterprises to access commercial markets.
Importantly, we are also more active and engaged in our industry and community and are leveraging the platform that we have within our business to be more involved in the discussion and dialogue around how we make our industry better for the future. As just one example, I am very proud of the work that I do with the ELFA (Equipment Leasing & Finance Association) alongside two important allies in Scott Thacker and Ralph Petta. This is a part of the market that historically had very little diverse representation, but through the hard work of leadership and many member corporations, has really embraced the power of DEI and begun some groundbreaking work including the establishment of an Equality Committee that I am proud to serve on.
Pitney Bowes has a long history of intentionally seeking and including diverse talent at all levels of the organization. Diversity and inclusion have been core values at Pitney Bowes for decades. It is a defining element of our character and our culture and one of the key aspects that will help us stay successful for the next 100 years. Even with all that history and culture, we know there is always room to do more.