Ross Alum: A Lack of Diversity Makes an Organization Weaker, Compromises Performance, and Decreases Revenue

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When companies create goals for employee diversity and inclusion, the impact on the entire workforce in any given organization trying to meet them can be fraught, creating tensions and even resentments among employees that can run along racial and ethnic lines.

That was the message of Intel’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Danielle Mastrangel Brown, MBA ‘08, who gave the keynote speech at the 2017 Positive Business Conference in May, a two-day event at Michigan Ross. Brown’s address, titled “Creating a Stronger Culture Through Diversity and Inclusion,” makes a strong case that a lack of diversity and true, authentic inclusion in a company’s culture makes an organization weaker across the board, compromises performance and costing revenue.

Intel, says Brown, shared with the gathering the tech company’s diversity and inclusion strategic plan, which includes having full representation by 2020, increasing their pipeline of diverse talent, investing in diverse entrepreneurs, and improving inclusion within the workplace. Intel supports initiatives that bring more women and underrepresented minorities on board, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it helps the bottom line. Increasing the African-American and Hispanic representation in the tech industry could generate more than $300 billion in revenue, according to Mastrangel. The challenge in the industry begins with recruitment and hiring.

Mastrangel attributes the lack of diverse hiring and promotion in organizations to the “like likes like” concept, the idea that managers hire individuals with similar experiences who they feel the most comfortable with. While we all have unconscious biases, it is up us to unlearn them, according to Mastrangel. “Learning about something different is how breakthroughs happen,” she said.

Intel has begun recruiting and promoting more women, building partnerships with high schools in the Bay Area to capture students’ interest in STEM early, and investing in venture funding for women, LGBTQ, and minority entrepreneurs. They have seen promising results — women now make up 20-percent of Intel’s executive leadership ranks, up from 10 percent just a few years prior. However, Mastrangel acknowledges that Intel, and the tech industry overall, has a long way to go.

Brown discussed the challenges that come with addressing diversity in an organization, acknowledging that issues around race, gender, and identity are sensitive matters and people may feel uncomfortable talking about it. Another challenge is the misconception that some individuals were only hired because of their gender, sexual identity, or ethnicity. Mastrangel explained that this misconception causes a hostile environment and can make female or minority employees feel isolated and not welcomed. While part of her job is keeping an eye on these situations and handling them accordingly, Mastrangel added she cannot do it alone. Employees should be the change they want to see and call out incidents of discrimination.

“When you see something, say something,” Mastrangel said.

Watch Danielle’s presentation on the Michigan Ross YouTube channel.