Aug 23, 2022

Increased diversity in the workplace leads to corporate success and removes unconscious bias, studies show

Canadian businesses are set to use diversity-based data to foster more inclusive hiring processes

Madison @CAKE
Madison @CAKE

In recent years, businesses have begun to shine a spotlight on the growing issue of diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the workplace. While some, like Microsoft and CMHC top the list, hiring the most diverse employees, others are struggling to gain traction from affinity groups. 

Affinity groups, by definition, are groups of individuals formed based off of a shared interest or background. Some examples include religious groups, LGBTQ + or even BIPOC, and are crucial in fostering a safe and inclusive working community. Oftentimes this can be harder to achieve due to the use of unconscious bias in the workplace.

Unconscious biases are attitudes and stereotypes that influence our decision-making. When it comes to the hiring process, this may result in a corporation choosing to hire a narrow pool of individuals that all fit the same profile, based on certain similarities like age, gender or race. Unconscious bias can hamper equal opportunities for minority groups, especially those looking to move from an entry-level position to a high-level management role. 

As inclusion becomes more prominent within the workplace, conversations of diversity are important to have, especially given the shift in Canada’s demographics over recent years. However, there is still room to grow by focusing more on ways to make companies more attractive to varying consumers and employees. 

Research suggests that companies with a more diverse organization perform better and increase their overall profitability. Studies show that there is a strong correlation between diversity in leadership and the likelihood to out-perform non-diverse companies; 25 per cent of which being through hiring varying genders and 36 per cent through hiring different racial and ethnic backgrounds. 

While stereotypes are being addressed and handled in the workplace, it seems to be a slow climb to the top. A survey among 575 Canadian companies states that as of Q2 2021, 18.2 per cent of their executive officer positions are held by women. In that same survey, it was revealed that as of Q4 2021, only nine positions within the CBCA were held by people with disabilities.

In addition, C-Suite jobs continue to be dominated by the male population, sitting comfortably at 70 per cent. The representation of women of colour aspiring to one day achieve a C-Suite position dropped to 6 per cent as of 2021. As women continue to remain underrepresented in corporate management roles, it proves even more so that unconscious bias has run rampant. 

When combining diversity with inclusion, both elements prove to be increasingly powerful. Organizations with inclusive cultures are 3x as high-performing and 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes. So, how can we increase these odds even further? 

To broaden this scope, businesses must first recognize the importance of intersectionality. From recruitment through to career development, intersectionality should continue to be challenged. Understanding that women make up a smaller percentage of all hires within the talent pipeline is a good start to achieving gender parity; with this known fact, organizations can identify and bring in women through varying levels of seniority. This will hopefully challenge gender-based stereotypes in the workplace, and attract the attention of more affinity groups.

Another way to incorporate diversity within the workplace is to use proprietary algorithms that are gender, race and region-agnostic. This can be tricky because if the algorithms are left unchecked, they can inhibit flawed information and drive more bias. By building a diverse AI team with geographically-adapted algorithms, companies will be able to combat biases in AI. Testing each data-driven model in a different scope or group of individuals is key in determining whether or not AI biases are flawed. 

Studies also suggest that in order to use diversity data to best drive D&I, organizations need to make clear the connection between daily decisions made by employees and how that correlates with the resulting diversity outcomes. Data and applications should be analyzed first by AI, then by the company itself, to place emphasis on important comparisons rather than biased ones. By doing so, the company will be able to determine eligible applicants based on skill and productivity level rather than looks or stereotype.

From the outside looking in, companies with functional workplace diversity tend to grow stronger, outperforming their competitors. Organizational success is strongly pulled from company culture and the way each employee is represented in the workplace. Of course, while there are still large shoes to fill when it comes to bridging the gap of minority experience, these data-driven hiring practices are significant, essential and definitely a step in the right direction.

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