Many employers are committed to promoting and maintaining a diverse workforce.  But why do employers value diversity?  Does diversity really affect a company’s balance sheet?  Or does diversity only have abstract value?

A brief that was recently filed with the U.S. Supreme Court argues that some employers seek diversity as a tool for increasing revenue and remaining competitive in global markets.

The Supreme Court recently held oral arguments in a case involving affirmative action policies in higher education.  The case involves a challenge to the admissions policy at the University of Texas — a policy which considers an applicant’s race as one of several relevant admissions criteria.

Notably, dozens of America’s largest employers (including Proctor and Gamble, IBM, United Airlines, Viacom, Pfizer, Xerox, and Cisco) filed an amicus “(friend of the court”) brief in support of the University of Texas’ admissions policy.  These employers argue that having and recruiting a diverse workforce is “a business and economic imperative” that makes them more competitive and increases overall revenue.

These employers view diversity in a broad sense, to include both students of diverse heritage (e.g., minority students) and those students who have had significant exposure to other cultures (including non-minority students).  According to the companies, employers need to recruit graduates with diverse backgrounds for the following reasons:

  • Such graduates have an increased ability to facilitate unique and creative approaches to problem-solving by integrating different perspectives and moving beyond linear, conventional thinking;
  • They are better equipped to understand a wider variety of consumer needs, including needs specific to particular groups, and thus develop products and services that appeal to a variety of consumers and to market those offerings in appealing ways;
  • They are better able to work productively with business partners, employees, and clients in the United States and around the world; and
  • They are more likely to generate a more positive work environment by decreasing incidents of discrimination and stereotyping.

The amicus brief also points to a number of academic studies indicating that a commitment to diversity is “associated with increased sales revenue, more customers, greater market share, and greater relative profits.”  Diversity, according to these studies, is not just theoretically beneficial, but positively improves the bottom line for businesses.

As an HR professional, what do you think about this view of diversity?  Are there other reasons to promote diversity in the workplace?  Comment on this post and let us know your thoughts.