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Diversity: A Business Case for Africa

By: Roy Clark - MD of Clarkhouse Human Capital

I recently read an article about an ‘anti-diversity’ memo from a guy that works at Google. (Titled “Googles Ideological Echo Chamber”).  It caused a massive outcry from within Google as well as industry thought leaders. In fact it lead to the firing of senior software engineer James Damore. On a high level, James stated that Google is weakening its own organization by driving conservatives (like him) away and Google has therefore created discriminatory practices in order achieve a more equal gender and race representation. James had his say around ‘psychological differences’ between men and woman and paid the price by losing his job for implying that policies aimed at driving gender and racial change create discrimination towards him.

Taking emotion out the equation, anyone who cannot see the business case for diversity in my humble opinion does not understand the science around diversity and how it actually makes business sense. Diversity needs to be looked at holistically. From all angles, from all sides. It is complicated and ever evolving. (I feel that Damore as well as the critics of his memo are only looking through their own eyes – and with their unconsciously biased blinkers on.)

Diversity means opportunity

Diversity is not male/female/white/black/previously disadvantage/ one or the other. It does not and should not mean one change makes another aspect die or non-relevant. On the contrary, diversity means 1+1 equates to 10. Diversity means ‘exponential’. In no case should diversity be a choice between the one or the other.

Diversity is not linear but rather an intricate and complex equation of human capital expressions that if unlocked has the power to drive unstoppable innovation and growth. I can bombard you with countless facts and statistics around the benefit of diversity such as:

  • Diversity fosters a more innovative and creative workforce 
  • A diverse workforce means you have insights and opportunities into broader markets that you might not have had before
  • You create a more competitive company in this global world by being diverse
  • Diversity leads to improved and more accurate group thinking
  • Diverse teams are more innovative

There are plenty of business cases backing these thoughts and I could go into many reams of research to prove this. In fact, a Harvard Business Review recently published an article stating that diverse teams are actually smarter. It mentions that working with people who are different (gender, generational, culturally, demographically) from you may actually challenge your thinking to overcome its stale or unconsciously biased ways of thinking and therefore drive performance.

Be diverse, be smarter

As a business owner, having smarter teams makes smart business sense. It is not some myth that there are "psychological differences" between people as outlined by our Google man, however these differences are what makes a team smarter not worse off.

Studies have revealed for example that organizations with at least one female board member yield a higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that did not have any women board members. https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter David Rock and Heidi Grant 2016

On a macro level, more diverse companies will mean stronger economic growth and more economic inclusion.

Let’s take a step back. Let’s look at Africa from a diversity perspective.  Africa is not a country. It’s an entire continent filled with an amazing, unparalleled diversity of languages, people and nations. It has over 3000 distinct ethnic groups and over 2000 languages. Africa (my home) is home to the most genetically diverse people on Earth and is the second-most-populous continent. It is therefore emphatically the most diverse continent on our planet.

The beauty of Africa

In fact, in the last few months the global tech giants have been visiting West Africa. Why? Probably because Africa is seen as the hub potential of global growth. There seems to be a strong correlation between ‘future jobs’ and a ‘future Africa’. There is a focus on the diversity that Africa offers that will empower Africa’s innovative minds and consequently help them to grow global businesses, create jobs, and boost their respective economies.

What a diverse continent bursting with a phenomenal abundance of ideas, backgrounds and talent! Diversity is Africa’s super power.

For more on diversity and the power it has to transform businesses and countries, visit the ClarkHouse Human Capital Diversity Day. Clarkhouse Human Capital is hosting a conference with a world class line up of speakers unpacking the science behind diversity and how it can truly benefit business in Africa. We tackle transformation, inclusion, leadership and culture as we look at all aspects of diversity. For more information on the ClarkHouse Human Capital Africa Diversity Conference on the 5th of October in Johannesburg, go to http://www.clarkhouse.co.za/current-events

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