The United States of today is more diverse than ever before. We innately know this from the changing world around us—neighborhoods are more ethnically different, our work teams include people from other generations and genders, and cultures we had not been previously exposed to bring new experiences to what we eat, watch on television and even impact how we view the world. This truth is also backed by data. According to a 2015 report by the US Census Bureau, Millennials are now the largest generation in American history—and 44.2% ethnically classify themselves as something other than “white”. The report also stated that for the first time in US history, a majority (50.2%) of children under the age of five were classified as being part of a minority ethnic group.

As the country becomes increasingly diverse, so does the workforce. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education released a study stating that from 1980 to 2020, the minority working-age portion of the workforce is projected to double to 37% from 18%, while the white population is projected to decline from 82% to 63%.

In terms of gender diversity, women are now hoping to improve their career opportunities through education. A woman is now more likely to have a 4-year college degree than a man (30.2% to 29.9%) according to a 2015 report by the US Census Bureau.

With a nation that’s increasingly more diverse, why aren’t more companies making diversity in the workplace a priority? Or at least interested in what diversity brings to a company financially? The below statistics shed light on the state of diversity in the US workforce today and suggest the future.

  1. There are fewer Fortune 500 CEOs who are women (4.1%) than who are named David (4.5%) or John (5.3%) – two single male names outnumber an entire gender. (NY Times)
  2. Only 5 out of all Fortune 500 companies have African American CEOs. (CDC, Diversity Inc.)
  3. 40% of people think there’s a double-standard against hiring women – both men and women are more likely to hire men over women. (Pew)
  4. Men are 30% more likely than women to be promoted from entry level to manager. (Women in the Workplace)
  5. Resumes submitted by people with African American-sounding names are 14% less likely to get a call back than those with white-sounding names. (Research study by University of Wisconsin)
  6. 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers. (Glassdoor)
  7. 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse. (Glassdoor)
  8. 41% of managers say they are “too busy” to implement diversity initiatives. (SHRM)
  9. 83% of millennials are more actively engaged when they believe their company fosters an inclusive culture – and in 10 years millennials will comprise nearly 75% of the workforce. (Deloitte)
  10. The United States will no longer have any single ethnic or racial majorities by the year 2065. (Pew)
  11. For every 10% increase in the rate of racial and ethnic diversity on Senior Executive teams, EBIT rises 0.8%. (McKinsey)
  12. Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians. (McKinsey)
  13. Gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians. (McKinsey)
  14. Companies reporting highest levels of racial diversity in their organizations bring in nearly 15 times more sales revenue than those with lowest levels of racial diversity. (American Sociological Review)

Prioritizing workplace diversity can lead to increased sales, profitability and a better connection with customers. Diversity can positively impact business performance because of the varying perspectives and ideas people from different backgrounds and genders bring to a team. When you create diverse teams, you widen your access to market insights and become better able to serve an increasingly diverse customer base. You are also able to tap into a more qualified workforce because you widen the pool of potential employees.

Building a diverse organization is also simply the right thing to do—one that is inclusive of varying groups and lifestyles, promoting an attitude of acceptance internally to your employees and externally as a brand.

The first step in building a diverse organization is recognizing the need for and prioritizing it. Below are some guidelines to creating a diverse organization.

  • Define “diversity” – there is no one-size-fits-all solution and diversity needs to be defined for your organization. The workforce should reflect the community it serves.
  • Be realistic in setting goals – diversity management is complex, not every company will advance at the same pace and expectations need to be managed.
  • Embed diversity goals in talent management – employees aren’t likely to consider long careers with your company if they do not see people like themselves in management positions.
  • Build in metrics – set short and long-term quantifiable goals.
  • Organize resources – put human and fiscal resources in place so you can achieve your goals and arrange talent acquisition to attract the best talent from a diverse pool of resources.
  • Educate and train – managers need to buy in to diversity initiatives, should be educated on its benefits and trained on processes that support it.
  • Demonstrate leadership support – senior executives should make a case for diversity.
  • Approach hiring processes holistically – retention may be more difficult than recruitment, so do not neglect the need to keep close watch on employee satisfaction.
  • Make diversity a part of your brand – let the world know your company embraces and welcomes all.

Building a diverse organization requires a significant amount of effort and dedication. This initiative will not be easy or fast, and leaders should be prepared to put continued focus on diversity for the long haul. However, companies that start this important work now will be better prepared for the inevitably more diverse demographic makeup of the future United States and reap the benefits—both financially and ethically, by creating an organization representative of the customers it serves.

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” – Steven R. Covey