We’re Leaving A Lot of Talent on the Table: A Conversation on Diversity and Inclusion

Written by: Nathan Mapp

Like many companies, the events of the last year have made us take a hard look at how we create and maintain a truly inclusive culture where each employee can bring their whole selves into the workplace. One of the commitments we made was the creation of a Diversion and Inclusivity committee at CloudBees. We were thrilled to kick off our first event hosted by the committee this month. Our virtual celebration, held aptly enough during Black History Month, featured a powerful keynote address by Dr. Karl Reid, Executive Director of the National Society of Black Engineers and First Inclusion Officer at Northeastern University.

Reid captivated the virtual audience at CloudBees with a compelling case for diversity and inclusion from an engineering perspective. Born and raised in the Bronx, Reid graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and later earned his Doctor of Education degree at Harvard University. He boasts more than a decade in the software industry and is author of “Working Smarter, Not Harder: Three Sensible Strategies for Succeeding in College...and Life”. Notably, he’s helping lead the 50K Coalition, a collaboration of more than 40 organizations that aims to produce 50,000 diverse engineering graduates annually by 2025.

Yet there is a lot of work left to be done, Reid says. Today, African Americans earn just 4% of all degrees in engineering. LatinX people and women are also under-represented. That’s not acceptable, Reid suggests.

“We are leaving a lot of talent on the table,” he says. Indeed, one of those left behind was Reid’s father, who struggled against a discriminatory job market that ultimately derailed his hopes of a career in aviation. “We can't afford to leave that talent on the bench.”

But the good news is the world is rapidly changing. Across the country, people are “having conversations and listening sessions,” Reid says. “People are really trying to understand the issues.” More importantly “we are dismantling the structural limitations and inequities that exist – and that go back hundreds of years – in order to create access and opportunity for everyone. That's how we're going to fix this.”

How Diversity and Inclusion Translates to Dollars

What’s more, the payoff for business and society is significant. As evidence, Reid cites reports by McKinsey and Company that shows how diversity drives innovation revenue. One of his favorite authors is Scott Page at the University of Michigan, whose mathematical analysis shows that diversity matters because the challenges we're facing are so complex that you “need to bring together the efforts of multiple people and perspectives to solve them.” Page’s research shows that companies with diverse leadership are in some cases 25 to 36 more likely to outperform their peers.

Even more proof: The Boston Consulting Group recently produced a report that showed that racially and gender diverse companies generate substantially more revenue due to greater innovation. And the diversity was additive. In other words, the greater the diversity, the greater the “innovation revenue.” 

All of this makes sense, Reid says. “When you bring together people from different backgrounds and perspectives to solve complex problems, it creates a birthplace of new ideas,” he says, citing the work of renowned diversity researcher Frans Johansen. Put another way, “diversity of identity leads to diversity of thought.”

Remembering the Inclusion Part of Diversity and Inclusion

But Reid says diversity is only part of the answer. The other part is inclusion and equity. “Diversity is a means to an end, and the end is inclusion,” Reid says. This means creating an environment that’s not biased, that recognizes different backgrounds, and that creates equitable workplaces that make it possible for minorities to be inspired. 

Inclusion goes hand in hand with equity, which is when people are motivated to achieve equal output and productivity. “Hiring diverse talent isn't enough,” Reid says. “It's the experiences they have in the workplace that cause them to remain and not just survive but thrive.”

As Reid likes to say, using one of his favorite analogies: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Equity is when everyone gets a dance. And inclusion is when everyone contributes to the playlist.” Oh, and there’s one more thing: “Belonging is how you feel after you've left the party.”

We’re fortunate at CloudBees to have a community that is focused on the importance of diversity and inclusion. A huge thanks to the following Bees for their contributions to this event: Erica Abernathy, Stephan Folkes, Brian Dawson, Corryn Hutchinson, Stephanie Pai, Saleena Glowik, Susan Lally, Ellen Thorne and Stephen DeWitt.

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