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Embracing diversity, meeting needs

Patrick Sullivan, head of Halifax Chamber of Commerce
outlines some convincing reasons for companies to diversify

So why is diversity important for the business community?

Canada is becoming a much more diverse society. In the 2011 Census, Statistics Canada estimated that visible minorities comprised 19.1 per cent of Canada’s population - up from 16.2 per cent in 2006. Visible minorities also tend to be younger, with a median age of 33.4 compared to 40.1 for Canada as a whole. Businesses that embrace diversity will be better able to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse customers and grow their market share.

So what does this mean for your business? Increasing diversity can help your company succeed and provide a competitive advantage to your business.

A broader talent pool

A diverse workplace is indicative of a business that is drawing from the broadest possible talent pool. With many industries suffering from skill shortages; businesses cannot turn away qualified workers just because they do not fit a preconceived notion. Workplace diversity also signals to talented employees that your business is open to new experiences and ideas.

Companies with diverse leadership come out ahead

According to research from McKinsey and Co. there is evidence that companies with diverse leadership tend to have superior financial performance. Companies that ranked in the top 25 per cent for gender diversity in their executive ranks were 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their industry median. This trend was even stronger for ethnic diversity as top performing companies were 35 per cent more likely to outperform their industry median.

Connecting to emerging markets

Increasing workplace diversity will also better prepare your business to compete internationally. According to Export Development Canada’s spring Global Export Forecast, emerging markets are expected to grow more than twice as fast as developed economies in the coming years.

This means that businesses that are looking to grow, cannot afford to miss the opportunity presented by non-traditional export markets. Increasing diversity will help businesses build connections in new markets and better understand how they can take advantage of opportunities abroad.

Being aware of subconscious bias

As business leaders we need to be more aware of the subconscious biases we all carry with us, and address sources of systemic bias within the internal processes of our organizations. I encourage you to think about how you approach diversity in your business and think: “What can I do to help move our province forward?”

Condensed from an article by Patrick Sullivan, President and CEO, Halifax Chamber of Commerce

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