Why Increased Diversity Makes for Good Business

business guest blogs the workroom Feb 20, 2023

Being a woman in any workplace has often been riddled with pitfalls, barriers and androcentrism ranging from the thinly veiled to the in-your-face. But, gradually, things are changing; 40% of seats in the boardroom at FTSE 100 companies in the U.K. are held by women, which has increased from under 13% a decade ago. The creative industry has also seen a positive change, with the number of female creative directors rising by 26% in recent years. These steps in the right direction have often been driven by women, for women and are both more likely to foster well-being and inclusivity when they are given a senior role, but also demand these things from their workplace at whatever level.

But this is more important than simply on principle. You should want women in your workplace and women on the top rungs of your company. Organisations with a higher percentage of women employees score more favourably on job satisfaction, organisational dedication, report less burnout and have better employee engagement. People with women bosses feel more supported and report less burnout, especially if they are women themselves.

Women are also just as ambitious, just as likely to want a promotion, and just as likely to aspire to a senior position as men. However, as a woman, you are likely to be frequently undermined, have your authority questioned and, my personal favourite, you are twice as likely to be mistaken for someone junior to a man. It is certainly possible to make considerable strides in your career, but these microaggressions (among other things) make it a more challenging hill to climb.

The key takeaway here is that women bring a considerable amount to the workplace and that diversity has, in recent years, wrongly been purely a matter of social justice. However, increased diversity is just good for business.

In the creative industry, we must be driven above all by the creatives themselves. Creatives who come with a wonderful and infinite mixture of physical, geographical and personal characteristics. It is in this diversity that we find differences in approach and divergence in thinking, where we find the extraordinary. For them to make the best use of their creative energy and for the world to benefit from that wellspring of creativity, we need to create an environment in which people feel free to express themselves, supported to take risks, and safe enough to fail. It is only in this kind of environment that creativity can flourish. One of the most obvious ways to do this is to ensure that the creative industry, at an executive level, reflects the creators for which the environment is supposed to be primed.

We already know that many women demand a focus on diversity, inclusivity and equity from their workplace and that they help to foster such a space when they are represented fairly. In leadership roles, women do more to support employee well-being, encourage DEI and, therefore, dramatically improve retention. Women are also more likely to study a creative subject at university. It follows that if larger businesses can give women greater opportunities and prioritise making work a place for women to flourish, our starting point is far more conducive to creativity in general flourishing. What better way to make the creative industry a more productive and desirable space for women than by allowing us to surround ourselves with others who share many of our life experiences and aspirations?

Breaking down barriers is key, but we can only expect obstacles to be broken if the right people are represented at a high enough level. But what barriers exactly are we talking about? There are subtle prejudices that can start right at the beginning of your career and reinforce negative gender stereotypes and roles; the classic is young female employees, no matter their job title or seniority, being asked to fetch and carry refreshments. As you age, you might run into the false 'mother', 'career', 'wants-it-all' trichotomy. This is an incredibly frustrating and unwinnable piece of circular logic. You might be viewed as less of a serious professional if you have a family, as less of a 'woman' if you do not, and as shirking responsibility if you 'try to do both'. The frustration is worsened, of course, because men in this position don't face the same harsh judgement. These problems plague all industries, but the creative sector is unfortunately particularly prominent.

Another barrier is language. The language used to talk about women, to women and by women. A man described as confident, strong, and assertive may display exactly the same traits as a woman described as overbearing, aggressive and bossy. This is just classic gendered language.

We should also remember that consumers are no longer asking for authenticity, boldness, and inclusivity when it comes to art or creative media; they are demanding it. We can't possibly pretend that we are offering brands or consumers any of those things if the people producing the work don't represent such ideals.

Nike, the most successful sportswear company, saw a 30% increase in sales after their 'controversial' advertising campaign involving the then-vilified Colin Kaepernick. Why? Well, part of the reason was that they cleverly manoeuvred themselves into a position whereby they came across as bold, authentic and inclusive. Nike not only continued their sponsorship of Kaepernick, but they dared to make him the figurehead of the new campaign. The gamble paid off, but only because they were hitting the three points above. The same logic can be applied to all sorts of creative output.

Branding, art, and social media campaigns need to say something, and they need to say it via a believable protagonist. Your voice simply will not be heard if you talk about diversity but have no women involved in your creative process; if you speak about boldness but chose the male candidate because he was brasher in the interview; or if you talk about authenticity and act with cynicism.


Clare McKeeve is the passionate, integrity-driven, and razor-sharp CEO behind the Talenthouse platform, the largest co-creation platform in the world and home to 20 Million members, being seen heard and compensated through direct access to creative briefs from leading brands, agencies and entertainment icons worldwide.


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