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Tuesday, June 18
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion business & economy

COLUMN: Business outsider: We need more diversity in business

opdiversityinbusiness-illo

It’s 4 p.m. on a Monday. I’m waiting at a table in Hodge Hall before my evening class and I watch as the scene in front of me unfolds: 

A group of underclassmen fill a table a few down from me. These underclassmen — three boys — are having a team meeting about an upcoming class presentation. From the start, it’s rocky. Boy A is jumping straight in and demanding things from his teammates. Boy B is standoffish and trying to catch up on what is happening. Boy C stumbles in late and Boy D never shows up (I saw him later).  

The discussion that enfolds is chaotic. By the time Boy C makes it to the group, Boys A and B are already butting heads about the way the project is going to be completed. Boy C attempts to mediate and find a solution but by the time they leave, the boys walk off in different directions with unhappy faces. 

This stuck with me. Once I get to class, I recount the situation to my friend; she and I have done more presentations — both together and with other classmates — during our time in Kelley than we can recall.  

When I go to fill my water bottle during a break in class, I’m greeted with a sequel to the earlier scene. In the hallway, there was Boy A and Boy D (yes, the missing one from earlier). What were they talking about?  

The project plan.  

Boy D was visibly annoyed with the decision made in the meeting he missed. As I walked back to class, I heard him say, “Whose idea was this?” to Boy A.  

I chuckled and headed back into class. So far during my time at Kelley, most teams I have been on have been male dominated. When I reflect on those teams, I find myself playing the role of a mediator, like what Boy C was attempting. But my roles have always transcended merely being a mediator. I’ve also naturally fallen into the role of the person who will talk to the professor about questions/concerns or do additional research to ensure the project runs efficiently. 

[Related: How diverse is IU's freshman class?]

When it comes to creating a slide deck and presenting, for example, I have tended to be the teammate to make the slides, help choose a theme and project manage the work: who is doing what, how are we efficiently going to do this and, most importantly, is everyone happy with the plan? The group of boys were attempting to do all of that, but something was not clicking.   

This got me thinking about the workforce I am about to join post-graduation. How many industries are gender diverse? What industry exists where the percentages of male to female to non-binary is balanced? Which companies are truly trying to make a difference in their hiring practices? If those underclassmen had a woman or non-binary person on their team, would the outcome be different? Of course, my perspective is biased because I have always been the woman on the team. Has this impacted the teams I have been on? I would like to think it has. 

It’s not hard to picture what the business world currently looks like. For the Kelley class of 2024, the breakdown is 68% male, 32% female. This means that for every 17 males, there are eight females. The lack of gender diversity in business is seen from the second you step foot into Hodge Hall. In fact, only two of the nine majors (marketing and professional sales) lean towards being female-heavy and, even then, it's almost a 50/50 or 40/60 split.  

I learned very quickly that what you hear is true. Most workforces, outside of the humanities or liberal arts, lean heavily towards being “male dominated.”  

Would diversity in the workforce even matter? You might argue that it won’t because, well, businesses have been thriving without pushing for diversity for centuries. But that’s because the outside culture was under this façade of acceptance when it came to diversity. According to a Pew Research report, 34% of female survey respondents said their gender identification makes it harder to be successful at work. On top of that, 72% of survey respondents say that there has been a positive impact by diversity, equity and inclusion related policies at their workplaces.   

Nowadays in Kelley courses, they stress the importance of sustainability within a firm because the stakeholders and investors demand it. Stakeholders and investors demand diversity too. When we say “diversity” what we really mean is more than just gender-diversity or ethnic-diversity. We mean diversity of thought, along with inclusion and equity. That comes from hiring people with different experiences and backgrounds, encouraging all voices to be heard and ensuring opportunities for everyone.  

And, yeah, it matters. Research done by McKinsey and Company has found that 54% of employees quit their jobs because they don’t feel valued by their organizations. Additionally, the same research found 51% of employees quit because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging within their organizations. Furthermore, according to a LinkedIn Learning article, there is a 25% likelihood of a company that is gender-diverse financially outperforming other companies and 36% likelihood of financial outperformance for top ethnic-diverse organizations. If you use money to measure the success of an organization, then statistics such as these prove diversity is a factor of greater financial performance — showcasing how the “old ways” are not the best ways. These statistics further exemplify why it is important to work on increasing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within an organization for short and long-term employees and corporate benefit. 

[Related: OPINION: A letter to myself, delving into new experiences and opportunities at IU]

If you hire people who seem to have gone through the same cookie cutter process, then your business will be stuck in the past while the future progresses. If you bring in people from as many different cookie cutters as possible, then you will get new, fresh and truly innovative ideas. This has been shown over the past decade and especially in the COVID-19 era to significantly impact an organization's overall performance and client satisfaction rates. 

Haripriya Jalluri (she/her) is a senior studying Operations Management and Business Analytics. 

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