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Diversity in the workforce

June 23, 2023
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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs have exploded in popularity in recent years. Many companies have taken steps to create more welcoming and fair workplace cultures. Some businesses have focused on hiring more women and people of color, especially for senior leadership roles. Others have developed more unique initiatives, like collaborative podcasts featuring Black and LGBTQ+ business leaders.1 These programs can promote greater diversity in the workforce and ensure that all employees are treated with value and respect.

However, cultivating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace takes time and a sustained effort. Companies often need to revamp many practices and policies to genuinely support their DEI goals. This article explores the impact of diversity in the workforce and strategies for fostering an inclusive business environment.

Defining workplace diversity

A diverse workforce includes employees and stakeholders from a broad spectrum of identities and life experiences. Diversity accounts for visible differences, like age and gender, and invisible differences, like religion and sexual orientation.2 Many companies recognize that people have nuanced identities and deliberately recruit individuals from various cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds.

Of course, workplace diversity involves more than just hiring a handful of people with different identities. Employers who value inclusivity strive to create a positive environment in which employees can express themselves authentically and feel respected. Additionally, companies truly committed to fostering diverse workforces include people with different perspectives at every level of the organization, from entry-level positions to the executive board.

Types of workplace diversity

Diversity is a broad concept that encompasses dozens of characteristics and experiences. Companies can support many types of workplace diversity.


Age-diverse workforces include people from different generations, like Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980), millennials (1981 to 1996), and Gen Z (1997 to 2013). Each generation has unique experiences and skills to contribute to the workplace, which can improve performance across the board.3 For instance, employees of different ages in a marketing department could help pinpoint strategies for targeting audiences in their respective age groups. Younger workers who may have more recently been to school could bring new theories and research to the team while older workers can share institutional and practical knowledge that they’ve acquired over the years.


According to a Pew Research survey, 42% of working women have faced gender bias in the workplace, and 25% of women earn less than their male peers.4 Additionally, as of 2023, only 10.6% of Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs.5 Business leaders can help improve gender diversity by ensuring that women receive fair pay and hiring them for executive roles.


A survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that 75% of workers believe that companies should promote ethnic and racial diversity in the workplace.6 Many companies actively recruit people from different backgrounds and cultures, and some offer mentorship programs and other opportunities for employees of color and those from other communities that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 21.3% of people with disabilities were employed in 2022.7 These individuals may have physical, mental, or learning disabilities. Company leaders can use many strategies and methods to make the work environment more accessible. For instance, businesses can add captions to training videos to ensure people with hearing impairments understand the material. Leaders can also ensure that workplaces have functional elevators to accommodate people with physical disabilities and offer flexible work schedules to allow employees to attend medical appointments.

Benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace

According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans agree that supporting diversity in the workplace is somewhat or very important.6 However, hiring people with a range of backgrounds and identities also has many tangible benefits, including the following.

Enhance organizational performance

Businesses with a heterogeneous staff often earn more money than organizations with little variety. A 2019 McKinsey study revealed that the companies with the most female employees performed 48% better than companies with little gender diversity. Additionally, the study found that companies ranked in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed competitors in the bottom quartile by 36%.8

Associate Professor of Management in the Marquette University College of Business, Kalin Kolev, MBA, Ph.D., also found that management teams with diverse traits encourages greater risk taking.

Tap into a larger talent pool

According to Glassdoor’s 2020 Diversity Hiring Survey, 76% of job seekers prioritize a diverse workplace when comparing positions and job offers. And 32% of the survey’s respondents stated that they wouldn’t apply for a job at all if the company didn’t have a diverse workforce.9

Companies with DEI initiatives may attract larger pools of candidates, giving them more opportunities to find the best talent. Also, hiring people from a variety of backgrounds can make it easier to draw in applicants from diverse backgrounds in the future, creating a positive cycle of inclusivity.

Boost creativity

A diverse workforce includes people with various experiences, points of view, and skills. Research suggests that combining many perspectives can drive innovation in an organization. For instance, a 2020 study by the World Economic Forum discovered that companies with inclusive workplace cultures had a 20% higher rate of innovation and earned 19% more in innovation revenues.10

Strategies for promoting workforce diversity

Nurturing diversity in the workforce requires business leaders to rethink traditional practices and organizational structures. Methods for fostering an inclusive environment include the following.

Reducing bias during the hiring process

Unconscious biases can significantly impact hiring decisions and cause organizations to hire similar employees. For instance, the affinity bias means that interviewers often feel drawn to the candidates who most resemble themselves.11

Hiring managers can avoid bias by conducting virtual interviews without video so they aren’t swayed by an applicant’s appearance. Additionally, assessment tools like rubrics that score each interviewee based on certain criteria make it easier to objectively compare candidates based on their qualifications and responses to interview questions.

Empowering employees to lead change

Employee-led task forces with members from various backgrounds can help eliminate harmful policies and develop effective DEI initiatives. For example, a team of people from different cultures could suggest ways to incorporate more inclusive language in the employee handbook. Giving employees opportunities to lead change may improve morale and bring in fresh perspectives.

Lead the way to organizational change

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values of the College of Business at Marquette University. As a leading Jesuit university, we’re committed to promoting the greater good and championing social justice.

Our online Master in Management program prepares students to address the most pressing ethical and social challenges facing organizations today. Strengthen your professional expertise by delving into groundbreaking topics like ethical business practices and leading people and change. Get in touch with an admissions outreach advisor today to learn more.