October 21, 2022 / 3 minute read
The Global Case for Embracing Complex Diversity
Written by Margaret Finley, Director of DEI and Head of Corporate Affairs
It is no secret that because of my job and because of the events of my life, I think a lot about diversity — about how being open to opinions from a wide range of people with a wide range of experiences can improve teams, companies and communities.
Lately, I have been thinking about how all too often we define diversity narrowly, focusing only on gender or only on race rather than on the plethora of dimensions that create a diverse group of people. And I have been thinking about all we lose — especially all that companies lose — when we don’t open that definition up to be less binary and more multifaceted.
For a growing, global company like Advanced Drainage Systems, this is especially important. Of course, we must be focused on addressing the visible gaps in leadership positions in our companies. But we should also be measuring and tracking less visible signs of diversity: people who identify as members of the LGBTQIA community, those with physical disabilities, veterans, those who follow religious belief systems and others. And global companies should also consider the different experiences lived by people around the world, where our products are being created or used.
We are smack in the middle of Global Diversity Awareness Month, a time dedicated to developing deeper understanding about the cultural diversity of people across our planet. That kind of thing can, perhaps, seem soft to boardroom executives who rightly focus on a company’s expense and revenue figures. But I would make the case that understanding the cultural diversity of our employees and our customers can help both those figures improve.
Our headquarters region, central Ohio, is a great example of this. Ohio is a predominantly white state and is largely seen as such by the rest of the country. But our region is home to the second-largest Somali population in the U.S., as well as to a growing Nepalese population. About 11% of the residents of Franklin County were born outside the U.S., according to a recent news report. Tens of thousands of people celebrate the Jewish faith; tens of thousands more celebrate as Muslims. Central Ohio hosts the largest Pride Parade in the Midwest. More than 100,000 military veterans call our community home. One in 4 adults in our state has a disability.
If you look at your own company’s regions, I bet you’ll see similar demographics. The world has become more interconnected, and our country is becoming more diverse.
When we ignore those differences on a companywide level, we risk losing great employees to companies that do embrace them. We also risk losing out on the advantages that diversity brings to how we approach the various aspects of our business, from employee retention to product development. When we consider a business problem from a range of vantage points, we very likely will identify solutions that look different from those we’ve tried — those that have perhaps been unsuccessful — in the past.
To me, this starts with how we interact with the people who surround us now. For this Global Diversity Awareness Month, I am focusing even more than normal on the value brought to the proverbial table by people whose lives have looked different from my own. I invite you to join me.