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Diversity is more than a box to tick. It's a smart business strategy.
Should businesses foster diversity just because of the political climate, or are there other inherent advantages in having diversity of people and thought?
This series on diversity and inclusion is sponsored by Amway, which supports a prosperous economy through having a diverse workplace. Companies committed to diversity and inclusion are better equipped to innovate and drive performance. For more information, visit amwayglobal.com/our-story.
It seems for most of Western history, from the age of exploration until a little after the second half of the 20th century, males of European ancestry did all that they could to bar those of other backgrounds from places of power and prestige in the social, economic, and political spheres. Although we've made much progress since, this legacy is still with us today.
This is evident in the U.S. federal housing policies of the 1930s, such as “redlining" communities of color, which impacts their access to services, quality education, and employment opportunities even now. Similar policies occurred in many other places around the world, such as in Europe, the U.K., South Africa, Canada, and Australia.
Since the end of colonization and apartheid, and the civil rights movements in the U.S. and elsewhere, diversity has been promoted—at least on the surface. This isn't only a quest for social justice, however. It's also a shift in consciousness. But are businesses accepting diversity just because of the political climate, or is there really something to it?
There are actually a number of studies that show that diverse organizations are far more vibrant and versatile. A 1995 study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that those organizations that embrace diversity are not only more productive but possess competitive advantages as well.
How do we define it? Workplace diversity can be defined as a place where employees have varying traits, including those that denote race, ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, age, or generation. People with neurological differences and people with disabilities are also included. So, what are the benefits of a diverse workplace?
Diversity policies help to recruit top talent
Credit: Cydcor Conference 2013. Flickr.
Diversity policies allow a company to draw from a greater talent pool. Without such policies in place, not only could an enterprise miss out on some very talented people, but recruiting might also take longer and therefore cost more. Those companies that have a more diverse staff can also benefit from a greater degree of perspectives. As such, diversity drives innovation.
In a 2013 article in Harvard Business Review, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Melinda Marshall, and Laura Sherbin explain what they call 2D diversity and how it impacts enterprises. The first element is someone's inherent diversity, which they are born with—for example, race and sexual orientation. The other is their acquired diversity, which is gained through experiences such as training, living in another country, or interacting with a specific group or culture often.
Their research included 40 case studies, several focus groups and interviews, and a national survey of 1,800 professionals. The researchers found that organizations run by executives with at least three acquired diversity traits and three inherent traits performed the best. They looked specifically at the diversity of the executives within a company and their own reported market outcomes.
Firms with more diverse leadership were 45 percent more likely to report that their company's market share grew over the past 12 months. They were also 70 percent more likely to report that they entered a new market in that same time frame. When executives embody diversity and embrace it, everybody wins.
Diversity drives creativity
Dating someone from a background different from yours has been shown to increase creativity and problem-solving skills. (Credit: April Sylvester. Pixabay.)
In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers discovered that intercultural relationships promoted innovation and creative thinking. As Harvard Business School professor Roy Y.J. Chua told Entrepreneur.com, “Teams that include workers from different backgrounds and experiences can come up with more creative ideas and methods of solving problems."
Intercultural dating also improves a person's performance on creative tasks. Researchers showed that those who dated diversely were more likely to come up with a creative name for a marketing product. “The more your network includes individuals from different cultural backgrounds, the more you will be creatively stimulated by different ideas and perspectives," says Chua.
If an enterprise markets to or interacts with the general public, it's important that team members in those departments remember that diversity will be on customers' minds. Projecting diversity is expected to pay off more and more in the future. According to a U.S. Census snapshot taken in the year 2015-16, America is now more diverse than ever before. Babies of color outnumber white babies, according to that report. Such a fact portends much for a company's future.
What's been dubbed the "browning of America" continues on and Caucasian Americans are expected to lose majority status somewhere around 2020. Not only will diversity be crucial in marketing and sales, but for optics as well. Better optics means not only a better reputation but a lower chance of litigation.
Diversity helps companies break into new markets
London. (Credit: Getty Images.)
Besides fewer lawsuits, a greater talent pool to draw from, effective marketing, better optics, and an influx of creativity, diversity policies also garner an organization more opportunities. Who better to reach women, the LGBTQ community, or the immense and growing Asian market than someone from that particular background? Greater diversity could allow for opportunities to enter into foreign markets as well. Middle classes are rising in developing countries all over the world. What a company needs is someone who knows those communities well and how best to reach them.
Successful businesses today are embracing inclusiveness more and more. Disney, the Virgin Group, and PricewaterhouseCoopers have all diversified their workforce. In an intensely globalized world, it's becoming more and more important in order to break into new markets. But diversity alone won't do it. Studies have shown that besides having all kinds of different people on the payroll, it's important to develop an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas. To do so, executives should help foster relationships, build up teams and individuals, and invest in their people.
To learn more about why diversity is so important in the workplace, click here:
A cave in France contains man’s earliest-known structures that had to be built by Neanderthals who were believed to be incapable of such things.
In a French cave deep underground, scientists have discovered what appear to be 176,000-year-old man-made structures. That's 150,000 years earlier than any that have been discovered anywhere before. And they could only have been built by Neanderthals, people who were never before considered capable of such a thing.
This is going to force a major shift in the way we see these early hominids. Researchers had thought that Neanderthals were profoundly primitive, and just barely human. This cave in France's Aveyron Valley changes all that: It's suddenly obvious that Neanderthals were not quite so unlike us.
According to The Atlantic, Bruniquel Cave was first explored in 1990 by Bruno Kowalsczewski, who was 15 at the time. He'd spent three years digging away at rubble covering a space through which his father felt air moving.
Some members of a local caving club managed to squeeze through the narrow, 30-meter long tunnel Kowalsczewski had dug to arrive in a passageway. They followed it past pools of water and old animal bones for over 330 meters before coming into a large chamber and a scene they had no reason to expect: Stalagmites that someone had broken into hundreds of small pieces, most of which were arranged into two rings—one roughly 6 meters across, and one 2 meters wide—with the remaining pieces stacked into one of four piles or leaning against the rings. There were also indications of fires and burnt bones.
Image source: Etienne FABRE - SSAC
A professional archeologist, Francois Rouzaud, determined with carbon dating that a burnt bear bone found in the chamber was 47,600 years old, which made the stalagmite structures older than any known cave painting. It also put the cave squarely within the age of the Neanderthals since they were the only humans in France that early. No one had suspected them of being capable of constructing complex forms or doing anything that far underground.
After Rouzard suddenly died in 1999, exploration at the cave stopped until life-long caver Sophie Verheyden, vacationing in the area, heard about it and decided to try and uranium-date the stalagmites inside.
The team she assembled eventually determined that the stalagmites had been broken up by people 176,000 years ago, way farther back even than Rouzard had supposed.
There weren't any signs that Neanderthals lived in the cave, so it's a mystery what they were up to down there. Verheyden thinks it's unlikely that a solitary artist created the tableaux, and so an organized group of skilled workers must've been involved. And “When you see such a structure so far into the cave, you think of something cultural or religious, but that's not proven," Verheyden told The Atlantic.
Whatever they built, the Bruniquel Cave reveals some big surprises about Neanderthals: They had fire, they built things, and likely used tools. Add this to recent discoveries that suggest they buried their dead, made art, and maybe even had language, and these mysterious proto-humans start looking a lot more familiar. A lot more like homo sapiens, and a lot more like distant cousins lost to history.
A recent study used fMRI to compare the brains of psychopathic criminals with a group of 100 well-functioning individuals, finding striking similarities.
- The study used psychological inventories to assess a group of violent criminals and healthy volunteers for psychopathy, and then examined how their brains responded to watching violent movie scenes.
- The fMRI results showed that the brains of healthy subjects who scored high in psychopathic traits reacted similarly as the psychopathic criminal group. Both of these groups also showed atrophy in brain regions involved in regulating emotion.
- The study adds complexity to common conceptions of what differentiates a psychopath from a "healthy" individual.
When considering what precisely makes someone a psychopath, the lines can be blurry.
Psychological research has shown that many people in society have some degree of malevolent personality traits, such as those described by the "dark triad": narcissism (entitled self-importance), Machiavellianism (strategic exploitation and deceit), and psychopathy (callousness and cynicism). But while people who score high in these traits are more likely to end up in prison, most of them are well functioning and don't engage in extreme antisocial behaviors.
Now, a new study published in Cerebral Cortex found that the brains of psychopathic criminals are structurally and functionally similar to many well-functioning, non-criminal individuals with psychopathic traits. The results suggest that psychopathy isn't a binary classification, but rather a "constellation" of personality traits that "vary in the non-incarcerated population with normal range of social functioning."
Assessing your inner psychopath
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the brains of violent psychopathic criminals to those of healthy volunteers. All participants were assessed for psychopathy through commonly used inventories: the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised and the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale.
Experimental design and sample stimuli. The subjects viewed a compilation of 137 movie clips with variable violent and nonviolent content.Nummenmaa et al.
Both groups watched a 26-minute-long medley of movie scenes that were selected to portray a "large variability of social and emotional content." Some scenes depicted intense violence. As participants watched the medley, fMRI recorded how various regions of their brains responded to the content.
The goal was to see whether the brains of psychopathic criminals looked and reacted similarly to the brains of healthy subjects who scored high in psychopathic traits. The results showed similar reactions: When both groups viewed violent scenes, the fMRI revealed strong reactions in the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior insula, brain regions associated with regulating emotion.
These similarities manifested as a positive association: The more psychopathic traits a healthy subject displayed, the more their brains responded like the criminal group. What's more, the fMRI revealed a similar association between psychopathic traits and brain structure, with those scoring high in psychopathy showing lower gray matter density in the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior insula.
There were some key differences between the groups, however. The researchers noted that the structural abnormalities in the healthy sample were mainly associated with primary psychopathic traits, which are: inclination to lie, lack of remorse, and callousness. Meanwhile, the functional responses of the healthy subjects were associated with secondary psychopathic traits: impulsivity, short temper, and low tolerance for frustration.
Overall, the study further illuminates some of the biological drivers of psychopathy, and it adds nuance to common conceptions of the differences between psychopathy and being "healthy."
Why do some psychopaths become criminals?
The million-dollar question remains unanswered: Why do some psychopaths end up in prison, while others (or, people who score high in psychopathic traits) lead well-functioning lives? The researchers couldn't give a definitive answer, but they did note that psychopathic criminals had lower connectivity within "key nodes of the social and emotional brain networks, including amygdala, insula, thalamus, and frontal pole."
"Thus, even though there are parallels in the regional responsiveness of the brain's affective circuit in the convicted psychopaths and well-functioning subjects with psychopathic traits, it is likely that the disrupted functional connectivity of this network is specific to criminal psychopathy."
Counterintuitively, directly combating misinformation online can spread it further. A different approach is needed.
- Like the coronavirus, engaging with misinformation can inadvertently cause it to spread.
- Social media has a business model based on getting users to spend increasing amounts of time on their platforms, which is why they are hesitant to remove engaging content.
- The best way to fight online misinformation is to drown it out with the truth.
A year ago, the Center for Countering Digital Hate warned of the parallel pandemics — the biological contagion of COVID-19 and the social contagion of misinformation, aiding the spread of the disease. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, anti-vaccine accounts have gained 10 million new social media followers, while we have witnessed arson attacks against 5G masts, hospital staff abused for treating COVID patients, and conspiracists addressing crowds of thousands.
Many have refused to follow guidance issued to control the spread of the virus, motivated by beliefs in falsehoods about its origins and effects. The reluctance we see in some to get the COVID vaccine is greater amongst those who rely on social media rather than traditional media for their information. In a pandemic, lies cost lives, and it has felt like a new conspiracy theory has sprung up online every day.
How we, as social media users, behave in response to misinformation can either enable or prevent it from being seen and believed by more people.
The rules are different online
Credit: Pool via Getty Images
If a colleague mentions in the office that Bill Gates planned the pandemic, or a friend at dinner tells the table that the COVID vaccine could make them infertile, the right thing to do is often to challenge their claims. We don't want anyone to be left believing these falsehoods.
But digital is different. The rules of physics online are not the same as they are in the offline world. We need new solutions for the problems we face online.
Now, imagine that in order to reply to your friend, you must first hand him a megaphone so that everyone within a five-block radius can hear what he has to say. It would do more damage than good, but this is essentially what we do when we engage with misinformation online.
Think about misinformation as being like the coronavirus — when we engage with it, we help to spread it to everyone else with whom we come into contact. If a public figure with a large following responds to a post containing misinformation, they ensure the post is seen by hundreds of thousands or even millions of people with one click. Social media algorithms also push content into more users' newsfeeds if it appears to be engaging, so lots of interactions from users with relatively small followings can still have unintended negative consequences.
The trend of people celebrating and posting photos of themselves or loved ones receiving the vaccine has been far more effective than any attempt to disprove a baseless claim about Bill Gates or 5G mobile technology.
Additionally, whereas we know our friend from the office or dinner, most of the misinformation we see online will come from strangers. They often will be from one of two groups — true believers, whose minds are made up, and professional propagandists, who profit from building large audiences online and selling them products (including false cures). Both of these groups use trolling tactics, that is, seeking to trigger people to respond in anger, thus helping them reach new audiences and thereby gaming the algorithm.
On the day the COVID vaccine was approved in the UK, anti-vaccine activists were able to provoke pro-vaccine voices into posting about thalidomide, exposing new audiences to a reason to distrust the medical establishment. Those who spread misinformation understand the rules of the game online; it's time those of us on the side of enlightenment values of truth and science did too.
How to fight online misinformation
Of course, it is much easier for social media companies to take on this issue than for us citizens. Research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch last month found that 65% of anti-vaccine content on social media is linked to just twelve individuals and their organizations. Were the platforms to simply remove the accounts of these superspreaders, it would do a huge amount to reduce harmful misinformation.
The problem is that social media platforms are resistant to do so. These businesses have been built by constantly increasing the amount of time users spend on their platforms. Getting rid of the creators of engaging content that has millions of people hooked is antithetical to the business model. It will require intervention from governments to force tech companies to finally protect their users and society as a whole.
So, what can the rest of us do, while we await state regulation?
Instead of engaging, we should be outweighing the bad with the good. Every time you see a piece of harmful misinformation, share advice or information from a trusted source, like the WHO or BBC, on the same subject. The trend of people celebrating and posting photos of themselves or loved ones receiving the vaccine has been far more effective than any attempt to disprove a baseless claim about Bill Gates or 5G mobile technology. In the attention economy that governs tech platforms, drowning out is a better strategy than rebuttal.
Imran Ahmed is CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.