We’ve been hearing about diversity in the workplace since at least the 1960s, when affirmative action and equal opportunity employment regulations caused companies to start seriously looking at their diversification policies.
Those laws created a perception for some that minorities were hired simply as a token to comply with regulations. But since that time, we’ve learned that tokenism is an outdated and inaccurate viewpoint, and companies are now beginning to grasp the business case for a diverse workforce — regardless of regulation.
According to a recent study, businesses with the most diverse workforces are better at developing innovative products and services. Another study, from Forbes, found that diversity “is crucial for companies that want to attract and retain top talent.”

Looking at some of the most successful companies from the last several years, it becomes clear that a commitment to diversity isn’t just the right thing to do ethically, but it also drives success on the business side.
These four companies prove that a diverse workforce is one of the keys to succeeding in the digital age of doing business:
When Indra Nooyi came to Pepsi, it had been losing the brand battle with Coke for years, was in danger of splitting in two and was watching profits dwindle.
Born in India, Nooyi is far from the traditional image of a major brand CEO. Not only did she bring a different cultural perspective to Pepsi when she was named CEO in 2006, but she also provided a unique background of education and interests. Nooyi spent much of her college life studying mathematics and science, rather than marketing strategies, and played guitar in an all-female band.
Nooyi’s interest in science allowed her to approach Pepsi’s problems with a unique lens, and during her tenure she has transformed the company’s image and grown net profits by $3.6 billion.
Her strategy required a commitment to diversity. As Nooyi says, “Millennials want to work for a company that has a purpose and is making a difference to the world. To attract and retain the best and the brightest to our company, we had to create an environment that allows people to bring their whole selves to work.”
EY (Ernst & Young)
Topping DiversityInc’s list of the best companies for diversity, EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young, has shown that diversity has tangible business impacts and creates stability and longevity for companies.
With over 250,000 employees across the world and 11% more women in leadership positions than other companies on the S&P 500, EY’s commitment to diversity isn’t just part of their corporate responsibility initiative, it’s a core tenant of the business.
As one of the biggest professional services firms in the world, EY rakes in over $30 billion in global revenue a year, and that number’s been growing as EY focuses on investing in diverse entrepreneurs and innovative projects from developing regions.
For EY, diversity is more than creating an inclusive workforce, it’s a way of doing business. It guides investment decisions and company practices. As they say themselves, “Reducing social inequality is at the heart of driving inclusive growth.” This guiding principle has led the company, which has been around in some form since 1849, to sustained success.
With an Indian-American CEO, women in half of leadership roles and a commitment to tracking and growing diversity — even when media coverage of their diversity reports isn’t always rosy — Google’s parent company, Alphabet, also happens to be worth over $700 billion.
Diversity has been shown to boost innovation, and Google is known as one of the most innovative companies around, always on the cutting edge of technology, whether organizing the world’s data, powering our smartphones or getting us where we need to go.
It’s not just about inclusion at Google, it’s about a diversity of voices providing ideas and strategies. As Inc. points out, a team with a wide array of backgrounds and viewpoints provides more opportunities for innovation, a better understanding of more consumers, and ultimately better decision making.
One of Google’s diversity leaders, Dr. Myosha McAfee, says that “To continually learn is to be in a constant state of becoming. It is to behave in a way that recognizes there are things I think I know, but don’t, and things I don’t know that I don’t know.”
At Google, diversity helps to fill in the gaps and avoid blind spots. And apparently, it’s working, with Alphabet making over $110 billion in revenue last year.
For IBM, diversity became a business strategy over 20 years ago, when Lou Gerstner was named CEO of the company. For Gerstner, diversity wasn’t just about being politically correct, it was a core need of the business, and one that had been severely lacking.
“We made diversity a market-based issue,” he told the Harvard Business Review. “It’s about understanding our markets, which are diverse and multicultural.”
Particularly when a company is scaled, or already has, diversity becomes a critical part of understanding your expanding consumer-base.
A philosophy of diversity as strategy has continued at IBM, where Ginni Rometty is one of 32 women CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. Rometty’s leadership is pushing IBM towards disruption, rather than allowing themselves to get disrupted, by betting on cutting-edge technologies like quantum computing, blockchain and AI.
Making over $79 billion in revenue in 2017, and showing signs of growth after a period of decline, IBM’s diversity strategy will allow it to not only survive, but continue to be at the top, even in a disruptive technology landscape.

Numbers don’t lie
Since diversity first became a widely adopted practice, we now have oodles of data on how it impacts business. These companies have shown that diversity is more than compliance with regulations — it’s a powerful and profitable business strategy.
By 2055, the Pew Research Center predicts the U.S. will not have any single racial or ethnic majority.  Making diversity a core business practice isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.