WHU Diversity Day 2019

Why is diversity in today's work environment more important than ever? This was just one of the core questions of this year's Diversity Day, which took place on the campus of WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management on November 15. Company representatives from Google, Oliver Wyman and the London-based Equality Group explained the increasing relevance of the topic during several workshops, key notes and a panel discussion.

Diversity is a much-discussed topic. Most companies now understand the importance and want to be diverse, but very few are. A lot of companies use quotas to achieve their goals, but these alone are not enough. There are numerous studies on why intrinsically motivated diversity is important. Felicia Afarwuah from Google quoted in this context the McKinsey Diversity Report, according to which diversely set up teams achieve results up to 35 percent above industry standards. This would mainly be because people of the same origin would make the same decisions. Diversity is thus one of the central prerequisites for lasting success, especially for international companies that address a wide range of customers.

Dominik Weh, WHU alumnus and partner at Oliver Wyman, described that a non-diverse team can also lead to negative externalities: "The financial crisis is the result of too less diversity." With this statement, Weh alluded to the fact that the team of the International Monetary Fund, which should have recognized the signs of the impending financial crisis early on, consisted only of white men who enjoyed the same education and had almost identical biographies. Because of this, none of them would have recognised the critical situation and intervened. Afarwuah, on the other hand, explained during her previous workshop that according to a Google study, effective teams are not only dependent on who is part of the team but rather on how the team members interact with each other. The main driver for this would be the concept of Psychological Safety. You have to feel comfortable and safe in your environment to be who you are, she explained. This is the only way that trust can be built up and long-term success be achieved.

In his keynote speech, Weh also outlined that diversity must follow inclusion. A diverse team is of no help if one cannot or does not want to integrate it into the corporate culture. This is also one of the reasons why quotas alone would not be a sufficient solution. In the last keynote speech, it was Tobias Eppler, co-founder of the Diversity at WHU initiative, who summarized the event concisely: "Diversity is not a self-conception, diverse cultures must be actively cared for and built up."