Why Diverse Role Models in the Workplace Matter

NEW YORK—Research finds that diverse workforces are more effective workforces. It can positively impact a business’ bottom line when there’s a variety of perspectives and ideals. However, Jeremy Greenberg, founder of Avenue Group, an advisory firm, believes there’s more work to be done—particularly in the realm of diverse role models in the workplace.

“Our insights division conducted this study. We were trying to find the information ourselves and were curious,” said Greenberg. “All the time you hear about diversity among CEOs or among an entire employee base and that’s how people look at it, generally. What defines a role model across different industries?… We wanted to look into that and see if there are certain aspects of the working culture that have a disproportionate amount of minority and female role models.”

Variety is the spice of life, but there are misconceptions that diversity programs exist to be politically correct, Greenberg asserts. “Many studies have proven the more diverse a work environment, the better the work environment because there’s lower turnover,” he said. “A higher retention rate increased reports of productivity and innovation. When you add diversity, you add different perspectives. Public companies with more diverse boards see a higher level of earnings. People may think of it as a nice to have, but when done correctly, diversity has proven to be beneficial.”

Has enough been done to address diversity in the workplace? Greenberg’s findings reveal more efforts are needed. “Part of the problem is that companies are not diverse,” he said. “We found organizations are severely lacking in terms of levels of diversity in leading role model positions. The data is extremely clear and consistent.”

What was the most notable among the findings? Greenberg noted that some segments performed better than others in terms of diverse role models. Creative fields and areas where digital technology is front and center provided the most diverse results.

“When you look at musicians, about half of them are non-white,” he said. “When you look at authors, 38% are women—the highest percentage of women. Looking at CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, they were the least diverse role models in terms of gender and race. Only 6% of these leaders are women, only five are non-white and 90% are white men. If you look at consistent diversity across gender and race, the digital categories, such as YouTube stars, podcasts hosts, etc., were most diverse of the categories we reviewed.”

How can hospitality companies become more diverse? Greenberg suggests it starts with awareness, then looking closely at diversity within the company’s ranks and finding ways to grow a diverse talent pool.

“I’d like companies to think about how diversity can benefit their organization,” he said. “Become educated. A lot of companies have diversity overall in their employee base, but it tends to be lower paying jobs. Think about diversity in terms of different levels of the organization, from the hotel clerks to the managers to the people who are determining the strategy of the company.”

The hotel industry’s customer-facing positions create a unique opportunity for brands to show diversity among staff who also serve diverse clientele. Greenberg encourages hoteliers to think about how diversity—or lack thereof—can have an impact on customers. “Are there ways to make people feel more welcome? A hotel is where people sleep and eat. I think it’s more pronounced for hotels and, therefore, more important than ever,” he said.