Survey: Employees favor diverse leadership, but companies are lagging

Full-time staffers say gender and ethnic diversity can boost the bottom line. They also see it as a way to enhance the overall workplace culture and improve productivity.

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Eight in 10 full-time workers say cultural and gender diversity among business leaders helps their company perform better and generate more revenue, a new survey reveals.

Only 35 percent of full-time employees report that they have equal male and female leadership, and fewer than 18 percent have substantial female leadership, reports DesignRush, a B2B marketplace connecting brands with agencies.

The figures come from a DesignRush survey of 228 full-time U.S. employees ages 25 to 80. Participants were polled about how diverse their workplace leadership is, and how business diversity can be improved.

The study echoes other surveys on the topic. A study by Boston Consulting Group last year found that diversity bolsters the bottom line for companies, Forbes reported. The study found that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance,” Forbes stated.

DesignRush’s survey finds that gender diversity in leadership roles still warrants improvement. Some 47 percent of respondents say their company managers and executives are overwhelmingly men.

Regarding change, however, old attitudes persist. DesignRush’s survey respondents prefer male leadership over female or gender nonconfirming.

“Although equal gender leadership is on the rise, there are still improvements to be made,” says Gabriel Shaoolian, DesignRush’s founder and executive director.

Already investing in cultural diversity

The survey shows that most respondents feel their company is trying to boost diversity—though perhaps not enough. Over 61 percent believe their company already invests in cultural diversity. Nearly 79 percent respondents want to see an increase in workplace diversity at all companies.

More than three-quarters of respondents say they don’t think their workplace has a problem with sexual harassment, the survey reveals.

“Although DesignRush’s findings drastically differed from external studies by indicating that employees already have safe workplaces, one takeaway is clear: Diverse leadership—including various genders and cultures—is believed to reduce sexual harassment at work,” Shaoolian says.

Additional findings from DesignRush’s survey include these:

  • 63 percent believe diversity in the workplace should encompass having employees and leaders of different genders and cultures.
  • 82 percent believe diverse leadership can create a positive company culture.
  • 61 percent believe their company represents diverse cultures equally.
  • 80 percent employees do not care which gender their manager or executive is, as long as they are competent.
  • Some 4 percent of respondents prefer female leadership; just over 11 percent prefer male leadership. Just over 4.4 percent prefer gender nonconforming.
  • 47 percent say the managers and executives at their company are mostly or all men. Thirty-five percent say their male/female leadership breakdown is about equal. Only 18 percent say their managers and executives are mostly or all women.
  • Bad news, Pointy-Haired Bosses. Only 46 percent believe that their company leaders are fully qualified for their positions.
  • 79 percent believe that gender-diverse leadership helps companies perform better and generate more revenue.
  • Though three-quarters don’t think their company has a problem with sexual harassment, 40 percent believe diverse leadership could alleviate sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • 79 percent of respondents wish to see more diverse leadership in roles at companies other than their own.

DesignRush notes that research from McKinsey & Co. demonstrates that diverse companies perform up to 35 percent better and increase revenue by nearly 20 percent.

“This increase in efficiency could be due to many factors, including but not limited to wider recruitment, strong public relations and public reputation, and a higher employee retention rate,” DesignRush reports.

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