The Power of Diversity

As said by actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie, “Our diversity is our strength. What a dull and pointless life it would be if everyone was the same.” It’s a sentiment that has been held and repeated by much of the population. Yet contrary to popular belief, the benefits of diversity extend past simply the abstract. Recent studies prove that representation of minorities leads to financial and social gains in nearly every aspect of our lives.

According to Monta Vista students, diversity increases tolerance. With just 17% of the school being non-Asian, it’s clear that our school lacks racial diversity. Monta Vista freshman Aarushi Agrawal explains how this has impacted her own life.

“We live in Cupertino, which is very Asian dominated. It’s made our view very tunneled,” said  Agrawal. “There’s a lot of things we don’t know about other cultures that we are missing out on.” In other words, our lack of diversity means that we lack opportunities to learn about other countries and societies.

Beyond tolerance, diversity has scientifically proven benefits as well. The Scientific American cites several studies that have shown that diversity increases innovation. Diverse groups bring different information, opinions and perspectives. Groups who differ in gender, sexuality, and race often have unique perspectives and experiences that contribute to projects and tasks. This means that both innovation and productivity are boosted in more diverse environments.

This is quantified by a study by business professors from the University of Maryland and Columbia University of top firms in the US. It finds that when there are more women in management leads, the firm value rises by $42 million. In Silicon Valley, a region in which women are notoriously underrepresented, this increase in valuation is a substantial reason to increase female representation.

Along with a boost from gender diversity, ethnic diversity also has proven benefits. McKinsey & Company shows that companies with higher rates of racial diversity are 35 percent more likely to outperform the median. The added inputs and ideas are equated with significantly better performance, boosting company performance significantly.

Past just businesses, schools are also heavily benefited by increased diversity. When students are exposed to different cultures and ethnicities, their performance sees a boost. A report from Teachers College Columbia finds that interaction with students from different ethnic or cultural groups means that children are exposed to new ideas and challenges, leading to better critical thinking and problem solving.

As our society has evolved, this exposure has become more important than ever. In a time when the majority of public school students are of color, it’s vital that students are able to interact with diverse groups. 96% of major employers say that employees must be comfortable working with colleagues, customers, and/or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. The best way to do this is to introduce students to different cultures from a young age, breeding acceptance and tolerance. Agrawal corroborates this sentiment.

“More diversity exposes us to different things,” she said.  “This makes us more tolerant and lets us be more educated.”

Infographic by Janya Budaraju
Infographic by Janya Budaraju

Yet despite the clear benefits, society sees staggeringly low rates of representation of women in technology and leadership roles. A Fortune survey of 9 top tech companies in the Silicon Valley finds that women constitute just a third of the workforce. That gap expands with the levels in the company, with the best company showing women holding only 29% of leadership jobs.

And gender isn’t the only area lacking in diversity. According to a USA Today study, top universities graduate black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering students at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them. Just one in 14 technical employees in Silicon Valley is black or Hispanic. This has consequences for business and society, both financially and socially.

“Without diversity,” said freshman Emma Schuyler, “there’s a lot of things we don’t know about other cultures that we are missing out on.”

This is a chilling insight into Silicon Valley’s hiring. Despite the irrefutable evidence supporting diversity, the low rates of diversity suggest implicit discrimination or inequality. But as tech companies have realized their flaws, they have taken steps to solve the issue. Perspectives within top businesses appear to be evolving. “Diversity makes all tech better, and our products better,” said Anna Patterson, VP of engineering at Google. “We need to become even more thoughtful about how we understand each other, including our user base.”

More tangibly, companies have taken active steps to increase representation of minorities. In recent years, technology company Apple has poured 50 million dollars into several organizations in order to increase diversity in its ranks. Asana, a startup focusing on task management, has made initial stages of its hiring process anonymous in order to eliminate unconscious bias towards certain races or genders. Google invests in programs that encourage children of all backgrounds to learn coding from young ages. These shifts are proof that the benefits of diversity are becoming increasingly evident to corporations.

Along with all the aforementioned investments of resources, perspectives within the company appear to be evolving.  Students at Monta Vista also reflect a need for change. Agrawal believes that the key to tolerance lies in awareness. “We can’t import people,” said Agrawal, “so the main thing is educating people who already live here.”