Making the Case for Diversity

There is a change occurring in how organizations and their leaders refine their diversity strategies–a change that begins with the very way in which "diversity" efforts are defined.

"At the end of the day, diversity is about difference. There's no big, fancy definition. Diversity equals difference," says the subject of our cover story, Ken Charles, vice president for global inclusion and staffing at General Mills. "In the legacy works, it was about protected classes around race and gender, sexual orientation and physical capability. That work is evergreen, and we will continue to do that work."

But smart companies are recognizing that there is a strong business case to be made for a diverse and inclusive workforce. One of the most compelling benefits for an industry that embraces consumer insights is that a workforce that looks like your customers can better engage them by communicating with authenticity. We understand you, because we are you. We can meet your needs, because they are ours.

Research shows that there is a strong positive correlation between diversity in the workplace and innovation.

Even more powerfully, research shows that there is a strong positive correlation between diversity in the workplace and innovation. Among the key findings of a study conducted for Forbes Insights titled, "Fostering Innovation through a Diverse Workforce": "Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale."

The Forbes research found that a majority of respondents agreed with the statement that diversity is critical to encouraging the different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation. "Diversity fosters creativity. We need to generate the best ideas from our people in all levels of the company and incorporate them into our business practices," said Frédéric Rozé, chief executive officer, L'Oréal USA.

Whether your organization has a strong diversity program supported by senior management or you are beginning to evolve the diversity discussion, excellent resources in our industry abound.

The Network for Executive Women, an organization that counts General Mills' Charles (and yours truly) among its members, brings together CPG and retail companies to leverage diversity strategies for growth in their organizations. Visit them at

Retail Leader's parent company Stagnito Business Information produces an excellent conference, Multicultural Retail 360, to help better understand the multicultural consumer. Go to for more information.

– Jennifer Acevedo,

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