Diversity wins is the third report in a McKinsey series investigating the business case for diversity, following Why diversity matters (2015) and Delivering through diversity (2018). Our latest report shows not only that the business case remains robust but also that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time. These findings emerge from our largest data set so far, encompassing 15 countries and more than 1,000 large companies. By incorporating a “social listening” analysis of employee sentiment in online reviews, the report also provides new insights into how inclusion matters. It shows that companies should pay much greater attention to inclusion, even when they are relatively diverse.
In the COVID-19 crisis, inclusion and diversity matter more than ever
By following the trajectories of hundreds of companies in our data set since 2014, we find that the overall slow growth in diversity often observed in fact masks a growing polarization among these organizations. While most have made little progress, are stalled or even slipping backward, some are making impressive gains in diversity, particularly in executive teams. We show that these diversity winners are adopting systematic, business-led approaches to inclusion and diversity (I&D). And, with a special focus on inclusion, we highlight the areas where companies should take far bolder action to create a long-lasting inclusive culture and to promote inclusive behavior.
(Our research predates the outbreak of the global pandemic, but we believe these findings remain highly relevant. See the sidebar, “In the COVID-19 crisis, inclusion and diversity matter more than ever,” for more on why I&D must remain a priority even as the context shifts, or read “Diversity still matters” for an even deeper dive. You can also explore a related interactive for another lens on the issues.)
Our latest analysis reaffirms the strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership—and shows that this business case continues to strengthen. The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.
Our 2019 analysis finds that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014 (Exhibit 1).
Moreover, we found that the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. Companies with more than 30 percent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all. A substantial differential likelihood of outperformance—48 percent—separates the most from the least gender-diverse companies.
In the case of ethnic and cultural diversity, our business-case findings are equally compelling: in 2019, top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth one by 36 percent in profitability, slightly up from 33 percent in 2017 and 35 percent in 2014. As we have previously found, the likelihood of outperformance continues to be higher for diversity in ethnicity than for gender.
Yet progress, overall, has been slow. In the companies in our original 2014 data set, based in the United States and the United Kingdom, female representation on executive teams rose from 15 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2019. Across our global data set, for which our data starts in 2017, gender diversity moved up just one percentage point—to 15 percent, from 14—in 2019. More than a third of the companies in our data set still have no women at all on their executive teams. This lack of material progress is evident across all industries and in most countries. Similarly, the representation of ethnic-minorities on UK and US executive teams stood at only 13 percent in 2019, up from just 7 percent in 2014. For our global data set, this proportion was 14 percent in 2019, up from 12 percent in 2017 (Exhibit 2).
Adopted from Diversity wins: How inclusion matters | McKinsey