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Why diversity is important in business

October 20th, 2015

In this special guest blog piece, LinkedIn’s UK Country Manager & Senior Director Josh Graff, talks about the importance of diversity in business.

We all know that diversity is a vital ingredient for long-term business success. The evidence is compelling. Companies ranked in the top quartile by board diversity are 53% more profitable than those in the bottom 25%. But despite this clear correlation too many organisations still pay diversity lip service.

This issue isn’t just about increasing the number of people with different backgrounds in a business or organisation. It is making sure that employees feel comfortable expressing their own cultural, ethnic or sexual identity in the workplace. Not just because they will feel more confident as they go about their work – though of course this is important – but because these qualities unlock genuine strengths that bring great value to business.

Diversity should be the norm in all industries, and none more so than the creative professions. We are driven to understand, reflect and respond to a multitude of diverse audiences. Yet an IPPR report published last year notes that the proportion of non-white people working in the creative sector is roughly half that of the rest of the economy – a problem that becomes worse at more senior levels. In many ways we are being left behind by businesses in the financial and technology industries, who are working harder to improve the diversity of their teams.

While I’m a huge believer in personal authenticity and the ability to be yourself in the workplace I absolutely recognise that it’s not always easy. I struggled with my own identity at the start of my career. When I began working at a TV production company in 1999, I was determined to make a successful career for myself. But I also felt that being gay was a point of differentiation that I would have to ‘overcome’, especially as I had also dropped out of university.

I made the mistake of leaving my personal life at home. I know now that my sexuality and experience as a young professional with a different career path afforded me a unique perspective to the working world. When I eventually came out two years later, I vowed to never let who I was hold me back in a professional setting.

For people with diverse backgrounds trying to make it in the business world, the challenge can be undoubtedly tough. And looking at the representation of people from these groups at all levels of the media industry, it clearly needs to do better. Diverse experiences help create unique and exciting outputs – vital for the creative industries. That’s why I feel the work that Creative Access is doing to improve diversity in the media industry is so valuable.

At LinkedIn, we pride ourselves on our values – and our commitment to diversity. As a fast-growing company, we have been working hard to ensure we attract a broad candidate pool, and foster a highly inclusive culture where people feel they can be themselves. It’s an important part of our success.

Our platform helps people succeed in the business world, regardless of their background. People from all over the world are using LinkedIn to network, get themselves ahead and build connections in the industry. I encourage everyone reading this to do the same. It’s a great way to find out what people are talking about and see what skills are needed to succeed in this industry. We want to create opportunities for all.

The creative industries are synonymous with innovation. I hope we can take the lead on diversity and improve the representation of BAME people in media over the next few years. Progress is being made but there is still a long way to go.