October is Black History Month in the UK - a celebration of the vital and unrecognized role of blacks and ethnic minorities in our history. The UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development has marked it with a series of initiatives, lectures and publications that recall our troubled history, the progress made and how much remains to be done.
The UK's racial and cultural diversity as a nation is now widely accepted and celebrated as one of our strongest points. This is increasingly reflected in the way we conduct our international relations, and the number of black diplomats and ethnic minorities worldwide is growing - which is correct - although this growth is still very slow.
When we represent our country in global forums and in negotiations, our interlocutors recognize the unique perspective that our individual history has given us. We believe that our diversity allows us to create lasting and meaningful bonds with more people, often dispelling misconceptions based on our past. In short, the diversity of the United Kingdom is a unique advantage for our nation.
The danger as we move forward in this matter is to become complacent, when, in fact, there is much to do. Recent events remind us, for example, that some of the symbols of our history, such as certain statues and monuments, require, at the very least, a more balanced framework and better information in order to continue to serve as visible public references from our past. It is also deeply worrying that we see that across the world there are signs that openly racist, and often violent, movements are gaining visibility, jeopardizing decades of progress.
Businesses and organizations play a vital role in shaping the cultural and socio-economic landscape that will be the story of the future. Unfortunately, initiatives related to diversity and inclusion in the business world are often seen as a matter of human resources only, rather than transversal to functional areas.
In reality, there is more and more convincing evidence that diversity is the key to business performance. In the highly competitive world of venture capital, to cite just one example, a recent study reveals that homogeneous investment teams have significantly worse results in terms of decision-making, when compared to teams with a greater degree of diversity *. Diversified perspectives help companies to challenge the status quo, understand the dynamics of markets and innovate.
In short, diversity and inclusion lead to stronger societies, better decisions and better business results. Being aware and seeing how others see issues is a central element of diplomacy, but also of the well-being of communities and organizations.
* “The Other Diversity Dividend”, Gompers & Kovali, Harvard Business Review, August 2018