Diversity Makes Us Smarter

Posted by Mr. Edgar L. Smith, Jr., Jun 16, 2016 0 comments

On May 4, 2016, a collection of arts and business leaders from the BCA Executive Board and other friends of Americans for the Arts convened at The Conference Board’s office in midtown Manhattan for a discussion with Americans for the Arts on cultural equity and the arts, and the role that business leaders play in advocating for both the role of arts and the need for diversity in all aspects of the creative and business worlds. The discussion was led by Americans for the Arts board member Margie Johnson Reese, the executive director of Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture.

Though it’s hard to capture the entire conversation in a short blog, the closing words of Edgar Smith, Chairman and CEO of World Pac Paper, LLC and BCA Executive Board Chair, summed up the sentiments of the day perfectly.

Diversity makes us smarter. Diversity creates one and only one thing: opportunity.

Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.

A.G. Lafley, currently chairman of the Procter & Gamble Company, stated, “A group of diverse people with different backgrounds, experiences and leadership styles will out-think, out-innovate, and out-execute homogeneous groups of people any time.”

This has, in fact, been proven by decades of research by organized scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers. They have shown that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogenous groups.

According to the Census Bureau, by 2050 (actually 2043) the nation’s minority population will become the majority. In other words, new businesses, new jobs, and new products will be strongly influenced, if not created, by the racial and ethnic minority community.

Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. We need diversity if we are to change, grow and innovate. Diverse minds create solutions. And diverse minds, like all minds, need creativity to grow, learn, and adapt to a changing world.

The dedicated work of ArtsWave creates an environment where the growing impact of the arts is felt and celebrated by the entire community.

The arts have put my city, Cincinnati, Ohio, on the map, with an innovative arts scene that attracts talent, visitors, and business to the region.

The arts deepen roots in our region: residents who are engaged in the arts—whether as volunteers, artists, or audience members—have a stronger and more positive connection to the community.

The arts bridge cultural divides: when the arts reflect and celebrate the diversity of our community, residents build a greater understanding and appreciation of cultural differences.

The arts enliven neighborhoods: community arts centers, galleries, and theaters serve as vital hubs for neighborhood activity that supports local business and builds civic pride.

The arts fuel creativity and learning: the arts have the power to transform education both by improving learning of core curriculum and by teaching essential skills like creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.

The arts foster critical thinking: creativity is among the top applied skills sought by employers. How you think is everything!

The arts help attract and recruit talent: employees want to live and work in a vibrant community.

The arts embrace diversity and team building: they create an environment that blends backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures.

While the arts play a huge role in fostering the growth of diverse communities with all kinds of cultural voices, we as leaders in the business community need to take on the mantle of responsibility for encouraging and developing a more diverse (and creative) workforce.

Enlightened top companies know that multicultural teams with diversity of thought and experience are better at developing new markets than homogeneous ones. Recruiters recognize that multicultural employees are more easily retained when they see evidence of opportunity all the way to the C-Suite and when they have social and cultural connections outside of work. A growing body of research suggests that companies with more diversity and inclusion—including the boardroom—post better performance over time.

Our future starts now! We all have to keep reaching up, down, and out. We must use our time purposefully.

Our conversations will continue to inform the work that Americans for the Arts is doing to address how partnerships between arts and business can advance diversity and equity objectives for both communities. As an Americans for the Arts Board Member, I must say that I am truly proud of the work that the organization is doing to address diversity, inclusion and equity!

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