In my experience, diversity has fallen down the list of business priorities, almost becoming a ‘nice to have’ but certainly not essential. Yet this is beginning to change for the better, rising up the agenda and with good reason.
It can be a valuable source of sustainable competitive advantage, releasing growth now and in the future. There already exists research to support this – indeed a recent McKinsey study found that advancing women’s equality alone can add $12 trillion to global growth.
Not only can specific diversity programmes unlock the workforce’s economic potential, but in a world where creativity and simplicity is highly valued by clients and customers, finding new ways of thinking and approaching problems will give any business the edge it needs.
Some firms are already addressing this seriously – many are beginning to create specific roles for this area within HR. Elsewhere, many individuals have taken on responsibility for diversity as part of their day-to-day jobs, strengthening the case for a change to the talent pipeline.
And a commitment to diversity can also improve reputation.
Any organisation that can communicate the positive work that it is doing in this space, positioning itself as a leader of ideas and actions, will benefit beyond the direct impact on its staff and associated performance.
By leveraging the work that is being done internally, and showcasing it to peers, prospective clients and prospective employees – be it through media coverage, its own channels (e.g. website, social media platforms and newsletters), events and even paid-for content – it is possible to build an image as a progressive and forward-thinking business.
This is particularly effective when activity is aligned with an overarching communications strategy and when consistent messaging – that resonates with all stakeholders – is appearing across all strands.
But you must have confidence in your claims. When updating stakeholders on achievements or communicating your plans, in a world when anyone can be a critic, someone can hold you to account.
Opportunities for business’ to stake their position on diversity are plenty, and those that approach this strategically from a performance and reputation standpoint will surely succeed.
This article originally appeared in the Women In Business edition of Network, from British American Business.
 The Power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth, McKinsey Global Institute, September 2015