The women of Nike caused quite a stir by revealing data on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and gender bias within the organization. Many have expressed concern that, while there may be immediate actions taken in response to bad publicity, a true change in culture will remain elusive. A recent Fast Company article describes the financial and cultural impacts of undervaluing women's contributions. Nike has lost millions and left billions on the table by relying heavily on male-driven decisions. More importantly, they have undervalued and under-activated the large and growing market of women consumers. Whether the company learns from its past and creates meaningful change is yet to be seen. Whether the company addresses potential bias beyond gender is another question altogether. Maybe Nike can afford to do nothing.
Small businesses and nonprofits don't have the resources to leave money or talent on the table. Organizations that are able to truly leverage diversity of ALL kinds and cultivate the talents of ALL staff will emerge as the most competitive. Some of my favorite "diversity" strategies involve activities such as coaching, offering staff opportunities to "rehearse" in safe settings before presentations or important discussions, and providing customized staff development opportunities that advance the goals of the individuals and the organization. Providing opportunities like these that offer meaningful engagement and tangible support elicits the best work from all staff. As we have seen from the Nike experience, undervaluing talent has significant consequences and organizations that welcome diverse thought also benefit from it.