Every major tech company has a diversity initiative. In fact, for many, creating a workforce that better reflects the diversity of our society at large is a mandate driven by demands from customers, investors and, in some cases, high-profile negative media coverage.

Gender diversity – and, specifically, more equal representation of women – is often the focus of bold announcements and initiatives. This makes sense as a starting point; companies with more women leaders outperform those with none. And some progress has been made. But even with massive investments and glossy campaigns, women remain underrepresented, especially in senior leadership positions.

Sally Blount, Dean of the Kellogg School of Management, breaks down some of the “blockers” for developing female senior leaders in her must-read LinkedIn Pulse article. These range from negative stereotypes held by young women toward a business career, a lack of female role models, the difficulty of balancing professional and care-giving demands during the mid-career phase, implicit bias and a lack of ongoing, meaningful support.

It Starts with Corporate Culture

While every demographic has unique needs and challenges, what strikes me is that diversity is not a characteristic or quality that can be achieved through an initiative aimed at diversity per se; instead, diversity is the outcome of an effort to become more inclusive: to create a culture in which people from different backgrounds, with different values and work styles, and even different physical abilities, can all feel welcome, and be able to succeed.

In other words, the starting point is inclusivity, and diversity will follow. Businesses can nurture inclusivity by evolving their corporate culture in a way that sustains the recruiting, retention and advancement of diverse talent.

This past spring, for example, I attended the Techonomy Health event in New York, where Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global, spoke with Kristin Lemkau, CMO at JPMorgan Chase, about the rollout of Huffington’s health and wellness program at JPMC to help spur culture change. The initiative is intended to encourage JPMC’s 240,000-plus employees to “unplug and recharge.”

Lemkau and Huffington spoke about the connection between fitness, nutrition, sleep and mental wellness – and how they’ve been able to quantify that a “more human” workforce is more productive. Thrive Global’s media platform includes stories from the likes of Jeff Bezos, touting “Why Getting 8 Hours of Sleep at Night Is Good for Amazon’s Shareholders,” fortifying the case that the punishing, 80-hour workweek causes burnout and lower productivity.

The Connection: Health, Wellness and Inclusivity

I’m struck by this connection between being “human” and being inclusive. By nurturing a culture in which it’s permissible to “unplug” – or to exercise, sleep, talk to a therapist, take a break with your family – businesses can encourage different types of people to feel a sense of belonging. Not everybody can or should be hard-driving and type-A, or come from similar educational or socio-economic backgrounds. Employees are more productive, creative and innovative when they can bring their true selves – their whole selves – into work each day. Further, we know that diversity of thought is critical to creating the kinds of companies that can compete in the digital future.

At Cognizant, we say “to be more digital, you need to be more human.” When we say this, we’re reflecting our philosophy that as we imagine, build and create experiences enabled by digital technologies, that we must start by understanding the human needs and behaviors that our solutions address.

The philosophy of “being more human” can be applied to the workplace as well. If businesses believe that diversity of thought, talent and culture is critical to their success, then they need to create a more “human” enterprise – one that allows their teams to thrive both inside and outside of the workplace. Encouraging a more human workforce creates a more inclusive environment – and creates a more competitive business.

Feather Hickox

Feather Hickox

Feather Hickox is AVP Marketing within Cognizant’s Digital Business practice, and also serves as the Executive Sponsor for Cognizant Women Empowered, a... Read more