Study: Workplace diversity can help the bottom line

MIT economist scrutinizes firm data suggesting diverse offices function more effectively.
Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office,  October 7, 2014

Gender diversity in the workplace helps firms be more productive, according to a new study co-authored by an MIT researcher — but it may also reduce satisfaction among employees.

“Having a more diverse set of employees means you have a more diverse set of skills,” says Sara Ellison, an MIT economist, which “could result in an office that functions better.”

At the same time, individual employees may prefer less diverse settings. The study, analyzing a large white-collar U.S. firm, examined how much “social capital” offices build up in the form of things like cooperation, trust, and enjoyment of the workplace.
“The more homogeneous offices have higher levels of social capital,” Ellison observes. “But the interesting twist is that … higher levels of social capital are not important enough to cause those offices to perform better. The employees might be happier, they might be more comfortable, and these might be cooperative places, but they seem to perform less well.”

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