By Kelly Leonard – Executive Director, Insights and Applied Improvisation
The Second City e.t.c. recently announced its cast for their upcoming 40th revue and many people took notice. The cast is made up of four women and two men; 50% of the cast is ethnically diverse; and there is only one straight, white male actor in the bunch. Diversity has been a point of focus since the early 1990’s when Second City owner Andrew Alexander challenged both his creative and business teams to actively and purposefully diversify the company. Frances Callier was our first director of Outreach – a position currently held by Dionna Griffin-Irons. The work is not nearly done. But it’s come a long way in an industry that still struggles on a national level with maintaining diverse comic ensembles in some of our most cherished institutions.
For over two decades, we have labored to find the best ways to fuel gender equality, to staff racially diverse ensembles and to extend that reach to other communities – be it LGBT, the disabled and those with disorders that can render them isolated and disconnected.
Why is this important? Is it just because it’s the right thing to do? Of course not. We constantly find ourselves in opposition to the “right thing to do” – either by ignorance, laziness or personal and professional lack of capacity. No. We seek diversification because it’s good for the bottom line: because it makes better product and it increases revenue. We’ve seen this first hand at The Second City, but don’t take our word for it.
McKinsey & Company recently conducted a study focused on 366 public companies. Writing about the findings in The Wall Street Journal, Joann S. Lublin reports:
“Businesses with the most gender diverse leadership were 15% more likely to report financial revenues above their national median, the study showed. An even more striking link turned up at concern with extensive ethnic diversity. Those best performers were 35% more likely to have financial returns that outpace their industry.”
I’ve often used this analogy: if you were a baseball manager, you would never create a lineup that consisted solely of right handed power hitters. When you are crafting a roster, you are looking for a mix of lefties and righties; you need some speed and you need some power; you are balancing individuals who excel at defense and those who favor offense; you need individuals who can lead in the clubhouse and sometimes you want that wild card individual who may be a challenge on you and the rest of the team, but whose creativity cannot be denied.
It’s like this when you cast a show at The Second City. We need actors, writers, improvisers; we need alpha’s and non-alpha’s; we need people with a fierce POV and we need those who will simply make everyone else look better.
It isn’t any different when you’re putting together your business teams. There’s a great phrase in improvisation: “All of us are better than one of us.” Sales teams will only benefit if they contain extroverts and introverts. Why? Because your clients will respond to the individual they connect best with and the world is made up of extroverts and introverts. Likewise, when you are able to have a team that can tap into a wide variety of cultures you have just given yourself a potential leg up in broadening your audience base.
At the end of the day, diversity isn’t about being politically correct, it’s about being business savvy.