Page told me that while there’s been a lot of conversation lately about increasing the numbers of non-white, non-male people in various companies and sectors, it’s left open the question of how many folks those organizations are supposed to be aiming for. Is one enough? Is 10 too many? Can you fiddle the dials to calibrate some sort of ideal workplace diversity score?
Page says it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you simply want more women in the room, that’s easy enough. Hire a woman and stick her at a desk. Your room has, indeed, become more diverse, numerically speaking. Time for happy hour.
But if what you’re going for is bringing new perspectives into your organization, and getting people to actually think differently and come up with new ideas, then a different calculus is needed.
“One question you can ask is how many people of a particular group have to be in a room for them to speak,” Page said. That is, having a woman in a room doesn’t affect a whole lot if she doesn’t feel comfortable speaking up. And while he has found that the presence of just one member of a minority group in a room can positively influence the rest of the group to be more cognizant of their own language and behavior, that’s different from actually hearing out that person’s ideas.