The ROI of Diversity and Inclusion

When presenting workshops on diversity and inclusion, I often ask students and faculty to reflect on the question “What’s in it for me?” This is an important question to ponder because embracing the complexity of diversity can cause discomfort for some UNG stakeholders. After all, what would encourage a person to engage in self-reflection, admit biases, or assess their level of awareness and its impact on others? While we in higher education fall back on answers such as enhanced critical thinking skills, preparation for a more global society, and the opportunity to be a catalyst for change, do these answers have the same impact for our community partners?

Measuring the return on investment of diversity and inclusion in an institution of higher education can be beneficial because diversity is not a charitable donation. According to the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Report (2014), institutions that take a strategic diversity leadership approach to advance diversity, inclusion and equity are more likely to see higher retention and graduation rates for African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians /Pacific Islander students. Additional returns include improved student demographic diversity, enhanced faculty and staff diversity, and positive gains in campus climate.


Strategic Diversity Leadership Approach includes:

Access and equity capabilities

Campus climate and inclusion capabilities

Diversity, research, and scholarship capabilities

Learning and diversity capabilities


In business and industry, there is a clear message to stakeholders that diversity works and is profitable. According to Forbes Insight (2015), the top ranking companies in the world cite workforce diversity as a key driver of innovation and a critical component of being successful on a global scale. Furthermore, they found that nearly all of the top companies in the world reported that their companies have diversity and inclusion strategic initiatives in place to attract and retain top talent. For example, companies with diversity outperform less diverse organizations (15% higher for gender diversity, 35% higher for ethnic diversity companies with gender diversity) and team-based assessments of inclusive teams show 80% better results. Overall, companies found that diversity and inclusion leads to deeper understanding and collaboration, resulting in higher productivity and effectiveness (Aperian Global, 2015).

The University of North Georgia, with its commitment to meaningful engagement, is striving to create a collaborative community that better reflect the world’s social, economic, and cultural diversity. The university is committed to a diverse environment because the return on investment is enhanced educational experiences and an environment that leverages the full potential of team members. This endeavor creates a culture that unleashes value-driving insights and innovative problem solving. What’s in it for UNG is to fulfill our mission and prepare students for a rapidly changing and diverse world. What’s in it for you?

Sheila Caldwell is the UNG Advisor to the President on Diversity and Director of UNG’s Complete College Georgia program.