July 25, 2016 9:56 AM EDT

What does an ideal workplace look like to me?

I believe it has two key characteristics.

First, it’s diverse – in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity, to be sure. But an ideal workplace also acknowledges – and appreciates – the many other differences that people bring to work: sexual orientation, physical abilities, spiritual beliefs, values, experiences, and backgrounds. I believe a diverse workplace is more stimulating for employees – and more productive for employers – because it has more energy, more ideas, and more perspectives.

Second, and equally important, the ideal workplace is inclusive.

It’s a place where everyone feels valued, respected, and a sense of belonging. Where people have equal access to opportunities and resources. Where they feel empowered to share their ideas and reach their full potential.

In recent years, as the U.S. has become increasingly diverse, we’ve seen a growing recognition of the value of diversity in the workplace. But it’s important to note that diversity without inclusion is not enough. As the author and consultantVernā Myers has so eloquently put it, “Diversity is like being invited to the party, but not asked to dance.” Having an inclusive culture is what ensures that everyone gets a chance on the dance floor.

In 21st century America, creating diverse and inclusive workplaces is not only the right thing to do, it’s also a business imperative. Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for more than 90% of the population growth seen over the past decade – which means companies have an increasingly diverse talent pool and customer base. Companies that can’t attract and retain a diverse workforce won’t be able to relate to their customers – and they’ll be left behind.

Research is also making clear that companies with diverse and inclusive teams have a competitive advantage. Such teams are more engaged, make better decisions, and deliver strong performance.

A McKinsey study showed that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, while those in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to garner such returns.

My organization has a strong track record on diversity, and I strongly believe it’s a key source of our strength. TIAA has been a pioneer – becoming the first Fortune 500 company with an African-American CEO in 1987 – and we continue to be a leader, having made DiversityInc’s list of Top 50 Companies for Diversity for the past four years. We don’t rest on our laurels, though. Last year, we launched an initiative to enhance the inclusiveness of our culture that will touch every employee across TIAA. We know that by continuing to strengthen our diversity and inclusion, we will become better able to meet the diverse needs of our customers. In the end, there’s no higher aspiration for an “ideal workplace” than that.


This article originally appeared on

Contact us at

Read More From TIME

Related Stories