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Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy where she directs the “Hidden Brain Drain”—a task force of 35 global companies committed[…]

Diversity can make companies more efficient, more forward thinking, and more successful.

Sylvia Hewlett: I'd been very involved in the talent wars right across the world, lived and worked in poor countries. I see myself as a bit of an international expert in those areas.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founding President of the Center for Work-Life Policy, here in New York, which is a think tank.

Card: How Companies Can Learn to Leverage Diversity.

Sylvia Hewlett: I don't think it's obvious to leaders that this is a must-have. Everyone sees it as a nice-to-have, it's clearly a good adornment, particularly in good times. So making the business case for why this has to be done now, even in the midst of the global recession, actually needs a pretty complicated argument. To go down the list and to spell out why it is an urgent priority now, I think the first thing I would stress is the tremendous demographic shifts out there in the world.

Let me make it very vivid. If you take the global talent pipeline, everyone in the world that has at least a bachelors degree, only 17% of that pipeline these days comprises white men. 83% of every qualified labor pool around the world is actually female or multicultural. And therefore, just on share efficiency grounds, you're not going to be able to recruit the brightest and the best to lean on the richest pool of talent, if you tend to rely on white guys to lead you into the future. So the demographic changes I think make it a very urgent problem.

Another new factor, there's a lot of research on the efficacy of teams. It turns out diverse work teams encompassing gender diversity, racial diversity, age diversity make much better decisions and are much more innovative than homogeneous teams.

If you try to design a product these days relying on a bunch of Caucasian men who all grew up in Greenwich, the odds are you would end up with a very narrow kind of conception as to what might be useful out there. So the new world, particularly the London Business School has done a lot of new work on address the innovation and efficiency of teams, and how diversity makes a huge difference.

Another factor and perhaps I'll stop at three, although there are many out there, is what's happened to the face of the consumer/client. And again this is leaning on Tom Peter's work; he shows is that 83% of consumer decisions these days are made by women. The consumer is not king, the consumer's queen.