Diversity is key to social good says top economist

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Society would be more successful if it recognised a diverse range of skills, experience and characteristics says Bank of England's chief economist.

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17th May 2016 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Diversity is good for society and good for the economy Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, told a Children in Need event in Edinburgh.

Speaking at the Scottish Business Friends dinner in aid of Children in Need on 12 May, Haldane, who is executive sponsor of the bank's ethnic minority network, highlighted his belief that a lack of diversity in the finance world led to the economic collapse. 

Drawing on a range of material on diversity from the worlds of psychology, sociology, economics and history, as well as employer-led initiatives, Haldane said employers tend towards recruiting people with similar skills and abilities when in fact their organisation's would be more successful with a mix of people who think differently.

Andy Haldane

Andy Haldane

Diversity is a public good because it corrects our biased minds in ways which benefit society – from greater creativity and innovation to more robust and resilient decision-making

"One channel through which diversity may improve society outcomes is by fostering innovation and creative," he said. "If different raw ingredients are added to the intellectual melting pot, the final dish is likely to be richer and more innovative. Psychologists believe that divergent thinking is the cradle of creativity.”

Diversity is not just about race, however. Haldane discussed the importance of gender equality, class diversity and cognitive diversity. He suggested that society could be better served if workplaces recognised and rewarded different types of skills, such as those of people on the autistic spectrum who often have particular gifts at spotting patterns and concentrating on repeated tasks for long periods.

The Bank of England discovered in 2006, just two years before the financial collapse, that 60% of its staff fit into a single Myers-Briggs personality type, despite it including 16 different personality types. Since the collapse it has made efforts to ensure a more diverse workforce.

Haldane concluded: “Diversity is a public good because it corrects our biased minds in ways which benefit society – from greater creativity and innovation to more robust and resilient decision-making, in every social setting from schoolrooms to sports fields, from companies to communities, from eco-systems to economics. This public good, like all public goods, requires an on-going investment.”