Cropped view of six people wearing diverse clothes

A richer type of conversation

  • Mary Lou Maher, Leadership |

Succeeding in a world of constant disruption demands a diversity of voices and perspectives. A recent study by North Carolina State University* showed that companies embracing diversity from multiple angles (e.g. geographical, educational, etc.) are more successful when it comes to innovation.

Why? Because innovation doesn’t happen when we are surrounded by our mirror image, echoing our own voice. It happens when we draw on the richness of people’s perspectives and find opportunities for those perspectives to intersect – that’s when innovation happens and ideas surprise us.

Too often we fall into the trap of not bringing the full power of our diversity to the table when trying to solve business issues, even though a recent KPMG Global CEO Outlook found the main driver of growth is disruption, which is born out of embracing a diversity of thought when generating new ideas.

At KPMG we’ve formed alliances with organizations who are leaders in their space, like Google Cloud or Microsoft, with the aim of delivering a wider range of technology solutions to clients. The KPMG Strategic Alliance program creates the opportunity for member firms to have a variety of different experts at the table, creating solutions for clients that move past one single opinion, and take into account an array of voices.

We should also make sure the voice we bring to the table is honest and authentic, enabling a different type of conversation. Being open about who I am and where I come from has helped me to have richer conversations with my colleagues and clients.

My story began over 35 years ago when I was the first person in my family to go to university (not bad for a small town Canadian farm girl) and includes my marriage to the love of my life, my wife Virginia, and my appointment as the Global Head of Inclusion and Diversity for KPMG International. Being open and honest in my working relationships has allowed me to create stronger business connections, which in turn leads to new business opportunities that may not have happened otherwise. We need to reframe how we approach our business relationships – not seeing them as transactional, but being open to all that others bring to the table.

KPMG provided a platform for inclusive voices at the World Economic Forum this year in the hope of moving the needle on equality through the Inclusive Voices video series where both men and women dedicated to an inclusive future share their opinions on what could and should be done. Watch the series to hear what Christy Turlington Burns (Founder, Every Mother Counts), Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil (Founder, Lakshya Trust), Donna Strickland (Nobel Prize Winner in Physics and Professor at the University of Waterloo) and others have to say about creating a truly inclusive future.

There’s power in having an authentic voice, embracing transparency in the workplace and creating a culture of inclusion.

Imagine what’s possible if each and every one of us felt comfortable to bring our whole selves to work.


*Shipman, M. (2018). Study Finds Diversity Boosts Innovation in U.S. Companies. North Carolina State University.