According to the recently released Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) for 2018, Singapore retains its position as the most talent competitive market in Asia Pacific for the fifth year running. The theme for this year’s Index was ‘Diversity for Competitiveness’, which focused on two types of diversity – cognitive diversity (differences in experience, knowledge and perspective) and identity (race, gender, age, etc.)

The report is focused around the fact that diversity is an investment for businesses – i.e. people need to be taught how to collaborate with others who are different from them. But it also clearly shows that in order for diversity to become a competitive business advantage, a culture of inclusion must exist.

But why does it matter so much that diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand for true business success? Let me give you an example.

While GTC’s Index finds companies in Singapore to be diverse enough to reach the top of the talent competitiveness rankings, our annual #SheMakesItWork 2018 survey highlights that there is still a gap when it comes to inclusivity. This annual survey by Monster across Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines gathers women’s (and men’s) thoughts on gender equality, women’s struggles in the workplace, and barriers to success for working mothers.

Our study found most women in Singapore have experienced discrimination of some description within the workplace, acting as a ceiling to their upward mobility. This includes things such as being questioned about their desire to have children during job interviews (34%), not being taken seriously when talking or sharing ideas (23%), being held back from promotions because of their responsibilities at home with family (23%), and being physically labelled as “too emotional” or “too assertive” for a particular job (19%).

Beyond this, 42% said their current employers haven’t instilled any gender-equality based policies that they are aware of to drive a more diverse workplace.

There has been plenty of global research over the years to back up our findings. It’s no secret that few senior management roles in Singapore are held by women – far fewer than in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. And even with nationwide policies and programmes in place aimed at driving gender diversity, there is still a lurking sentiment that Singapore doesn’t have the best reputation for gender equality.

All of this is an example of a lack of inclusivity, which is the “how” part of diversity. I liken it to having a room full of completely diverse individuals – you can say you are diverse by grouping together a bunch of ‘diverse’ people, but unless you can teach them how to work together, learn from each other, and set each other up for success, it won’t make much of a difference to your company’s bottom line and perception from competitors.

When it comes to diversity in Singapore’s workplaces, it is a nation ripe for disruption. Companies can no longer ignore any lack of cultural awareness or organisational bias. Organisations that want to be seen as globally relevant must embrace diversity at all levels – there is plenty of research to show that diverse teams make better business decisions, and are 35% more likely to perform better than their industry peers.

Diversity drives your competitive advantage – it is the key to growth. It can introduce new networks to a business and build out new relationships. It can provide you with new ways of thinking and new skill sets you may need, especially at a softer level of listening, collaborating and tolerating change. And finally, a diverse team gives you accurate insights into your broader customer base, allowing you to do what you do better.

For industries and organisations wanting to remain competitive, being truly diverse – and embracing diversity of thought – is necessary for survival.

This article was first published in HRM Asia.