Achieving True Diversity the Major League Soccer Way

Improving workplace diversity is not an easy task, but the responsibility lies with the top leadership of every company. Even when diversity is uncomfortable – and perhaps because it is uncomfortable – teams perform more effectively with more diversity of culture, gender, and ethnicity. 

Benefits of Diversity in Team Performance 

Study after study delivers the same results: gender, cultural, and ethnic diversity are good for business. From board membership to R&D, from management to customer-facing roles, diversity wins.

  • Large-cap companies with at least one woman on the board outperform their peer group with no women on the board by 26 percent [Credit Suisse]
  • When conducting stock valuation, diverse teams were 58 percent more likely to price stocks correctly across markets and locations [National Academy of Sciences]
  • Diverse R&D teams were far more radically innovative (think: the next Uber) [Taylor & Francis]

Measuring diversity is more complex and more critical than just ensuring that you have representative members of each gender, race, or culture. To truly reach representative diversity in your organization, take a page from the efforts of Major League Soccer (MLS).

Scoring Big on Diversity: Major League Soccer

Henry Johnson, co-president of Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, offers a different measure of diversity by using Simpson’s Index, typically used by ecologists as a means of measuring biodiversity, yet for Johnson’s purposes, was applied to American sports leagues. Simpson’s Index measures the probability that two individuals randomly drawn from the sample will belong to the same category. True diversity happens when no single category dominates the sample.

Major League Soccer is the only professional sport in which at least half of the players do not represent one race or ethnicity. In every other major sports league, more than 50 percent of the team members are of the same race, whether black or white.  And using Simpson’s Index, Major League Soccer is the only major league sports team to score well when two players are selected randomly, with only a 32 percent chance that the two selected would be of the same race or ethnicity.

MLS Hiring Practices

MLS has made a serious commitment to increase diversity and to ensure that all people are fairly represented in the company – not just with players, but with management and behind-the-scenes staff as well.

You can follow Major League Soccer’s lead by:

  • Making diversity one of the main pillars of your organization
  • Showcasing existing diverse culture
  • Using data to determine your success with diversity and making changes to improve

Is your organization really achieving true diversity, or is it merely paying lip service to the idea of diversity?

Diversity, even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult to implement, offers a big payout. The question isn’t, why is diversity so important, but rather why aren’t you doing more to achieve true diversity in your workplace?


East Tenth Group is a boutique consulting firm providing people strategy, leadership development and executive coaching services. We are fiercely committed to helping leaders and their businesses thrive in today’s complex environment. We partner with growth enterprise and middle-market businesses that need strategic leadership and human capital insight, perspective, and experience to grow and sustain their efforts. Michelle Tenzyk serves as the President of East Tenth Group, Inc. Follow Michelle on LinkedIn.

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