13 Apr 2021

“Getting Serious About Diversity” wins 62nd Annual HBR McKinsey Award

Top article calls for different approach to understanding and leveraging diversity in the workplace

BOSTON, MA — “Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case” has won the 2020 HBR McKinsey Award, which honors the best Harvard Business Review article of the year.

The article, by Harvard Business School professor Robin Ely and Morehouse College president David A. Thomas, critiques the off-cited economic case for diversity and argues that contrary to conventional wisdom, there’s no research support for the notion that diversifying the workforce automatically improves a company’s performance. To fully benefit from increased racial and gender diversity, organizations must adopt a learning orientation and be willing to change the corporate culture and power structure.

“Getting Serious About Diversity” revisits an argument Ely and Thomas made in their 1996 HBR article “Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Diversity,” which outlined their research showing companies could reap the full benefits of a diverse workforce by tapping into identity-related knowledge and experiences as resources for learning how the organization could be more effective.

“‘Getting Serious About Diversity’ builds on Robin Ely and David Thomas’ pioneering arguments about workplace diversity and presents actions leaders must take to make real progress,” said Adi Ignatius, Editor in Chief of Harvard Business Review. “At a time when many companies are addressing diversity with new urgency, this article is an essential read.”

Robin Ely is the Diane Doerge Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. David A. Thomas is the 12th President of Morehouse College and the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School.

The annual HBR McKinsey Awards, judged by an independent panel of business and academic leaders with input from members of HBR’s Advisory Board, commend outstanding articles published each year in Harvard Business Review. This year’s announcement appears in the May-June issue of the magazine.

This year’s HBR McKinsey Awards also recognizes two finalists:

The 2020 HBR McKinsey judges were: Trevor Fetter, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School; Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Former Partner, Egon Zehnder; Francesca Gino, Professor, Harvard Business School; Herminia Ibarra, Professor, London Business School

About the HBR McKinsey Awards

Since 1959, the HBR McKinsey Awards have recognized practical and groundbreaking management thinking by determining the best articles published each year in Harvard Business Review. Past winners include Clayton M. Christensen, Peter Drucker, Daniel Goleman, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, John Kotter, Mark R. Kramer, Michael E. Porter, and George Stalk.

About Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review is the leading destination for smart management thinking. Through its flagship magazine, 10 international licensed editions, books from Harvard Business Review Press, and digital content and tools published on HBR.org, Harvard Business Review provides professionals around the world with rigorous insights and best practices to lead themselves and their organizations more effectively and to make a positive impact.


Amy Poftak
Director of Communications

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.