Beyond it being the right thing to do, offering equal pay and having gender diversity on executive teams may improve financial performance.

100 years. That’s how long it will take women to achieve gender parity according to a 2017 World Economic Forum study. What’s worse is that McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2018 says progress has stalled.

It’s time to act on gender equity, to embrace diversity. It’s time to make diversity and inclusion an imperative.

The Economic Impact

Building the business case for creating a diverse and inclusive culture starts with the fact that it’s the right thing to do. As business leaders you should know that it’s also the smart thing to do.

Several organizations have published research reinforcing the link between diversity and company financial performance. McKinsey Global Institute’s report, Delivering through Diversity, finds that companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33 percent more likely to outperform on profitability. What’s more, these companies also outperform in leadership and innovation.

Cultivating a Diverse Workforce

Building an environment where employees can bring their authentic selves to work every day is purposeful and takes constant attention. Leaders must engage in conversations about inclusion efforts on an ongoing basis. There is no rest. And the payoff can be huge—think higher employee engagement, more innovation and a strong talent pipeline.

A diverse workforce comes from recruiting purposefully and encouraging everyone to share their opinions openly. This diversity of thought builds on itself and starts to become the norm. There is a saying, “you can’t include them if you don’t have them.” This holds true regardless of what aspect of diversity you are focused on. We’re all susceptible to unconscious bias and by collaborating with a variety of genders, ethnicities and backgrounds, we gain different perspectives.

As a leader of an organization committed to diversity and inclusion, I’ve experienced the value of offering employees opportunities to engage with one another, network, mentor and support the broader community.

It Starts at the Top

A commitment to diversity and inclusion starts at the top. From board members to managers, an organization cannot change until its leaders recognize the value of diversity and then have an honest conversation about it.

Statistically and practically, this means engaging men—the mostly white men who run organizations, define priorities and set the budgets. Without engaging these male leaders, we will not realize the change we want—and need—to see.

Leaders have to identify their own blind spots and be willing to admit what they don’t know. By bringing diversity to life, we can help develop leaders, expand our perspectives and watch our organizations continue to flourish. More importantly, we can say we helped shorten the 100-year timeline.

Mike Kaufmann is chief executive officer of Cardinal Health, a global, integrated healthcare services and products company ranked among the top 15 on the Fortune 500. During his 27 years at Cardinal Health, Kaufmann has served in a wide range of leadership positions across operations, sales and finance, touching all areas of the company. His support of women leaders in healthcare led to the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association naming Kaufmann as its 2012 “Honorable Mentor” and the Institute for Women’s Leadership awarding him the 2014 “Guys Who Get it Award.”