Tapping the talent of a diverse workforce can stimulate fresh ideas, improve the customer experience, and enforce company values. That should come as no surprise as countless studies, including Fortune’s 100 Best Workplaces for Diversity, have found a match between workplace diversity and a more innovative corporate culture. And it underscores the case for CEOs to surround themselves with a diverse team and build an inclusive environment for all stakeholders.
“I see [diversity] every day in the boardroom. It makes me better as a CEO,” says Chip Paucek, CEO of 2U, Inc. – a publicly-traded education technology company that builds, delivers, and supports online graduate programs and certificates for working adults. Paucek tells Fortune that a diverse board helps him shepherd the company through turbulent moments. 2U is a public company with about 2,000 employees on both sides of the political aisle, so a bit of turbulence is expected when it comes to taking a stand on social issues.
Paucek mentioned the racially charged rally in Charlottesville, Virginia during the summer of 2017 as an example. “As leader of the company, there’s a moment where I can’t let something stand; it was important to let employees know that nothing like [Charlottesville] will ever happen at 2U,” says Paucek, who relied on his diverse board for advice on how to communicate the company’s values internally. 2U’s board of directors is made up of professionals from various gender and racial backgrounds; the board also has a mix of experience in the startup field, capital markets, and academia.
But taking a stand on social issues and talking about diversity with employees isn’t enough. Paucek tells Fortune that creating an inclusive workforce and expanding customer access to education can help drive revenue growth.
Here’s how Paucek made education accessible to students. In the early 1990s, before 2U, he produced a PBS television show called “Standard Deviants” that offered college courses to teens taught by comedians and actors—the goal was to make education fun for young students. Afterwards, he was the CEO of Hooked on Phonics, a popular reading system for kids which expanded to over 30 countries. In 2008, Paucek co-founded 2U, which tapped the online education market by partnering with universities to deliver cloud-based online degree programs. And in 2014, 2U went public after raising $96 million in venture-backed financing.
The motto at 2U is “No Back Row,” which means that a great education meets you where you are—and that could be online, at any point in your career. “Scale [growing businesses to eventually raise millions in funding] is hard, but it’s an incredible opportunity,” says Paucek, as he reflects on his entrepreneurial journey.