Compelling case for Diversity but are Companies actively embracing it?



Claire Whiddett


19th Jan 17


Compelling case for Diversity but are Companies actively embracing it?

Are companies embracing and encouraging diversity in the workforce?

Research shows that diversity can boost a company’s productivity and reputation. McKinsey & Co. found that industries leading the way in racial and ethnic diversity were more likely to have better financial returns, than their counterparts which lacked diversity. In a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 87% of the American public stated that they would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with a disability, than those which do not.

But, while there is a compelling case for having diversity in the workforce, are companies actively embracing it?

A 2013 Australian Federal Government study found that over 60% of refugees to Australia were still unemployed after 5 years of settlement. In 2014, Cath Scarth, CEO of leading migrant and refugee settlement agency, AMES, noted that the rate of unemployment for Australians is 5.6 %; for people from Sub-Saharan Africa it’s 7.5 % and for people born in the Middle East or North Africa, it’s 9.2 %.

The unemployment rates of migrants in countries like Ireland, Estonia and the UK are not very different from those of domestic residents. Migrants in the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Latvia, actually fare better in the labour market, than do their respective domestic citizens.

In Sweden, Spain, France and Slovenia, however, the migrant unemployment rate is 10% higher than that of domestic residents. In many European countries, unemployment rates are 10% higher for migrants from outside the EU, than for migrants from within the EU.

In an article titled “How can refugees be integrated into Europe's job market?” Thomas Händel, Chairman of the EU Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, says: First and foremost we need to stimulate job creation. Then we need to employ programs to address the needs of those unemployed. Some just need to update their skills; some need language training and some others might need full vocational training or extra study.”

What about people with a disability?

According to the Australian Network on Disability website, 52.25% of people with a disability in Australia were unable to get a job in 2012. In other developed countries around this time, rates of employment for people with a disability ranged from 43% to 69%.

Workplace disability researcher Susanne Bruyère, PhD, believes that the main reason for these low rates of employment is employer perceptions of people with disabilities. She says: "There is still a lot of stigma and stereotyping, suggesting that people with disabilities can't perform at an equal level at jobs of all types, even though their impairment may have nothing to do with their qualifications for the job, or their ability to execute on required tasks."

While current employment statistics for migrants and people with a disability are disappointing, more and more organizations are taking promising steps toward increasing diversity in the workplace. Diversity efforts by companies include:

  • Developing business resource groups to connect employees with similar backgrounds.
  • Using blind recruitment to eliminate unconscious bias.
  • Taking advantage of online resources to run diversity and mentoring programs.
  • Implementing flexible working policies.
  • Using the Global Business and Disability Network Charter as a way of stating their commitment to promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce.

According to Scott E. Page, a professor of complex systems, political science and economics at the University of Michigan: “Diverse groups of people bring to organizations more and different ways of seeing a problem and, thus, faster/better ways of solving it… There’s a lot of empirical data to show that diverse cities are more productive, diverse boards of directors make better decisions and the most innovative companies are diverse.

Bernadette Bannister Written by Bernadette Bannister - a freelance journalist and latte lover with a keen interest in all matters related to diversity in the workforce. Bernadette lost her sight at age 6 and knows first hand the challenges people with a disability can face when trying to enter the workforce. She is working on behalf of Selecture to explore whether companies are truly embracing diversity when it comes to recruitment. 

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