Even in pre-Covid times people with disabilities were less likely to access education, employment and participate in the community. Poverty risk is real and the probability to experience neglect and abuse is higher. However, this year`s pandemic has increased these risks of socioeconomic exclusion for people with disabilities.

The global crisis is deepening pre-existing inequalities and puts millions of people with disabilities under the threat of being further excluded. In Portugal, for example, the level of unemployment among people with disabilities increased in comparison to the previous years. Despite a positive development since 2016, the pandemic caused a big backlash and unemployment rates among people with disabilities were increasing rapidly again this year.

Cooperation between the public sector, unemployment agencies, NGOs and companies from different sectors have had a positive impact and worked towards a better integration of people with disabilities into the Portuguese labor market. An organization that is committed to increase employment rates among this target group is El Corte Inglés. Together with public agencies, they are working on the topic for 14 years and through this network successfully employed more than 200 people with disabilities.

We are proud to have them among our testing organizations in the Diversity@Work project and look forward to further cooperation in this area!

Tomorrow (December 16th 21h WEST) there is an online conversation regarding this relevant topic. Please note that the conversation is only in Portuguese.

The people who work on managing diversity and inclusion in the workplace are always looking for arguments to convince and persuade others, whether our managers, colleagues or employees in general, of the importance of promoting this agenda, and more so in times of Covid19. However, we often encounter barriers because the management of diversity and inclusion is often still seen as a moral and ethical obligation rather than a necessity to be a more innovative and competitive company.

Synopsis innodiversity report

Therefore, from the first moment we joined the project “The InnoDiversity Index”, a study carried out by the IE University and Fundación para la Diversidad with the support of HP and Pfizer and in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain. The premise was that companies that manage diversity and innovation are more competitive. IE University researchers Celia de Anca and Salvador Aragon describe innodiversity as “the organizational capacity to jointly manage diversity and innovation and improve competitiveness.” For them, diversity and innovation are the secret of business success.

We really liked the idea of being able to have a scientific tool that really measures whether the joint management of diversity and innovation produces more competitiveness in companies. We are convinced of the importance of generating more and better data to prove that this relationship is powerful and beneficial for companies, to convince even the last company in Spain of the need to advocate for the diversity and inclusion agenda.

Another point that I would like to highlight from this study is that it addresses diversity management from three main dimensions:

  • Demographic: female talent, disability, seniors and LGBTI+.
  • Experiential: Diversity in the sector, experience in the company itself, cultural diversity and diversity in training.
  • Cognitive: Problem solving, diversity of personalities, leadership diversity and critical thinking.

In Spain, generally, when we talk about managing diversity, we focus a lot on demographic diversity, leaving aside the experiential and cognitive side. However, now in times of Coronavirus we see that it is very important to have a broad vision of diversity and to include for example, the ability to solve problems, critical thinking and leadership skills. This becomes essential when facing complex problems like the actual crisis we are going through. In this sense, we hope that this study contributes to having a broader perspective of diversity.

Last but not least, I invite everybody to read the results of the study. Here are some of the main findings:

  • Large companies lead the development of innodiversity management, with a presence of around 34%, followed by small companies with 30% and medium companies with 26%.
  • More than 87% of the companies that have participated include the management of #gender diversity in their strategies.
  • The talent of people with #disabilities is the second most important area of interest with 72% of companies responding affirmatively.
  • 66% of companies report paying attention to the diversity of #senior talent.
  • Less interest is perceived in the management of #LGTBI talent, since more than 58% of the participating companies state that they do not pay particular attention to the management of this group.
  • Regarding the most relevant data in innovation management, 63% of companies do so, with regard to product / service, 61% manage innovation in processes and 58% of companies innovate in business model.

The report has been developed using a research methodology based on the Innodiversity Tree, which allows companies to compare the management within their organizations in terms of diversity and innovation, taking advantage of the best practices developed by the most advanced companies in each field globally.

The sample came from the top 300 companies in Spain, of which 56% are large, 26% medium and 18% small. 22% of these enterprises are listed on the IBEX35 index of leading Spanish companies.

We are already working on the next InnoDiversity Index 2020 in Spain. We also hope in the future to be able to carry out the study at European level to have comparative data regional and over time.

Article written by

Sonia Rio

Executive Director of Fundación para la Diversidad

More information available in Spanish only: https://fundaciondiversidad.org/resultados-primer-indice-innodiversidad/

Videolink to the presentation (in Spanish only) https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=547&v=W7zaOVGsfig&feature=emb_logo

„For Estonia’s HR managers, a fifty-year old person is old as dirt and instead of looking for work, should be thinking of purchasing a gravestone,” a commentator writes on one of Estonia’s largest online news platform. Another adds: “If you’re 50+, then you’ll only get to work as a cleaner, security guard or cashier in Maxima.” These comments, written before the world was hit with the pandemic, illustrate prejudice and biases all so common in the society. In the current crisis, these might play an even more crucial role. This article mostly references observations from Estonia, however the tendencies are similar all over Europe. People over 50 are a growing segment on the job market, but stereotypes often stand in the way of unlocking their full potential. 

Although in Estonia, employment of people of advanced age follows a rising trend and greatly exceeds the European Union average, research still points out the following: ageism is anything but rare in the job market. One starts to get a sense of this already in their 40s and this feeling increases along with age. In the age group of 50-59-year olds, over 83% see their age as the most considerable obstacle in obtaining a job, for over 60-year olds, this share is above 90%.[1] To date, there are no official numbers on the impact of the coronavirus crisis for 50+ workers in Estonia, but findings from other countries suggest they might be more hit than others.

The population is growing older, as is the workforce – if now in Estonia, 39% of the population is over the age of 50, then by the year 2050 this is predicted to increase to 47% or almost half of the population.[2] The topic of age discrimination has been widely discussed in recent years, but a large progress in societal attitude is yet to be seen. Although labor scarcity forced businesses to expand their views before the pandemic, recruitment was often still based on the ‘perfect employee’, who would be in the ‘right’ age and with all the necessary skills. Now, when companies are opening up recruitment once again as societies are exiting lockdown, the pool is much wider and discriminatory selection might happen more easily. We have been constantly reminded that people are generally more at risk from Covid-19 the older they are, and this knowledge might unconsciously affect decisions about who and who not to employ.

But recruitment is still something only a fraction of employers can allow. More have been facing and still have to, difficult decisions of laying people off, furloughing employees and reorganizing work. As economies are opening up, but the threat of the virus is ongoing, older adults may not get back or be encouraged to go to work as soon as others, especially if the job does not allow social distancing or working from home. Taking into account that 50+ employees are less involved in managerial and specialist positions and more in service or blue-collar jobs[3], the repercussion of the crisis for them is something the society and employers have to acknowledge.

So is there a way to give every generation a seat at the table? Here are three first steps to help organizations address unconscious bias and create an inclusive workplace for every age group.

1. Prioritize the topic in your organization

Start by evaluating where your company currently stands. Try to understand to what extent and in what way your organization is influenced by ageism. It can be done by anonymous surveys, in-person interviews, statistical analysis or a in depth analysis to expose and explain in detail a situation in your organisation. Based on that, set your strategy and make organizational goals for success. Like with every new topic, it is important that everyone in your organization knows it is a priority, so set up a communication plan.

2. Build bias awareness

As a manager, become aware of unconscious bias in general and what your own may be, specifically.  At the organizational level, consider organising facilitated discussions and training sessions promoting bias literacy. For people unfamiliar with the topic of unconscious bias, it can be a tough concept to fully appreciate, so do not expect quick fix, it indeed is a long journey for most.

3. Create processes to minimize ageism and bias

The goal for bias awareness is to make the decision-making process more mindful, to set aside bias a recruiter may for example have about elderly women. If employees keep their biases in mind when hiring, evaluate performance or consider promotion, they are less likely to discriminate people based on age and concentrate on qualifications, motivation and performance.

Article written by Liina Rajaveer and Kelly Grossthal (Estonian Human Rights Center)

[1] A research conducted in August 2019 by the Estonian Institute for Open Society Research on the job market, as referenced by Iiris Pettai in the Estonian Human Rights Center podcast.

[2] Population forecast of Statistics Estonia.

[3] Age Discrimination in the Labour Market, Estonian Institute for Open Society Research, 2018.

Culturally diverse teams are a positive step that add to the innovation within an organisation. Sujin Jang writing in the Harvard Business Review last July argues that ‘these cultural teams can also suffer from conflicting norms and differing assumptions; in other words diversity in thought and innovation requires constant freshness, an ever evolving process’. The term used is ‘cultural brokerage’. She argues that if multi-cultural teams capitalize on diversity they can mitigate the pitfalls. Cultural brokerage she argues has two dimensions. These profiles are ‘cultural insiders’ and ‘cultural outsiders’. Cultural insiders have experience of two or more cultural backgrounds within the team. Cultural outsider is a broker with two or more cultures not represented in the team. Cultural insiders used their dual knowledge to integrate information and ideas from those cultures. Cultural outsiders were a neutral third party, that tended to ask questions to other team members and invite them to share relevant cultural knowledge. Cultural brokerage utilizes the effectiveness of positive role models, encouraging a safe environment that allows team members to engage.

We now live in a globally interconnected world where business organisations compete across transnational borders. Society reflects the consumer base which in turn reflects a corporation’s workforce. Cultural diversity has to be recognised, understood and harnessed within organisations in order to build inclusive workplaces. Managing cultural diversity requires further investigation.

A survey was carried out by Mathew Krentz of the Harvard Business Review in February 2019 which posed the question, what diversity and inclusion policies do employees actually want? The survey engaged 16,000 employees from 14 countries. They found that members of the majority groups continue to underestimate the obstacles diverse employees face. Krentz outlines when we start to manage cultural diversity it is imperative that each organisation recognises its unique cultural diversity. The important first step has been achieved through recognition and awareness of the workplace population and its diversity. Krentz highlights three significant points to cultural diversity, firstly ‘Leadership Commitment’, ‘A tailored approach’ and ‘Metrics’. In the main employees want to demonstrate strong personal values, an ability to innovate and possess a positive attitude toward teamwork. Organisational departments can begin to form and manage these traits in a way that is based on a two-way conversation.

Dr Richard T Alpert, president of ‘Diversity Resources’ Massachusetts argues ‘From our increasingly diverse domestic workforce to a globalisation of business, cultural competence is arguably the most effective work performance in the 21st century’. What do we mean by cultural competence? It is the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures. Alpert sees cultural competency as a form of exposure which in turn perpetuates a confidence in managing cultural diversity within the organisation. He argues that this ability depends on awareness of one’s own world view and knowledge of other cultural practices’. Cultural management requires greater understanding around cultural differences, for example scheduling of working hours may need to be aware of relevant religious events.

Managing cultural diversity has an east-west cultural significance. Research shows in developmental psychology, sociology, and anthropology differences in cognitive processes of people from different cultures. By managing cultural diversity effectively one can bring about internal cohesion that in turn allows a diverse workforce focus on the brief at hand. This can only  add to the external competitive edge of the organisation as a whole.

Article written by Maria Hegarty and Des Hegarty (Equality Strategies, Ireland)

For more: Diversity@work project

Several studies have showed that diversity in a company’s workforce that reflect the multicultural identities of consumers will have benefits in the way these consumers will buy services or products from that company. This pattern is easily seen in the following trends, accordingly to a report issued by Nielsen in 2014:

–         The consumer patterns are changing in the EUA, since 2nd and 3rd generations of immigrants get access to better jobs and thus have more buying power. In this country, since 2014, stats show that minorities, all together, are actually becoming the majority.

–         These new consumers can join several cultural and ethnic identities (sometimes called ambicultural identity) and search for products and services that reflect their mixed identities. Also, the presence of so many different cultures has also had an influence in natives, which have increasingly showed to choose differently than a few years ago (as we can easily see in examples like Kizomba, Sushi, and other ethnic products that are nowadays things everyone knows). The growing communication technologies have also an important role in this both-way acculturation. This means we can no longer look at the market as before, making general assumptions about consumer patterns. 

–         The multicultural households are usually larger, meaning that any brand bought by these families has a larger influence on upcoming generations.

–         Younger generations have more mixed identities, since probably have had the chance to socialize more with different cultures.

Also, it is proven that more innovation and resilience come from having a diverse workforce. The staff in a company that actively promotes diversity are also usually more engaged, motivated and productive, since in the end feeling valued for who you are is good for everyone.

The numbers obtained by McKinsey and Co. (2015) state that companies with cultural diverse workforces will outperform others in 35%. Diverse teams lead to better group performance, reputation, customer connections, market share and innovation. Diversity can be the answer to avoid group thinking, a phenomena that has proven enemy of a companies’ ability to respond effectively to changes in the market.

How can companies address these changes?

One of the first recommendations from the specialists is that companies look at diversity as an added value for business, and that any program implemented that intend to achieve some kind of impact, must address all kinds of diversity, avoiding “the boxes approach”, implementing measures that apply to only one “box” of people (eg: LGBT, disabled, etc.). Valuing diversity and becoming a pluralistic work place is a matter of DNA, it means transforming a company into one were everyone values everyone else (including those from majority groups, research has showed that targeting for only one minority group might have a negative effect on majority consumers) for who they are and for what they bring to the company, every day (Wiebren S. Jansen, Sabine Otten and Karen I. van der Zee). This means a serious bet on diversity, and can be implemented in many ways:

–         Identify the role of multicultural consumers in your business area and design new business and marketing strategies. Investing in multicultural marketing has proven to have a short-term return on investment, but also a long term effect, since it promotes brand loyalty (Nielsen, 2014).

–         Maintaining a diverse workforce is another way to address the changes in the market and attract diverse consumers. Also, the more diverse a company’s workforce is, the better will it innovate and respond to new changes. This might mean changing your candidate pool, and the way and places you advertise for job openings (Ratna Omidvar, 2015).

–         Targeting younger consumers since youth tends to be more cultural aware and diverse, and are usually trend starters, master the new technologies and communications, using it to promote services and products (Nielsen, 2014).

–         Hiring diverse supplier sources is another way to get multicultural consumers attention that has proven impact on sales. It sends a message that your company is committed to improving quality of life of immigrants and their descendants, believes in the quality and values a diverse range of products and services. As suggested by the DiverseCity Toronto report (2012) a more diverse supplier chain reflects your consumers group. Immediate benefits can also be reduced costs, since these companies tend to be smaller, more flexibility in negotiations and access to original products not easily found in larger suppliers. This might prove to be a challenge, so you might have to be available to help suppliers that need certification, improve business strategies or training to meet your demand. Doing that you can at the same time engage employees in volunteering as a CSR strategy.

–         Investing on Diversity Awareness training: all the benefits of diversity onlyhappen when a company really takes advantage of the diversity in their workforce and in their consumers, and sees it as an opportunity and an investment. This means having a company mind-set, reducing unconscious bias and getting everyone acting accordingly, especially those in management positions (Leadear´s toolkit on Diversity, Diversitycentral.com, Canada). Check out our Linkedin page for more training tools available soon: Diversity@work

–         Develop partnerships with local community and grassroot organizations that represent diversity groups in your target market. It can mean also getting to a more diverse pool of candidates for job positions, or to develop local and social intervention projects in your CSR strategy. This will improve your knowledge on cultural mind-sets and decrease cultural biases your company might have (Leadear´s toolkit on Diversity, Diversitycentral.com, Canada).

Article written by Carla Calado (Aga Khan Foundation Portugal)


McKinsey Report on Diversity: http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/Organization/Why_diversity_matters

Ratna Omidvar, 2015, “Hack the hiring process to reap diversity’s bottom-line benefits”, The Globe and Mail http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/hack-the-hiring-process-to-reap-diversitys-bottom-line-benefits/article24573564/ 

Diversecity report, 2012, “Supplier diversity in the GTA: bussines case and best practices”: http://diversecitytoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/DiverseCityCounts6-report-web.pdf

Nielsen, “Ethnifacts report on multicultural Edge Super Consumers”, 2014, http://www.ethnifacts.com/THE_MULTICULTURAL_EDGE_RISING_SUPER_CONSUMERS_2015.pdf

Leader´s toolkit on Diversity, 2012, Diversitycentral.com

Wiebren S. Jansen, Sabine Otten and Karen I. van der Zee “Being part of diversity ­– The effects of an all-inclusive multicultural diversity approach on majority members’ perceived inclusion and support for organizational diversity efforts“ was published in the peer-reviewed journal „Group Processes & Intergroup Relations“ by Dutch researchers

Clark, Lindlsey 2015, “Fast Facts: diversity and inclusion around the world”, Diversity Best Practices: Diversity facts