Special Report

Diversity in the workplace

An inclusive and diverse workplace benefits both a company and its employees


US companies in Ireland serve a global and diverse marketplace and place a strong emphasis on promoting diversity and inclusion among their teams and their wider communities.

They have also played a leadership role in creating a greater understanding of the benefits that come from supporting diversity and inclusion – to both business and society.

Louise Phelan, PayPal’s vice-president of global operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa says diversity of thought is critical to corporate success. PayPal employs 2,400 people in Ireland across its European operations centres in Dundalk and Ballycoolin Business Park, Dublin.

“Our customers are diverse and corporate decision-makers should be too. At PayPal, inclusion is one of our cultural values. To us, inclusion is about respecting and valuing uniqueness and diversity of thought,” says Phelan.

Shaun Murphy, managing partner, KPMG, says there are lots of reasons diversity in the workplace matters. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services. There are 78 partners at KPMG and more than 2,000 staff employed in Ireland.

“There’s lots of reasons why diversity matters – apart from it obviously being the right thing to do, it’s also the bright thing to do. One of the most compelling reasons is that it helps business secure the most talented people,” he says.

To show its commitment to inclusion, PayPal celebrated its very own ‘Diversity and Inclusion Week’ in June and sponsored the Pride Parade in Dublin.

For Phelan, being able to be yourself at work is one of the true benefits of diversity at work.

“Ideas are richer and execution is stronger when everyone feels included and that helps companies grow. Having a diverse workplace and an inclusive culture means having productive, engaged employees and that helps companies attract and retain top talent.

PayPal was crowned ‘Diversity Champion 2016’ at the Irish HR Champion Award earlier this year.

Phelan believes Irish workplaces should learn from their American counterparts by investing further in diversity programmes.

“We created our own tailor-made Diversity and Inclusion workshop training. We also support women in business, both in PayPal through our women’s group Unity, and in the industry through sponsorship and outreach events,” she says.

For Phelan, workplace diversity policies must go beyond window dressing and effect meaningful impact on employees’ lives.

“At PayPal we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. That was evident in April when we decided against moving forward with our planned expansion in North Carolina in response to the introduction of new legislation there that removed certain rights for the LGBT community. We made this decision on the basis of our inclusive values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally and with dignity and respect. No company should be involved in diversity for window dressing – they should be living diversity and inclusion policies because it’s the right thing to do,” she says.

Murphy believes Irish businesses have moved beyond window dressing and that policies are implemented.

“Policies to create a more diverse workplace have to be very transparent and require the absolute commitment of leadership. In my discussions with clients, diversity is also one of their top priorities and CEOs are very sincere in their desire to move the agenda forward in a real way,” he says.

Phelan says while women have broken the glass ceiling in many respects, there is still a way to go. “We still need to see more women at leadership tables right across Ireland. As a mentor to eight female entrepreneurs, I’d love to see more women in the entrepreneurial space. I believe that, with every woman that makes it to the top of their industry, we get that bit closer to changing the status quo,” she says.

Murphy is also of the view we cannot be complacent when it comes to full diversity – particularly with regard to having more women employees.

“Much progress has been made but no one should be complacent about how far business still needs to go and how long it will take. For example, we’re heavily involved in the 3% Club initiative but it, and other organisations, exist partly because there is still so much work to do to. The good news is that business realises that to succeed you have to eliminate gender bias - but as long as we’re talking about the issue it proves that challenges remain,” says Murphy.

He is of the view that a diverse workplace is a more attractive workplace for employees.

“The benefits of a diverse workplace include better, more critical and diverse thinking and greater creativity. I think diversity also makes the workplace more interesting and in our experience, it gives more people more reasons to want to join or stay in our business,” says Murphy.